Harry Nilsson – Moonbeam

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Nearly there, still lucky

I’m sure there are many out there tonight who wont be able to sleep worrying about Me and Moonbeam being broke down in the middle of nowhere Texas.

Rest well my friends as we are doing ok. Actually  Moonbeam is doing better than I am. Over a period of nearly 11 hours, we have covered 550 miles today.  Anything over 60 mph and the engine starts cutting out and getting weird so it’s slow and easy-does it.

My sciatic nerve pain is another issue altogether! I was a hurtin unit by noon and now I’m tempted to call 911! This is WAY over my usual traveling distance per day. Like by about 300 miles!

Whaaaat??? Can’t I whine just a little? Humor me please.  With luck, next post will have a picture of the Ocean and a dead fish washed up on shore killed by the Red Tide. Oh, did I mention last night along the Coastal Bend they a new overnight low temp record. Yea, I can hear you…. “Stop your whining”.

Later….

Next stop, Radium. Early Oct, 2011

According to Webster: Radium- A radioactive, metallic element found in some Uranium, which undergoes spontaneous atomic disintegration.

This doesn’t seem like a very good name for a town if you want to attract new businesses. I have a little concern just going there for a visit. I’m wondering, should I even drink the water?  Press on, it’s an adventure, right? As you might recall from before, I’m traveling towards Glenwood Springs on a dirt road called County Rd….something or other. Radium lies a few miles down an off shoot road and looks to be right on the Colorado River.

(Insert picture of Radium here)

I would have but the town is so small it’s not even a town that I could find. So is that what ‘spontaneous atomic disintegration’ might be? Radium must have spontaneously disintegrated into nothing. Yea, that makes sense, right? Anyway, it does have a nice open place to camp right next to the Colorado River and a great boat launching ramp.

Boat ramp at Radium, Colorado River

 Standing there watching the River roll by stirred my kayaking urge. If there would have been one for sale right then and there, plastic would have been thrown down and I would have been paddling in a flash! (Note to self; buy book on how to kayak) This entire region of the Colorado River is super famous for boating, rafting and fishing. There is a water type for every level of experience and expertise.

My bucket list increased by one. Learn to kayak and do this river. Although there were many camping spots open here, I declined because it’s a fee area. As you remember, I don’t do fees. Two or three miles back, I passed a BLM or DOW camping area that had open camping available so I opted for that.

As I pulled in, the best spot to camp was being vacated by its previous tenants in a great looking rig. Which by the way, matched these two beautiful women perfectly. Sorry, I digress. After introductions and small talk, I find out there is a hot springs over the ridge and down a ways and then follow the river a bit and there it is. They point to a steep trail across the road saying all you have to do is follow it.

My camp along the creek along the road to Radium

 This is great news to me. After being shunned at the last hot springs, I’m going soaking for sure. After setting up my little gypsy camp and eating a snack, I grab my Native American flute and head for the trail. Not only is it steep, its covered by loose gravelly rocks providing near zero footing. Darn it….thats going to leave a mark as I look down at my skinned up knee.

Trail to hot springs (steep)

 As I reach the top and hike towards the river, I notice there is foot trails and ATV trails everywhere and in all directions. Something my gals forgot to mention I guess. After many backtracks and wrong turns, I come to a bluff and there is the river below.  Far, far, far below!

Colorado River & yet undiscovered hot springs

Still having multiple choice trail options, I approach the edge and start climbing down. I’m thinking about now I really need to get around to writing that Will. And people actually climb down this thing?? Seriously! At last, I reach the river level but not a sign of the hot springs.  I thought by now it would be obvious. Maybe I should have been listening better to those gals and not doing so much… ok, I make a 50/50 decision of up river or down and I won. See that rock like looking thing in the river picture? That is almost to the hot springs. As you can see, walking along the river bank is no picnic.

At last the springs come into view. Cool, I’m the only one here. On second thought, I’ve been way over an hour getting here and no one knows where I am and it’s a bitch of a climb out of this river bottom…. Maybe some company wouldn’t be so bad after all. I wonder what time it’s getting to be?? Did I just feel a rain drop?? Was that thunder?? Oh crap!

The Hot Springs pool!

What?? were you expecting to see something more than this for the pool? The only thing that separates the “pool” from the river is the ring of rocks you see. Sitting over by them the river water seeps through quite a bit and the temp is cool. The other side is much warmer but nowhere is it hot. It is really pretty here regardless of what temp the water is! It’s super quiet and peaceful with the exception of approaching thunder. None the less, after getting this far, I’ll be darned if a few drops of and claps of thunder will chase me off. Off go my clothes reveling my multi-purpose bathing suit and into the water I slip. The rocks are covered with soft green moss that makes for a bit of cushion for the bare bottom of my suit. After soaking a bit, I feel the urge to play a song on my flute in celebration of the beauty of this place. The notes come easily and the soft tones of my flute echo off the rocks and float across the ripples of the river.

view of the river from the soaking pool

   My back is to the river and my eyes are closed as I dance my fingers across the flute letting fly songs of thanks for being able to experience such a place. It was as if I were in a trance and I was both the snake charmer and the snake…

Within a fraction of a second, I was violently jerked from my trance like state by a voice from nowhere!!! The voice of God in the wilderness??? Not hardly. I spin around to see a fishing raft a mere feet five from the pool edge with four guys in it.  “Hey, nice music!”, this one dude says.  So from this particular situation, where does one go with conversation? “Catch any fish?” didn’t seem right so I simply said thanks, wished them well and returned to my music. During my time there in the pool, several boats floated by and then for the grand finally, just one the other side of the river, a Am Track passenger train roars by. I could nearly see the flashes of cameras through the windows! My pristine quiet secluded little pool by the side of the Colorado River was much like soaking in a Wal-Mart parking lot! But a heck of a lot harder to get to.

Having enough, I decided to make the accent back up and over to camp before dark. I rationalized walking back in the rain that it would have done no good to have brought a rain coat since my clothes were already soaked as they laid by the pool.

At Last! Home sweat home!

Nothing like an adventure to keep the heart young I say! Man my knee hurts. Dang it.

Back to real time and Western Kansas

After spending a few days with a very good long time friend in Pueblo West, (Hi!) it was time to continue my slow decent from Colorado to sea level of Gulf of Mexico. Mondays trip for someone who doesn’t “drive like an old lady” I’ve been told, would be no more than five hours max. Me and Moonbeam reach our destination in a blistering nine hours, give or take an hour.

In our defense though, the Check Engine Soon light came on for the first time in nearly 20 years of driving and 215,000 miles. Being one who ALWAYS follows directions to the absolute letter, I consent to do as told. I pull over and pop the hood and proceed. Being a van, the engine I’m supposed to check is hidden deep within an overcrowded dark cavern.  I peer into the darkness, squinting. Ah Ha! Good. I can just barely see the top of something turning, that’s good I think. So after thoroughly checking the engine as directed, I continue on, as did the light.

I could tell the engine wasn’t running all that well but I didn’t know what else to do but press on. But now my “Old Lady speed” has decreased just a bit.

Upon leaving Rocky Ford, I spy a Farmers Market still open. Super! Maybe they have gourds for sale. After quite some time sorting through piles of still green gourds, I strike a deal for five and continue on.

Just inside the Kansas border lies my home town so I take the opportunity to visit another very good and long time friend. We tried to cram two years worth of life into two short hours. And it was really nice to have those two hours with you my friend!  

So off I head pressing into the impending darkness deeper into Kansas territory.  Arriving at my sister’s house, I enjoy hot  chicken and noodles and soon crash from such an exhausting drive. I know by now Moonbeam is not getting any better on its own so I head to the only repair shop in town. Their ace mechanic is off deer hunting. After fumbling for a while, the guys in charge inform me the diagnostic code translates to ‘rich fuel mixture’. That being not too hard to determine by sniffing the stinky exhaust fumes, I am given half a dozen less than well thought out guesses of what might be the cause. I’m not buying into much of anything I’m hearing. My suspicion for quite a while has been the fuel pump and still remains so.

Dilemma time. I can’t get it fixed here that’s a given. It’s 900 miles to where I’m headed, Aransas Pass Texas. I know that between here and there isn’t much more than endless miles of Mesquite trees with far-flung burgs of habitation scattered in. Most of which only have one repair shop as does this one. And if it happens to be deer season it’s closed.

I have once before been faced with a similar situation and I successfully made a four-hour mad dash to the Coast with a screaming alternator all the way. (Deer season, no mechanics) This is a whole lot further to go and can my luck hold out and Moonbeams old tired fuel pump hangs in there. If it can only pump another 80 gallons of gas it might work.

Friday morning will be the test. A true challenge for sure. Don’t you wish you could look forward to a trip like this? The chance of being stranded alongside the road in the middle of who knows where Texas…alone…and deer season!

Who can resist that?  So if it’s weeks before I return to these pages, you will know that’s how long it took my mechanic to shoot his damn deer!

Wish me Luck!

Blazing new trails across new roads, Early Oct.

When I left my camp site in Rocky Mt. Nat. Park, I didn’t have a clue where I would spend the night. Having a detailed plan like that adds to the fun, right?  I thought if all other overnight sleeping options failed, I could always spend the night at the Wal-Mart in Glenwood Springs. Just guessing, I thought Glenwood might be around a 100 mile drive. But if I can’t find a place to slip into for the night in this kind of open country, then I shouldn’t be doing what I’m doing. My choice of roads were all new to me across this part of Colorado.  My route followed the Colorado River by way of dirt and gravel roads usually not on any Wal-Mart atlas or most State maps.

View around County Rd Something or Other

Just before I embarked on county road something or other, I drive through the less than one horse town of  Hot Sulphur Springs. I stopped and inquired about the Springs only to ascertain enjoying the hot springs requires two suits. One is your birthday suit and the other is one from a store. Since everything in Moonbeam is space sensitive and must be dual purpose, I can only travel with one suit. Need I say more? I wasn’t allowed to soak.

My quiet peaceful camp by the river

None the less, as I was leaving town, I spied this little park along the Colorado River lined with majestic huge old cottonwoods and willows. I spotted a couple of “my kind of people” along the river with their tents and eclectic style of abodes. Around I spun on the highway to check out this enticing spot. I quickly determine from established campers that this city owned park is free.  It’s early afternoon and this place is nice so I decide to call it home for the night.

Being early like it was, I felt like setting up my kitchen and doing a little something special for dinner. Hummm, a beer sounds nice, back to town I go. After several passes along the three block long business district, I find there’s no place to buy a beer. Strange town I think to myself… need suits to soak and no beer….

Preparing dinner without cold beer, challenging but doable

I picked this camp site well away from other campers so I could run my generator without guilt. Dinner is well on its way and I’m reading a mystery novel and sipping a martini ( no ice please, since I don’t have any) when I hear this Gawd awful roar coming around the river bend. Holly crap! I’m camped within mere FEET of the train tracks!!Four huge screaming engines roar past with each one’s whistle going full-out! It’s a coal train that takes what seems like 30 minutes to pass. There are hundreds of cars rumbling past with the wheels screeching and clacking. Click-clack,click-clack,click clack…. over and over. Half way through, another ear-splitting roar comes by as the two middle engines pass. Finllay its over as the string of rear engines roar by. Silence returns. Whow! Now I see why no one is at this end of the campground. And I was worrying about bothering my neighbors with my tiny generator noise!

As I later discover while trying to get just a few minutes of sleep, these trains rumble and roar through every couple of hours.  Before morning, I could tell by the way the bottles in my spice racks shook and rattled whether the train cars were full or empty.

Next morning as I started cooking my usual breakfast of potatoes, bacon and a fried egg, and more than my usual amount of coffee, it was very clear to me why the little town of Hot Sulphur Springs decided it best not to charge to use their peaceful campground down be the river. (And did I mention the tracks?)

No, those aren't bay leaves in my breakfast

 This is what I love about my days on the road, I never know where I will be spending the night or what wild and crazy things might happen along the way. And sometimes the challenges one encounters… like keeping the leaves out of my food.

My Heaven on Earth, Sept. 30, 2011

Sometimes I struggle with how much to share in such a public forum. My intension is to invite you to join me on this journey through the good, the bad and even the ugly. At times this will also include very personal emotions… maybe even “sailor talk” when I’m upset or hit my hand with a hammer. (Story to be posted at later date) My goal is to be real with you. No, not like reality TV as in “Living With the Kardashians”.

So here is some real. I had two reasons to visit Rocky Mountain National Park this year. One was to watch the Elk in rut. I hope sometime you can hear in person the sound of a bugling bull Elk. Bucket list material. The other reason was to revisit a very special place for me. Someplace I found several years ago that resonated with me like no other place I have seen on Earth, and that’s 60 years of viewing.

Let me introduce to the Cache La Poudre river. So Named by French trappers moving through Northern Colorado in the early 1800’s trapping  for beaver pelts. The name literally means “The Powder Cache”. And that is just what they did. In a bluff overlooking the river, they stashed most of their goods for retrieval on their return trip from high in the mountains trapping furs. This river has the privileged distinction of being designated Wild and Scenic. It will forever be left wild and free from its headwaters to where it joins the South Platte on its eventual journey to the Mississippi and the Gulf.

Stay with me on this as I ramble around getting to the point of my post. If you were from Ft. Collins Colorado, this would not be a very big leap to understand but for my reader in Ohio, well not so much. So here is the Cache La Poudre River, wild and free  forever.  Its headwaters happens to be at the summit of Milner Pass which is in Rocky Mountain Nat. Park. The river’s head waters are springs that feed Poudre Lake which is just a few yards to my right.

Upper and Lower Poudre Lakes at Milner Pass summit

I’ve hiked along side much of this river as it flows from these small pristine lakes as a little stream no more than a foot wide. I have sat beside its waterfalls during spring runoff in total awe of the power and force so great it makes the ground seem to tremble. I’ve drunk the  water from the spring  that starts this river just where the light of day strikes it for the first time. With me always is a bottle of this new water that’s never been drank before, never been dammed up, never been through a sanitation plant or ever flushed through a toilet.

From this spring, the River flows

We all are connected by coming and leaving this world in the same way. We all share the same star stuff, not only with each other but with the Universe. The decisions and choices we make along the way is what makes us different from one another, nothing more. On a Sunday evening March 26, 2006, I made a decision beside this river that closed the book on the journey I was on and eventually opened another that led me to one I’m sharing with you. 

  This is my lake, this is my river. And it is here I have chosen to start a most amazing  journey.  Some far off day when it’s my time to relinquish my star stuff back to where it came, it will be here.  From this small lake perched at the top of the Continental Divide what I have borrowed from the sea shall once again start toward that far off shore.

   

   This monolith rising above the lake with its single huge pine growing from its face makes a fitting statement testifying to my time here.

I have always been one for adventure and the last one I take promises to be a doozy. Too bad I can’t take a camera!

This is my valley, my river

I Wonder…. Sept. 30, 2011

I Wonder…   Do you see what I see?  It is totally clear to me but I travel with a group of these sitting on my dash so I may be biased. But that is a story for another day.

The place where I have camped, watched the Elk and hiked for the last few days is called Moranne Park. You saw the pictures of it when I filmed the Elk.  At the very upper end where it all starts, I found a herd of cow Elk gently grazing among the willows.  I have just recently taken up learning how to play the Native American flute and seeing the cows so close up inspired me to play a song for them just as maybe some unknown Native American might have done hundreds of years ago.

As I slowly followed them playing and watching and feeling very connected in a primal way to all around me, I found myself off the trail and climbing across rocks and boulders. I sat there at the head of Morrane Park in a private quite moment with Nature surrounding me  in all its glory.  As I turned to leave, I for the first time, saw this amazing stone icon who has for thousands of years solemnly watched over this peaceful Valley.

Do you see it too?

I Wonder….

How many other souls through time have sat here in this very place and said hello to this wonderful stoic figure?

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