Getting Acquainted

Mesa Verde National Park, Part 1

In 1906 President Theodore Roosevelt established Mesa Verde as a National Park to preserve and interpret the cultural and archeological heritage of the Ancestral Pueblo people who lived here between 600 – 1300 AD.  The Park protects nearly 5,000 known archeological sites including 600 cliff dwellings. (park brochure)

The Park is divided into 2 sections:

…and towers over Mancos Valley…

…and Montezuma Valley…

We head to Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum, 20 miles from the Park entrance. Beginning around 7,000 feet above sea level in the high desert of the Colorado Plateau…

…we eventually reach an elevation of 8,572 feet half way there at Park Point Overlook’s Fire Tower. But before reaching the highest point in the Park, we stop at a historical viewpoint, Knife’s Edge.

What looks like a trail in the picture above is really the remains of the Knife Edge Road, completed in 1914, as the first automobile access into the Park from Mancos, CO.  The trip took 3 hours and each vehicle was charged one dollar. Eventually surfaced with asphalt, this section of the road was abandoned in 1957 with the completion of the present day tunnel.


Here we are at the Fire Lookout at Park Point Overlook, 8,527 feet above sea level. The panoramic views are beautiful, even on a cloudy day!


The Far View Sites are our next stop on our way to the Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum.

A thousand years ago this community was a place of family homes and public buildings set among small farm fields. Beginning in the early 1900 s, Far View was a place of active research. Work on these sites helped establish the science of archeology in the Southwest and inspired present-day thinking about how to preserve and appreciate a cultural landscape. (booklet written by Lillian D. Wakeley and Carol E. Sperling)

A woodland trail leads to 6 excavated archeological sites.

Far View House

Starting around 800 AD Ancestral Pueblo people lived here for several centuries. In the mid-1100s there may have been more than 35 occupied villages and surrounding farming plots within a half-square mile in this area. (park plaque)

Built in 1000 AD, Far View House was the largest building in this community with at least 40 rooms on the ground floor and 30 rooms on the upper story. Specialized architectural features tell us this was a Great House, a central structure at the heart of this village. (park plaque)

Pipe Shrine House

Pipe Shrine House received its name because a dozen decorated tobacco pipes were found in an enclosed area when this site was excavated in 1922 by Dr. Jesse Walter Fewkes. Along with the pipes, there were some small carved stone figures and pottery which Dr. Fewkes interpreted as a religious shrine. These artifacts were found in one of the kivas pictured below. (park plaque)

Kivas were strongly built circular rooms, often underground. Upright stone pillars, called pilasters, supported a thick roof of timbers and soil. Entry was via a ladder through an opening near the center of the roof. Insulated by the earth, a kiva was easy to warm in winter with a small fire, while smoke rose through the entryway. A ventilation shaft drew fresh air in from outside, and a deflector directed airflow away from the fire. (booklet written by Lillian D. Wakeley and Carol E. Sperling)

Like a “Where’s Waldo” puzzle, this spiral design is carved into one of the outside walls.

Coyote Village

This village was excavated in 1968. Researchers found and studied multiple layers of soil, buried pottery of different styles, walls built over older walls, and bits of wood, all of which helped determine that people built multiple structures here from 700 AD into the early 1200s. (booklet written by Lillian D. Wakeley and Carol E. Sperling)

Below are mealing bins for storing ground corn and other seeds. Manos and metates were the names of these grinding stones. (park plaque)

Like most of the homes and villages in the Far View Community, Coyote Village was constructed long before Mesa Verde’s cliff dwellings. Starting before 975 AD, this village was built, occupied, abandoned, rebuilt, and reoccupied several times. Each time people returned, they reused some of the stones and timbers, adding to or remodeling rooms their ancestors built. (park plaque)

Far View Reservoir

Pottery shards found under and outside these walls reveal that the oldest sections of this building date to about 959 AD and final construction was completed about 1200 AD.  Pollen studies show the presence of water in the reservoir is indisputable. Some researchers also note similarities of the youngest inner walls to dance plazas in modern historic pueblos. This site was used for 250 years, so isn’t it possible that Ancestral Pueblo people used it in different ways at different times? (booklet written by Lillian D. Wakeley and Carol E. Sperling)

Megalithic House

This site gets its name from Dr. Jesse Walter Fewkes who excavated the site in 1922 and thought the large stones at the base of some of the walls were unusual. (Later, archeologists learned that ancient peoples often used large flat stones, possibly because they reduced the number of individual stones needed.) (park plaque)

This small collection of rooms was probably home to an extended family. Its layout, several living and storage rooms surrounding a kiva and courtyard, is known as a “unit pueblo”, and represents a typical family home of the late 1100s. Only half of this home is visible. Leaving a structure unexcavated or backfilling it after study protects it from exposure and deterioration. (The Far View Sites are more exposed to wind and weather damage than the alcove dwellings. After the Ancestral Pueblo people left this area, weathering gradually knocked down the upper walls.) (park plaque)

Far View Tower

Okay, it’s hot, we are at 8,000 feet altitude, and getting tired! So, here’s a cool picture. That’s all I got!!!


By the time we arrive at the Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum, we are on information overload! We take a quick peak at Spruce Tree House, (a self-guiding tour of a cliff dwelling that is currently closed indefinitely) purchase tickets for a guided tour of Cliff Palace for tomorrow, try to absorb some of the museum exhibits, and finally call it a day.

Spruce Tree House

Next Stop… Cortez

Just Outside Mesa Verde National Park…

Another travel day, but a short one, and then 7 days to explore Mesa Verde, take a day trip, relax, do laundry, clean the windshield on the RV, and prepare for my trip to London to visit my son, Andy. (I fly out of Denver, nonstop, May 13th, soon after we arrive in Jernigan Land.)

We continue northeast on US-163 through the rest of Monument Valley and head to Mexican Hat, Utah.

The last time we traveled this way was in 2016. We were headed southwest on US-163 and we caught the famous scene from Forrest Gump where he finally stopped running.

mstecker.com

Here’s a pic to refresh your memory…

mstecker.com

We also spent an awesome night in Goosenecks!


After crossing the San Juan River…

…we see the famous rock formation the town is named after!

Still in Utah, we pass through Bluff and take Route 162 past Aneth and into Colorado.

Below is a pic showing why Bluff is so appropriately named…

An hour later we are across the state line and into Colorado heading north on US-491 to Cortez.

I can’t help myself from taking more pictures of cool rock formations!

And now we arrive at La Mesa RV Park…

We take off our shoes, unhook the car, and settle in…

High Winds

Heading Out of Denver, Colorado

Today’s destination is Rawlins, Wyoming about 250 miles away. We plan to take Interstate 25 North into Wyoming where we will catch Interstate 80 West.

As we leave Denver, the winds pick up and continue to increase as Jeff white knuckles the steering wheel. Then we hear an all too familiar flapping and thudding. The awning over the main slide- out is twisted and unraveling AGAIN.  Jeff can see it billowing out like a parachute with each gust of wind. (This happened in April of 2016 traveling west on Interstate 90 in Minnesota. We were forced to stop at an RV dealership in South Dakota to cut the canvas awning off from the roller. And then we later replaced it.)

We pass under high wind warning signs the closer we get to Fort Collins.

And then we are warned that Interstate 25 is closed to high profile vehicles across the border into Wyoming. That would be us and that is exactly where we are headed. We need to take I-25 for only 9 miles across the state line to connect with I-80 West.

Fortunately there is an alternative route that will take us to Interstate 80 via Laramie, Wyoming.

But we don’t see the warning sign again and we are a little over 50 miles from the border. We have to make a decision soon because the alternate route, U. S. Highway 287 is approaching too.

We get lucky a second time. There is a rest area and Colorado information center near Fort Collins. The dogs and I make a pit stop and Jeff talks to the person inside the information center. According to the weather service the ban of high profile vehicles is still in effect. This area of the high plains is infamous for high wind gusts that blow vehicles over and/or off the road. U.S. 287 will offer more protection with its surrounding hills. (We hope!)

So the decision is made. But it still isn’t easy navigating the wind on this 2 lane highway. Every time a truck passes by in the opposite direction our RV gets pushed sideways. Jeff does an amazing job keeping our vehicle upright and on the road.

Meanwhile I capture the scenery as we leave the state of Colorado.

It certainly doesn’t look windy or dangerous in these pictures, but inside the RV we feel each gust and hear the flapping from the twisted awning outside.

We cross into Wyoming.

Laramie and the junction to I-80 is 24 miles away. But as we merge onto the Interstate and head toward Rawlins, where we plan to spend the night, we pass under another warning sign.

Tomorrow’s forecast is not very encouraging. And the dark clouds are rolling in.

We arrive safely guided by our loveable totem pothead, hehe 😉

at the Red Desert Rose Campground in Rawlins, Wyoming.

Tomorrow is a new day with new decisions on the horizon. Today we learned 3 big lessons:

  1. Heading east before May is not a good idea.
  2. The high plains are always vulnerable to high winds.
  3. Replace the awning over an RV slide if, AND ONLY IF, traveling across the high plains is avoided.

Catching Up With Family

Jernigan Land

Friday, march 23rd

After setting up the RV at the “Campbell Campground RV Resort”, (Thank you Mike and Patty for letting us park in your driveway for 17 days!) we notice how gritty the car and RV are. I mean they are covered in soot from the salted, snowy roads of Interstate 70. It’s disgusting to even grab the door handles.

We pop in to see David. Then we make a quick run to the grocery store before stopping in to say Hi 👋 to Andy, Daisy, Emjay, Jasley, Jace, and Eliska. It gets crazy in Jernigan Land because we want to spend time with everyone at once, and even though David and Andy live only 10-15 minutes apart, we have to make plans around busy schedules.

We scheduled our visit around the grandchildren’s Spring Break and spend time playing tag at the school’s 3 playgrounds, a short walk from home. Of course I take videos of the girls’ climbing stunts. But Jace prefers to pose and smile.

While Daisy and Andy go out on a movie date, Jeff and I stay with the kids. Uncle David sends us with the movie Jumanji, but the kids are too active to sit still and watch a movie. They would rather be outside running around or inside jumping around and playing lava monster, a variation of tag where your feet cannot touch the floor.

One morning we wake up to a winter wonderland.

But by afternoon the snow is all gone, so typical of Denver weather.

Patty and I take some “us” time and she gets a pedicure while I get a manicure.

David, Jeff, and I watch The Shape Of Water, this year’s Oscar winner for Best Picture. We all agree the cinematography is beautiful; the scenes are color-enhanced in teals, greens, and reds. The acting is good. The early 1960’s setting is authentic. But the movie itself leaves us wondering why it won the Oscar.

Jasley and Emjay return to school after Spring Break but the twins’ have an extra week off because their preschool teachers have 5 days of inservice.

While I am visiting my family in Ohio, Jeff goes with Andy and the kiddos to the Denver Zoo and Lollipop Park, an indoor children’s amusement park. Of course, most of the time he just plays with them outside or at the school playground.

Patty and Mike fly to Orlando for a getaway and Jeff spends time with David, watching the first season of Westworld, some mixed martial arts fights, going out to lunch, and cooking dinner.


Kelly Land aka Ollie and Reagan Land

Wednesday, March 28th

I fly out to Columbus, Ohio to visit with Brian, Jen, Oliver, Reagan, and Jen’s family. Reagan is almost 6 months old now and OMJeepers how she has grown… almost crawling, almost sitting up, and always quick to smile.

Oliver’s 3rd Birthday takes place at Piccadilly, an indoor play area and cafe. Brian and I decorate a cake, well I just offer moral support after researching how to “draw” Daniel Tiger’s face.

Family and friends gather and play and eat. Oliver is so happy to see Ben and Lola from his former Day Care. He and Ben fall to the floor hugging each other.

Brian and Jen request no presents but of course the family can’t resist… a bike, puzzles, a basketball hoop, dress-up clothes, a soccer ball, a set of carpenter tools, and clothes…

Jen and Brian have a new stone patio. They’ve been waiting a long time to start remodeling their house.

The steps to the kitchen door have been removed and a new door will be installed where the bay window now stands. You can see the steps are already there.

Make sure you notice the absence of gumballs lying on the ground. The tree above is covered with these nasty little prickly things. I spend several hours picking up all that have fallen. Unfortunately the next day the ground is covered again. When my son John visited in January he also attacked the gumballs.

Speaking of John, he is now living in a cottage in the countryside of Ireland, not far from the Atlantic Ocean. Outside his humble abode cows and lambs stop over for a visit.

And my other son, Andy, has just moved to London. After a glorious day walking the countryside with his dog, who has just arrived from Minneapolis, Andy wakes up the next morning and has to rush Dewey in a cab to a veterinary hospital. It’s touch and go for several days but Dewey pulls through and returns home to “Dad.” Stay healthy Dewey, you gave us all a big scare.

Jen’s Mom and I go out to lunch. Oliver calls her Mawga and I am Grammy L, or sometimes just L.

The twins arrive… 2 girls!… Leah and Lydia. Congratulations, Julie and Brad and big brother Caleb. We visit them in the hospital and of course I leave my phone back at the house so I don’t have any pictures. Julie is Jen’s sister.

Meanwhile, Oliver enjoys putting puzzles together, reading books, sliding down his tumbling mats, singing, playing basketball, and playing with his new Duplo LEGO horse ranch set. He and I take our horses and riders around the house yelling, “Neigh!”, only stopping to give the horses water and hay. Oliver also serves me up some apple soup with the tiny shovel from the building block set.

Oh, did I forget to mention that he also likes to eat?

Faelan celebrates his 10th Birthday on April 7th.

We spend my last day at a dance competition. Jen’s other sister, Jess, owns a dance studio and has several students participating.  Then Brian takes us to his office. Later, after Oliver and Reagan, well actually all of us wake up from naps, the family goes swimming.

My plane leaves at 7 AM the next morning.


Back in Colorado

Monday, April 9th

I arrive in Denver before 10 AM. We move the RV to Cherry Creek Park for our last 2 nights so we can dump the black tank and do laundry.

Jeff, David, and I go out to dinner at Famous Dave’s BBQ.

Our last evening we spend with the kids. Jeff and Eliska make macaroni and cheese.

Jace plays with his cars, watches cartoons, and plays on his Kindle.

Then Jeff and I take Jasley and Emjay to Skate City which is reserved for Emjay’s middle school. The girls take off so fast, it’s really hard to get a focused picture of them.

They skate for 2 hours, stopping only to grab some nachos, a hot dog, chips, and sodas. Jasley falls asleep in the car ride home. Emjay’s eyes are all red and watery from the air rushing at her as she whizzes across the skating rink. Both girls agree they will be sore tomorrow.

Speaking about tomorrow,  we hit the road again as we head to Port Orford, Oregon.

Bye Everyone, we love you! Thank you for all the good times.

Leaving Zion

Denver, Colorado Bound

MARCH 21ST

We break up our trip east into 3 days of travel on I-70.

First stop… Salina, Utah where we spend the night at Butch Cassidy Campground. A short day…


March 22nd

The landscape of Utah never fails to impress me. The tall rock structure below reminds me of a rook piece in a chess game or a giant you know what…

We enter Colorado and spend the night in Grand Junction.

We’ve stayed here once before at Junction West RV Park.


March 23rd

What a day of extreme weather! It’s our last stretch into Denver where we will park the RV at “Campbell Campground”, otherwise known as Patty and Mike’s driveway.

The day starts out with cloudy gray skies.

The further east we travel, the clouds spill raindrops.

Approaching Vail we ascend into the clouds.

It takes us over an hour to get through Vail as we get sprinkled with snow.

And an accident delay…

And a chain requirement for all commercial vehicles…

And finally the weather clears up…

And an hour later in Lawson the sky turns bright blue…

Fifty miles later we travel through the outskirts of Denver and arrive in Jernigan Land!

Bayard, Nebraska

Leaving Colorado

We travel the back roads of northeastern Colorado through the Pawnee National Grassland.

The grassland is located on the Colorado Eastern Plains, a part of the Great Plains. In the early 1900s the land was somewhat cultivated until the Dust Bowl of the 1930s depopulated the area. (en.m.wikipedia.org)

We enter the southwest panhandle of Nebraska via State Route 71…

and head east on State Route 92 toward the city of Bayard.

We spend the next 3 nights at Chimney Rock Pioneer Crossing RV Park, just off 92 and 3 miles southwest of Bayard.

Chimney Rock is visible from the front of our RV.

At night the rock is lit up.

Our next door neighbor has the smallest RV we have ever seen. It’s really a tent on wheels with an electrical hookup. For awhile she had a tall and narrow teepee-like tent set up. A shower and portable potty? But the wind blew it over so she disassembled it.

I did some online research. The 4×8 unit is called a Runaway and can be equipped with air conditioning and television. Of course, everything is extra. YouTube has lots of videos too.

Notice all the stakes lined up around the old windmill below?

Each stake represents a reserved spot to set up a tent. This part of Nebraska will be in direct viewing of the solar eclipse on August 21st.


Chimney Rock

Chimney Rock is a prominent geological rock formation that served as a landmark along the Oregon Trail, the California Trail, and the Mormon Trail in the mid-1800s. The peak of Chimney Rock is a little over 4,000 feet above sea level.

The first recorded mention of Chimney Rock was in 1827 by fur trader Joshua Pilcher. The Native Americans already living in this area, however, called this by a different name which meant elk penis.

Based on sketches, paintings, written accounts, and an 1897 photograph, Chimney Rock was taller when first seen by emigrating settlers. Erosion and lightning has since reduced its height. (en.m.wikipedia.org)


Courthouse and Jail Rocks

Courthouse and Jail Rocks are 2 more famous landmarks of western migration. Often called a “castle” or “solitary tower,” the name “courthouse” was first used in 1837.

Rising some 400 feet above the North Platte Valley, these 2 prominent rocks are composed of clay, sandstone, and volcanic ash. (historical marker plaque)


First impressions of Nebraska…

  • Cornfields… duh, the Cornhusker State…
  • Black-Eyed Susans
  • Cows and more cows
  • Trains blasting their horns ALL night