Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Colorado Springs, Colorado to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma (July 30-August 1, 2012)

Our stay in Colorado Springs at an end we hit the road again with a destination of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.  This would be a 600 mile trip with two one-night stopovers. The first leg of our journey was uneventful and at day's end we found ourselves in Clayton, New Mexico.  Clayton is a very small town located in a very arid area. We stayed the night at the local KOA RV park and headed out the next morning for the short trip to Amarillo, Texas. We had one thing on our agenda for Amarillo and that was to have a steak at the Big Texan Steak Ranch, home of the famous 72 ounce steak.

The 162 mile drive was a brief 3 hours and took us through some very desolate country. We settled in at the Overnite RV Park and spent some outdoor time with the boys.  We had made reservations at the Big Texan for 6:00 PM with a limousine, and a free one to boot, pickup at 5:50 PM. When to limo arrived we about fell over, mostly with laughter.

It was a short 5 minute drive to the restaurant and we were greeted by a very friendly hostess who seated us right away.  There was already a pretty good size crowd there with a steady stream coming in. We asked to be seated in the balcony so we would have a bird's eye view of everything.

This is the place that has been showcased on various TV programs for their famous "72 Ounce Steak Challenge." If you can eat the 4 & 1/2 pounds of steak, (which is 72 oz’s) baked potato, shrimp cocktail, salad & a bread roll within 60 minutes, your meal is free. If you fail you pay the $72.00 bill. That evening there were 5 who took the challenge and 2 succeeded.

 The menu was pretty much steak oriented (who would have known). We ordered and our food and it was served quickly. The atmosphere itself, though, was worth the price. Joyce ordered a chicken steak while I went with an 8 ounce, center cut sirloin.  Both were cooked to perfection and extremely tasty.

With our bellies filled to capacity, we strolled around the restaurant for a short while to take in the memorabilia, the country band in the bar and the general excitement of the entire place. We certainly enjoyed ourselves and would recommend anyone traveling through the area stop and take in this experience.

Our limo was waiting at the door and we were whisked back to our RV in a flash.  The boys were glad to see us, as usual, and we spent the final hour or so of daylight outside with them before retiring for the night.

The next morning, still full from our previous evening's meal, we departed Amarillo.  The 245 miles to our final destination in the Oklahoma City (OKC) area took us about 4 hours. We landed in the Council Road RV Park in El Reno with a blistering heat (near 100F). Hopefully, the heat would not be as bad for our stay here as it was today. Tomorrow, out and about OKC for some sights and BBQ.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Colorado Springs, Colorado (July 20-30, 2012)

We had been to Colorado Springs once before.  I had been on a business trip and was fortunate, for the first time, to bring Joyce along. The little we did see of the area we liked and decided to return one day.  Well, here we are for eleven days.

The grounds of the U.S. Air Force Academy are beautiful. The city is located just a few miles from the academy and is a sprawling metropolis. One of the big attractions in this area is Pike's Peak. We really did not have a desire to drive up this 14,000+ foot mountain.  We had all had enough of narrow winding mountainous roads so we would see what other sights were available.

Once in and settled we took the rest of the day and the next to house clean and play with the boys. The park was very large, quiet and gave us a very relaxing feeling. It was very warm (mid-90F) so our outside activities were slow.  We set up Guinness' swimming pool and he took full advantage of it. Rosco did his favorite things: hunt for lizards and play with his stuffed toy. Joyce and I just chilled.

U.S Air Force Academy RV Park

Coolin' it on a hot day.

Come on, throw it?

On the way to the RV park between Denver and Colorado Springs we noticed a sign for the Colorado Renaissance Festival in Larkspur, CO. Luckily, it was going on each weekend while we were there. We, immediately, decided to attend on Sunday.

We started out around 9 AM and arrived in plenty of time for the opening ceremonies. We had been to several renaissance festivals in the past, mostly in Maryland, and enjoyed them very much. We were very surprised as to the similarities to the Maryland festival.  Even the gate itself was almost a replica of the one in Maryland.

Once inside we began our slow trek through the vendor shops, stage performances and food stalls. We (well, Joyce) always purchases a few items and this was no different, however, the purchases had to be few and small since space and weight was at a premium in our trailer.

After five hours of walking, eating and watching  people, many who dress in the Renaissance era style, we said enough and headed back home to our boys.  It was a very enjoyable time and we look forward to attending a different one in a different state in the future.

Waiting for the "King" to arrive.

Opening ceremonies.

Street performers making the rounds.

Need a Renaissance outfit?

Something for everyone.

The joust.

Many stage performers.

Many great artisans, too.

One of our major objectives for this stop was to catch up on several things: vehicle maintenance, restocking the pantry and just sitting in one place.  We had been on the move so much for the past several months we wanted to sleep in on some mornings and just lounge around the RV park. And that we did. While doing so we made a pleasant surprise.

We had seen, each evening for the first few days, a couple walking a pair of Shelties. Every time they went by our site the smiled and waved. On the third night I went up to them for something was very familiar about them. As we talked I began to recognize him.  We had worked together in the same office at Ft. Meade.  He had retired from the military shortly after I came into the office, but continued on in his position as a civilian contractor for a while. That was in the year 2000. But, it didn't stop there.

While preparing our home in Maryland for sale, we spent several weeks at the Ft. Meade RV park. While there we noticed a couple with two Shelties.  I thought the man looked familiar, but at that time we were both consumed prepping the house for closing. We departed Ft. Meade without speaking with the couple. It was the same couple who was now here with us in Colorado.  What a small world.  During our stay here, we enjoyed their company on several occasions.

On our last full day in Colorado Springs we decided to explore Manitou Springs, an area where we had gone before, but did not get a chance to stop. The town is a very historic place and walking thorough the shops was interesting. We ran across a small rustic restaurant called the Stagecoach Inn so we decided to stop in and get a cold one and an appetizer. Joyce ordered a Chorizo Quesadilla and I the Rocky Mountain Oysters.  For those not familiar with Rocky Mountain Oysters, click on the previous link.  They were very good and yes, they tasted sorta like chicken.  I had always wanted to try these and this was the first place we had been that had them on the menu. It was a very neat place overlooking a creek, the beer was cold and oysters great.

Restored from an original.

Rocky Mountain Oysters

Chorizo Quesadillas

Once back home with the boys it was time for a little play and prepping for the next day's departure. We had enjoyed our time here immensely.  We felt renewed and ready to continue our journey.  Our next destination would be Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Lots of things to do there and we were looking forward to exploring the area.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Cheyenne, Wyoming to Colorado Springs, Colorado (July 20, 2012)

Our next stop is the U.S Air Force Academy's RV park. The short 156 mile journey took a bit over 3 hours with one rest stop. Traveling south on I-25 we began to drive through Denver.  We had turned the radio on to listen to the news and traffic, but instead we were hearing something else.

It seems there was a mass murder earlier that morning in an Aurora, Colorado movie theater. That put about 7 miles from this tragedy. How sad.

An hour later we were pulling into the RV park. The Air Force Academy is nestled into the hills of the eastern slopes of the Front Range and is located a few miles north of Colorado Springs, Colorado. We will be here for 11 days exploring and seeing the sights.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Cheyenne, Wyoming (July 16-20, 2012)

I have always wanted to visit Cheyenne, Wyoming, but wasn't quite sure why.  Maybe because of all the references to it in Western literature and the Western TV shows and movies. We had scheduled three full days here to do some exploring and to catch up on some errands.

The Francis E. Warren Air Force Base is the oldest active military installation in the U.S. Air Force and is one of the nation's oldest and continuously active military installations. It is located at Cheyenne's city limits and it is a brief 3.5 miles to downtown. The downtown area, itself, is very historic and while we were there it was obvious the Historic Downtown District was in a major revitalization effort.

As luck would have it, we were visiting Cheyenne just before their major event of the year, Cheyenne's Frontier Days, the largest outdoor rodeo in the U.S. and the world. Every where we went one could see preparations for this event. We were actually told by some locals that unless we were participating it was good we would be leaving on the day it started. The area goes into a semi-controlled mayhem for 10 days.

With our errands completed and our sightseeing finished we relaxed and took it easy on the afternoon before departing.  The base's RV park sits in an oak grove and is in a very quiet area so it wasn't hard to just kick back, play with the boys and vegetate. Tomorrow we will head out and make a short trip to our next destination, Colorado Springs, Colorado.


Monday, July 16, 2012

West Yellowstone, Montana-Big Timber, Montana-Sheridan, Wyoming-Cheyenne, Wyoming (July 13-16, 2012)

The next leg of our journey was a long 747 miles with our destination being the RV Family Camp at Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyoming. The trek would be split into four days with two overnight stops. Our first day on the road was uneventful, traffic light and the scenery beautiful.

We arrived at the Big Timber, Montana KOA mid-afternoon and settled in for a short stay. The RV park, itself, had a giant water slide next to it and being Saturday there were hundreds of people with their kids creating a cacophony that went into the early evening.  Thank goodness they closed relatively early, but unfortunately, many of the people in the water park were staying at the RV park, too. To top it off, the park was close to a very busy train track so besides having to listen to unruly people, train whistles and rattling tracks we did not have a great night's sleep.

Departing early the next morning we made the next leg to Sheridan, Wyoming in about four hours arriving at the Sheridan KOA shortly after noon. Once setup, we ventured into town to see what was happening. The town was bustling and it looked like a big event was happening. It seems,though, we had just missed a week long annual event, the Sheridan WYO Rodeo.  The WYO is a major stop on the rodeo trail for top cowboys and cowgirls from all over the world.

Back at the RV park we had our first campfire in almost 7 months.  We, Guinness and Rosco got some good walking in and by the time it was getting dark we all slipped off into a deep sleep.  So different than from the night before.

We had made this a two day stop for some sightseeing. Early Sunday morning we retraced our route up I-90 to the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument. I had studied this operation led by Lieutenant Colonel George Custer and his 7th Cavalry and this was a perfect opportunity to see the actual site.  Reading about it does not compare to standing on the ground where it happened.

The site of the "final stand."

The next morning we started our final leg of this long trek. This leg was about 330 miles so we were going to be on the road for a while. We departed a bit before 9AM and arrived at the Warren Air Force Base RV park shortly after 3 PM. The drive, as were the past two days, was uneventful.  The scenery had changed quite a bit from when we left Yellowstone.  We were skirting the eastern edge of the Rocky Mountains and were on the western-most edge of the Prairies. Still the sights were very beautiful.

Once we were set up we took a nice long walk around the area.  So very quite even though there were a lot of RVs there. Tomorrow we had several things on our agenda so we had an early evening. We all needed the rest. 

Thursday, July 12, 2012

West Yellowstone, Montana (July 9-13, 2012)

We have been wanting to visit Yellowstone National Park for a very long time and now we are here.  We have only three days in our schedule to see and experience as much as we can at this natural wonder. We started out the first morning as early a we could get out and after only a few miles inside the park we ran upon grazing bison. They completely ignore the vehicles and cause backups when they are in the road.

Remember, if you click on a picture it will bring up all the pictures in a full screen format. 

The park itself is located, primarily, in the caldera of a supervolcano, the largest on our continent and one of the largest in the world. It is considered an active volcano and the thermal activity in the park clearly attests to that.

The ride into the park from the small town of West Yellowstone was very peaceful and beautiful at the time we chose to go in which was close to dawn.   Besides the bison we saw many elk and they, as the bison, were not very concerned about cars or people. They scenery was so gorgeous I couldn't take enough pictures.

Elk cow with her calf.

Bull elk.This guy was on the larger size of many of those we have seen.

We spent all three days exploring the park and decided it would take us several weeks to do a thorough job of it.  The first day we went alone, but on the second and third days we took the boys.  They were entranced with everything we saw from the geysers to the wildlife. They were, especially, interested in one stop we made where a bison bull meandered within several feet of the truck.  I was ready to pull off at the slightest hint of an encounter or if the boys started barking, but neither happened.  All they did was stare and sniff and emit a few low growls. That made their day.

I could write a book about the wonderful things we saw, but there is not enough time so maybe the following pictures will entice you to go and visit this awesome display of nature.

Tour bus for the winter visitors.
Scars from the massive fires years ago (see if you can spot the eagle).
Beautiful scenery.

And a river runs through it.

A hot-spring along side and fed by the river.

Field of steam.

Many hot-springs.  This is a quite one and very clear. About 30 feet deep. Temperature is about 200F/93C.

This hot-spring has a schedule.  It drains and fills back up regularly.

The area around this large group of hot-springs and geysers is much warmer than just a mile away.

This is a mud hot-spring.  Would be great for a bath, but the temperature is over boiling.

This bull bison is making sure the little buggies on him are dusted off. He is next to the mud hot-spring with several others.
Bubbling mud.
The Grand Tetons in the distance.

Coyote on the prowl.

Huge herd of bison.

Boardwalk around a geyser and hot-spring basin.

A constantly erupting geyser

Run off of super heated water into the cold river from an elevated hot-spring.

Paint Pot Hot-spring.

Old Faithful in her full glory.
Gathering his last meal for the day.

We more than enjoyed our stay at Yellowstone and placed it on our list to return to, if we can. If you should decided to visit, try to do it in the "light" tourist season when there are fewer tourists.  We were here at the height of the season and everything was jammed packed with cars and, especially, tour buses. Also, make sure to devote at least a week to slowly enjoy the park.  It will be a highlight of your life.

A perfect ending to a perfect stay.