Posted by: glenswatman | April 11, 2007

200207 USA-Miss Kan Col Ut Ari Ida Ore Was Canada-BC

Monday 1 July 2002  It’s a very quiet night but spoilt by the problem of Pat playing on my mind (didn’t bother Steve much, he slept very well). She has changed her plans many times already and often gets the wrong end of the stick or sometimes the wrong stick.  Rather than phone her up about the problem we spend time on my computer composing a very long letter explaining the problem it now leaves us with, the fact we held by our original offer and also the Australia one but she is pulling out plus any alternatives we can think of.  Stop at a helpful tourist office on the motorway.  Telephone the toll free number for Quantas and yes we can change the dates on our ticket free of charge but the first available flight to Brisbane is 29th July.  Re hash our letter to Pat including this information and use the tourist office computer to E-mail her.  Our cry for help has produced an offer for us to house-sit for Keith and Diana in Noosa Australia.  They are away from 2nd July until beginning of September and have left the keys with a neighbour. Another is from Stronach and Judy in New Zealand.  They are going on holiday to Noosa from 16th August until 10th September and say we can share their 3 bedroom apartment.  This is all a big relief but still leaves us with the problem of what we are going to do until 29th July.  It’s a long boring drive along the interstate and there’s a huge distance between attractions in America, the only thing to break up the monotony are advertising hoardings.  Prefer the long drags in Australia with road kill to watch out for!  Having enjoyed staying at the wildlife camp last night we detour to another at Wooldridge.  Arrive to find bleach sloshing around the van floor.  Pat never used the onboard water tank so we had to buy bleach to sterilise it.  We needed very little but the smallest we could buy was 1 gallon so I kept the rest. The heat must have made the bottom of the bottle bulge then fall over and leak.  Fortunately the floor is lino and the only damage is to the edges of a rag mat which was dirty old and grotty anyway but it does take some cleaning up and uses up all our water.  One of the advantages of a motorhome is that you are aware of what is happening in the camper.  So far we haven’t unhitched the trailer so would have been much better with one.  Anyway we are at a nice quiet spot and the only other people we see are a couple who come to fish for catfish.  We are serenaded by what we think are deer calling out to each other through the forest.  Don’t realise how much the problem with Pat is playing on my mind until Steve points out that it is the 29th anniversary of the day we met and the first time I haven’t remembered. 
Tuesday 2 July  Until we hear back from Pat we don’t know if she is going to insist on having her vehicles returned immediately, be reasonable and allow us to use them until 29th July or agree to one of our other plans with us having them for the original 3 months.  We are just east of Kansas City and if we have to return the vehicles would turn South soon after. If we have until 29th we will race ahead to visit Colorado and Utah and if we have them for the 3 months we will travel ahead slowly to visit Colorado and Utah.  All very different scenarios.  Independence a suburb of Kansas City is most famous as the former home of President Harry S Truman.  Here we stop at Cleanorama an enormous launderette with 68 washers and 38 dryers.  There’s a lounge area with TV, kids play area, amusement arcade, microwave oven and drinks machines.  Yes the Americans sure like their things big!  With 4 th July fast approaching fireworks stalls have sprung up everywhere and doing a booming trade.  At the library there is no message back from Pat which concerns us.  Double check that the messages we sent yesterday were received.  Frustratingly this library will not allow me to copy Pats letter from disc so we can only question her receiving it but not re send it.  Leaving town we pass the big Mormon church with twisted spiral spire.  Would have liked to visit but we were warned that once you go in they almost won’t let you leave unless you agree to convert.  We need a few parts for our motorhome in England and figure it will be easy to buy them here and much cheaper.  Not so as we stop at 3 places and they suggest we use mail order which we could do from England anyway.  Tour Kansas City American style without leaving the vehicle.  Westport area is lovely and set out like a Spanish city with a replica Sevillian tower and lots of fountains but having visited Seville it hold little appeal to us.  The massive Union Station is now a shopping area.  Drive past all the known landmarks but nothing grabs us.  Think it’s a combination of being on a downer, not knowing if we have time to stop amble round and try and get a feel for the place or just because we are not city people unless it has unusual things.  We were really looking forward to the natural attractions of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado and the rock formations in Utah but may not even get there now.  The bulk of Kansas City is in Missouri but the Western part is in KANSAS state often associated with "Little House on the Prairie" and the "Wizard of Oz" and known as "The Sunflower State".  Reassuringly now is the not season for twisters.  I don’t like shopping in the massive supermarkets.  There’s too much choice and unless things are on special or with coupons the prices are quite high.  We spot a Save-a-Lot and I’m very pleased to find it is compact, cheap and sells no frills own brands plus brands we recognise such as Tetley tea bags.  The flyer says it is the fastest growing chain in America.  A little further on we see an Aldi which I would have been even more at home with.  Buy diesel at the gas station but they are doing alterations and can’t supply us with water.  We are completely out but Don Wright’s Guide to Free Campgrounds steers us to Leavenworth State Fishing Lake.  There should be toilets, tables, BBQ’s and campfires, drinking water, dump station, playground, fishing, hiking, boating and swimming.  It’s a lovely spot but many things are missing most importantly to us there is no water and you can’t swim in the lake.  The next nearest place is Clinton Lake just west of Lawrence.  Due to the sheer size of America our maps show about 15 miles to the inch so things that look close or a short detour never are.  We arrive around 8.30pm at the Rockhaven C.O.E. (Corps of Engineers) site which is empty.  There’s a water pump but despite vigorous pumping nothing comes out.  Just about to leave in frustration when a car pulls round. We learn that it’s not a water pump but a frost free tap.  The pump mechanism keeps the water below ground level and prevents the pipe from freezing.  To obtain water you just raise the pump handle and after a few seconds it flows out under pressure.  A lady arrives in a camper and announces herself the camp host.  She explains it’s $4 (£2.80) night to stay here (the book also lists sites below $10 / £7 ) and you must self register but if you don’t and the ranger collects he charges $6 (£4.20).  The lady called Eddy calls round to give us lots of useful information about Utah which she makes sound fabulous. Just hope we will get there to be able to use it. She explains that this is also a horse and mule camping ground which makes it very interesting. 
Wednesday 3 July  Get up late and set off to find the lake swimming but the steep and difficult track doesn’t take you near enough to the lake.  We need a day off so stay anyway.  A truck and trailer pulls up and a lady comes by on horseback.  Afternoon a couple of cars arrive with tents but also a car which keeps cruising round then parking up.  The black driver comes by and asks if we can give him some water, we direct him to the tap.  He then asks if we want a beer but we decline as we have our own.  Something isn’t quite right and later a Sheriff calls on us.  He says the people in tents reported the man as he was asking them about drugs.  The Sheriff asks us our side of the story and tells us another patrol car is on the way to back him up.  Sheriff then goes over to talk to the people in the white car.  Second car arrives and hides behind our van.  Not sure of the outcome but the white car leaves, Sheriffs have a confab and also leave.  So much for the big drug bust.  A few more people arrive mainly with horses but the site never fills up.  Hear and see a few fireworks at the other side of the lake.
Thursday 4 July  Independence Day in America and a public holiday.  Return to Tonganoxie where we saw an old motorhome for sale.  We hadn’t planned to buy on this trip but it may be a way out of our difficult situation.  It’s a 1977 model and the asking price is $3990 (£2800).  The gay who owns it is moving to California with his partner but despite the engine being suspect and the inside needing heaps of TLC he said he won’t take less than $3000 (£2100) and actually isn’t keen to sell it to us.  Traffic is light so we head west through the state capital of Topeka and out over the prairies a flat land with crops as far as the eye can see.  Wild Bill Hicock used to be mayor of Abilene and in the Old Town we watch a western shoot out.  It’s really pathetic and would make any amateurs look professional but gives us a chuckle.  The old town is just as it was but more dilapidated and rather like a film set.  The saving grace is the Eisenhower Centre.  Dwight David Eisenhower grew up in Abilene and we visit the family graves in the meditation chapel then tour through the family home.  After watching a film about his life we pay $3.50 (£2.45) to go through the museum which also has a special section on the Korean war and MASH and appeals to Steve.  Finish our day at Salina where the cross country railroad runs through the town passing the massive grain storage towers.  Many people are in the parks having picnics but again there are few white people.  Settle onto Wal Mart car park and find that the new battery is not holding the charge as it should – whatever next?
Friday 5 July  Wal Mart check the battery which may be suspect so they replace it.  At the library we pick up a friendly and apologetic E-mail from Pat.  She’s doesn’t mention losing the swap in Australia but is keen to return to a previous suggestion of a 3 way swap, her staying with our friends in England and them borrowing our camper in Australia.  The reason she has been sending us strange E-mails is that she has been very worried.  She found out just before we arrived (despite us asking her to check it all months before) that in America insurance is for the vehicle and owner but other drivers are covered.  Should we have a big accident with third parties involved it is Pat who would be liable for anything above the $100,000 insurance.  This has been playing on her mind but since our letter she says she does not want us to cancel or curtail our trip.  This still leaves us with a big responsibility on the insurance issue.  On the interstate we spot a couple with a 5th wheel who have broken down.  Just pulling onto the hard shoulder to offer help when we hear a clank ourselves.  Pull up to find our front bumper has fallen off.  Steve races back to get it and works out that it has been broken before and not fixed back on properly.  Manage to fix it with Bungee cords.  The couple we stopped to help just have a flat tyre and can deal with it.  Well that’s the problem of the day out of the way early!  Detour off the highway on the "Kansas Post Rock Scenic Byway".  Miles of stone fenceposts stand as a tribute to early settlers who quarried rock to make posts in the absence of wood.  The chalky limestone is uniform in thickness of 8" – 9" and when freshly quarried soft enough to saw or shape but hardens on exposure.  We pass many of these rocks as the terrain quickly changes from boring flat plains to hilly country and suddenly a big lake.  Lake Wilson makes a nice lunch stop after which we have a swim and a nap.  The "Garden of Eden" in Lucas appeals to me.  Using the limestone Samuel Perry Dinsmoor begin building it in 1907 at the age of 64 and spent 22 years working on it.  Steve’s not so interested so looks from outside then waits in the van whilst I take the $4.50 (£3.15)  full tour of the house and gardens.  Samuel started by sculpturing a "log" cabin then surrounded it with high posts containing 150 sculptures religious and political.  You learn about the story behind the figures and eccentric things he did such as digging up his wife from the local cemetery at night then embedding her in concrete in his home made mausoleum.  The council had already told him he couldn’t have her there but he got his way in the end.  Today he is buried above her in a glass topped coffin which he made himself.  I love it but know it wouldn’t really appeal to Steve who prefers the hour of peace and quiet.  Meander a little further through many towns with scrap yards full of oil derricks and pipes although we do see a number still in operation.  Begin to think we must be in Oklahoma the way the wind comes rushing down the plains!  Hays has been visited by Wild Bill Hicock, General Custer and Buffalo Bill Cody but is much the same as so many of the towns here and dominated by the long wide streets with shopping centres.  At least we benefit from this by parking on yet another Wal Mart.  Steve calls Pat and we agree that if she can get a deal with our friends we will stay for the 3 months but if not we will leave on 29th July.  Although this car park has a lot of motorhomes on it there is still plenty of space so we are quite miffed when a very high 40′ motorhome pulls right along side us blocking our view, light and ventilation then starts the generator to run his air conditioner.  By the time we have finished tea the owners have gone shopping but Steve has a chat when they get back.  They apologise and say they will be turning the generator off soon but don’t offer to move so we do.  We hear on the news that Texas is still having big flood problems and people from San Antonio are having to move out.  The knock on effect is the wind which we are getting here and rain storms forecast for tomorrow.
Saturday 6 July  The small town of Oakley has quite of number of interesting fossils in the museum along with a little bit of everything else and makes for a pleasant 1/2 hour visit. We’ve been trying to use our phonecard to call England but cannot get through.  We bought the card in Texas where AT&T operate the phones whereas in Kansa it’s Southern Bell and they won’t allow us to access the card free phone number. Pass into the Mountain region which is a new time zone and our clocks go back 1 hour (now 7 hours behind England).  Enter COLORADO and leave the Welcome Centre with a big pile of brochures for us to do our homework on.  Just 3 miles off the highway Flager Reservoir State Wildlife Area makes a very nice free camping spot.  There’s plenty of room but the biggest problem is getting shelter from the wind.  Find a new type of water tap here with no pump and what looks like the top of the tap missing.  This time you press a button on the side and press down on the top of the tap.  Both walk around our side of the lake but see few other people. Steve decides to go off on his own to explore the other.  The water level is so low so he can cut across the bottom end.  He returns very shaken about half an hour later.  He’d been having a great time finding strange rocks etc. and even began to wonder if he might come across some hidden fossils. His next step took him into some sort of quick sand and he started to sink.  When he finally got himself out his shoes were caked in thick black mud and he now wonders if he might have struck oil!!  Actually it was no joke and he is very shaken but we have both learnt a lesson from it. 
Sunday 7 July   Approaching Colorado there’s a dramatic change in the scenery as the  mountains rise majestically from the plains.   Take the guided tour of the US Olympic Complex which includes viewing many training areas.  Pike’s Peak is the mountain which dominates the town but at the visitor centre we learn that the Seven Sisters waterfall we wanted to see is man made and the water just re-cycled, the natural waterfall involves a long walk as the road has been closed since the fires.  Garden of the Gods is fabulous.  In the visitors centre we watch the film $2 (£1.40) to learn how these bright red rocks were formed.  We then drive through the area and although most of the rocks are bright red we do pass "White Rock" and "Grey Cathedral Rock".  Aptly names red ones are "Balanced Rock", "Kissing Camels" "Sleeping Giant" and "The Scotsman".  The only problem is that it is very busy and impossible for us to get onto any of the car parks and take a walk.  Drive out to Manitou Springs area but pass on the cave dwellings when we find they are also man made.  Flying W Chuck Wagon Ranch has been serving cowboy meals for 50 years and we are lucky to have got a cancellation for tonight.  $16.50 (£11.50) for all the attractions.  Start by walking around the re-created western village with the old buildings now housing craft shops.  The red rocks extend onto the ranch and we climb to the top of one for a superb view out over Colorado Springs.  At 7.30pm prompt we a summoned to our tables.  They now cater for over 500 people a night sat at numbered benches of 12 people.  We are soon chatting to the other guests on our table then listen to the chuck wagon food instructions.  When our table number is called we first queue and get a tin plate and our silverware (cutlery to us).  The plate has 2 small and 1 large section and we must hold the large section over the pan of beans for our serving.  Next we get roast beef and a jacket potato.  In one small section goes apple sauce and this is where you hold the plate as it is cold.  The meal is complete with biscuits (a type of bread cooked over the fire) and spice cake with coffee, lemonade or cold tea to drink.  It’s all very filling but Steve manages to go back for more beef and beans.  After a military style clean up operation the band arrives and we are treated to a mixture of country songs and jokes many with a cowboy theme.  A good time is had by all and we leave around 10.00pm to find the nearest Wal Mart car park.
Monday 8 July  I began to have sinus problems yesterday and now wonder if either altitude or dry heat are a link. By the time we get to the United States Air Force Academy I feel too ill to visit so Steve goes alone but says it is not very interesting.  Join him for the short walk to the chapel on the base which is a most unusual design.  Unfortunately it is closed due to a funeral so we can only view outside.  Head up to Denver and can’t believe just how much traffic is on the road.  The other thing that strikes us is that in America they all ride their motorbikes without crash helmets or protective clothing.  It’s amazing as even in Indonesia it was compulsory to wear a helmet even though they did improvise with buckets and ice cream tubs!  Denver is known as the mile high city and as we climb the steps to the State Capitol building one step has a plaque indicating that exact altitude.  There’s an excellent view of the snow tipped Rocky Mountains in the distance.  We wanted to go up into the viewing dome but it is closed so have to settle for just looking round the building.  The city library is enormous and has lots of interesting historical pictures on the walls of the corridors leading to each of the 5 floors.  There are a couple of nice bronze statues with an Indian and a Cowboy in the rather splendid gardens in front of the Capitol.  In the suburb of Federal Heights we call in to Cruise America who deal in motorhome rentals and sales.  They advertise a 30′ Tioga Queen Island bed model, $63,950 (£45,000) new but their 1997 is only $23,950 (£16,800).  They don’t have any of the layout we like but they have branches throughout Canada and USA and a web site ( so could be useful in the future.  We have tracked down Carefree of Colorado in Bloomfield and buy our awning parts directly from the factory.  Proceed through Boulder then out along the attractive Canyon Road (littered with no camping signs) to Nederland.  Having got ahead of ourselves we don’t have a definite plan for tonight and there are no Wal Marts in the area.  Turn off down a gravel road and park up at the side. 
Tuesday 9 July  We are almost at Rocky Mountain National Park and the nearest basic campground is Meeker Park overflow $7 (£4.90).  Staying here means we can make an early start into the park tomorrow morning.  In America the only other campsites seem to be the all singing dancing variety at around $30 (£21) offering many things we don’t require, motorhomes packed in like sardines, noise and long lists of regulations – not for us.  I’m chatting to the campsite host when a tiny creature jumps onto his table.  It’s a chipmunk but much smaller than the ones we have seen before and must have been what we accidentally ran over earlier.  Spend the day relaxing and trying to get my nose cleared with inhalations.  Steve takes off for a couple of hours hiking but doesn’t find much. 
Wednesday 10 July  Estes Park marks the Eastern gateway to the park and we top up the diesel and pick up information.  Just before the park entrance we call at Beaver Meadows Visitor Centre to watch the film about the park.  Admission to Rocky Mountain National Park is $15 (£10.50) for the vehicle and occupants or $50 (£35) National Parks pass which is good for all the parks in USA for 1 year and good for us.  Moraine Park Museum offers a free shuttle bus and first we ride out to Fern Lake just for the scenery then back to the Museum and up to Bear Lake.  It’s a beautiful Alpine Lake surrounded by the snow capped peaks.  Basic campgrounds in the park cost $18 (£12.60) but when we read the park guide we fancy doing some of the  evening and early morning activities so return to check onto Moraine Park Campground.  It’s just mid-day and already the 247 campsites are filled as are the 150 at Glacier Basin.  Clouds are gathering and a thunderstorm has been forecast so rather than chance heading over the mountain we return to Meeker Park first stopping at Lily Lake.  It’s an easy 20 minute walk around the lake and we hand feed the friendly Golden Mantled Ground Squirrels which are everywhere.  We think we see a beaver and track it until it climbs out of the lake and waddles up a stream.  When Steve checks in the visitor centre the absence of the bushy tails confirms that it was a Muskrat and a rare sight to see.  At the side of the main highway is a pretty chapel built onto a rock.  It’s the Chapel of St Catherine and belongs to the St Malo retreat.  Photos inside the chapel show the pope visiting.  My head is still throbbing but we now know that the high altitude and dryness aggravates existing medical conditions and I can confirm this. Back at the campground we have just set out the chairs when the temperature suddenly drops and the storm begins.  Within half an hour we are being pelted by hailstones the size of marbles.  A cold night follows.
Thursday 11 July  Steve has us up at 6.00am to drive to the 7.00am Ranger guided walk from the Cub Lake Trailhead in the park.  It’s a beautiful morning with mist clearing from the lakes and valleys and plenty of joggers out to enjoy it. My head is considerably better so I can enjoy it more also.  "Hummingbirds to Eagles" is the walk topic and we see and learn lots about Hummingbirds but no sign of the Eagles.  Our guide is very knowledgeable and enthusiastic especially when Steve spots a Collini Warbler which shouldn’t be in this area.  One of our favourite birds is the Green Tailed Thuwee and we are amazed at the size of the Robins (typical American and big)  See many small animals including a Yellow Bellied Marmot and a Wyoming squirrel.  Set out driving over the Trail Ridge Road which winds it’s way up the mountains offering fabulous views.  Stop at a number of overlooks and trails and at Forest Canyon we see another Marmot right by the path. The road climbs up into the Alpine Tundra above the tree line where we stop at the Alpine Visitor centre to take in the views and learn more about the area.   The road peaks at 12183 feet, 3713m and claims to be the highest highway in the world.  Cross the Continental Divide, water East of here flows into the Atlantic and West to the Pacific.  Lots more lovely scenery and mountains lakes on the way down to Timber Creek campground where we get a site at $18 (£12.50) night.  After lunch we explore both up and downstream of Timber Creek taking cooling dips in the water but being careful not to get any in our mouths as it carries Giardiasis.  Join the 9.00pm Ranger presentation slide show about the wildlife in the marshes.
Friday 12 July  At 9.00am Ranger Sam runs the "Fly Fishing for beginners" class.  We hope to do some fishing in Australia and think this may give us a head start.  Begin with tips on how to select a rod and equipment and then move down to the river to practice casting.  There are only 3 of us in the class so we get lots of attention and manage to grasp the very basics.  Leave the site at noon and heading out of the park we get our first sighting of an Elk with big antlers.  Grand Lake is a lovely spot and they even have a special car park for RV’s to stay on for up to 48 hours.  Walk around the town which is very quaint with timber framed shops and houses and wooden boardwalks.  Spend the afternoon on the man made beach beside the lake where the water is still pretty chilly the last of the snow having only left here in June. 
Saturday 13 July  Continue on the Scenic Byway through Byers Canyon into Hot Springs which looks much the same as it must have done 100 years ago.  Back into Prairie country with lots of old ranches.  At Kremling we turn off onto Trough Road which takes us cross country on a very basic road but it’s an interesting journey with stunning views down into the gorge with the railroad following the course of the Colorado River.  Turn off to Radium and find a lovely free camping spot at the State Wildlife Park right beside the stream.  Most of the other campers have tents but we manage to find a spot to suit us.  Walk into Radium which is a 6 cabin town and where our stream joins the Colorado River. Lots of companies run white water rafting trips which end here and we see a steady flow of craft on the river.  The Bureau of Land Management campground charges $6 (£4.20) night, is out on a dusty flat car park and not even beside the river so we certainly dropped lucky with our spot. Sit out well into the evening sniffing up the odours of the campers cooking and listening to their music.
Sunday 14 July  We’ve been told of some natural hot springs on the banks of the Colorado River so set out to find them.  Hike up over the hill behind the campground then get rather bewildered by the vast number of trails.  Make it to the river where we discover lots of dispersed campsites along the banks accessed by boat.  Meets quite a few campers who keep directing us upstream.  Steve just misses stepping on a small black snake as we plough along the river bank.  Watch many rafts go past and one group who stop to do jumps off a very high rock.  Eventually find the right spot and clamber down the cliffs to find an area at the edge of the river which has been closed in by rocks.  Within this is the hot pool from which you can just hop over the rocks into the icy river to cool down.  The river flows so fast that even when trying to swim upstream you barely move.  Find the correct track which takes us back to the campground in about 20 minutes.  Relax by the van entertained by humming birds and ground squirrels.  Make the most of the stream for cooling dips – what a lovely place.   
Monday 15 July  Rejoin Interstate 70 which at this point is extremely scenic.  The road cuts through the majestic Glenwood Canyon competing for space with the Colorado River and the Railroad.   Glenwood Springs is famous for the hot springs, no doubt more welcome in the winter after a stint of ski-ing at nearby Aspen.  Brief stroll around town then onwards passing the area where hills are still scarred from the recent fires and blackened tree stumps abound.  Approaching Grand Junction is even more impressive with the seemingly never ending grey and purple coloured Book Cliffs on our right and a fertile valley with vineyards on our left.  Park by the library then enjoy a stroll along Main Street with almost 100 sculptures.  This area is having a heatwave with 104F recorded yesterday so we seek shade in a nearby park before moving round to Wal Mart.
Tuesday 16 July  On the western outskirts of town is the Colorado National Monument a 23 mile drive above gorges and canyons.  Our National Park annual pass saves us the $5 (£3.50) admission and within minutes we are admiring the views.  Stop at almost all the lookouts and do many short walks to get even better views of the stunning rock formations.  The centrepiece of the park is Independence Rock which you can see majestically isolated from the rest of the formations. Steve becomes David Bailey crossed with a snappy happy Jappy.  Call into the Visitor Centre for the ubiquitous film before lapping up the last few viewpoints, fantastic  Just before the Utah state line we turn off to look at the Dinosaur excavations which are taking place in a quarry.  They are busy working but don’t seem to be finding much and the heat puts us off doing the 1 1/2 hour trail.  Drive into Rabbit Valley and panic as the road worsens and there is no place to turnaround.  Fortunately we make it to the "campground" which is just a turning circle, pit toilet and picnic table.  It’s blissfully quiet, we have a superb 360 degree view and to combat the intense heat we strip off and each choose a small tree to take shade under.  It’s so hot that even my computer flashes up a "thermometer" warning signal then cuts out and goes dead on me! 
Wednesday 17 July  Cross into UTAH then take the scenic byway which first leads us past the village of Cisco where it’s hard to tell which of the windblown and desolate shacks are inhabited and difficult to believe any are.  Pick up the course of the Colorado River winding through spectacular red cliffs with lots of mesas.  Could soon be running out of descriptive words if we continue like this but we are just loving it all.  Fill up all our bottles at the natural roadside spring.  Join the main highway to head up Canyonlands National Park. The park covers 500,000 square miles and is split into The Maze, The Needles and Island in the Sky which we are visiting today.  This section looks out over hundreds of miles of flat-topped mesas that drop in 2000 ft steps to the river.  Spot a lone cyclist who indicates for us to stop.  It’s a French lad who is desperate for water and also asks for a lift into the park.  With his bike in the back of the truck we head into the park $10 (£7) again free with the National Pass.  Drive straight out to the Grand Viewpoint Overlook for the 11.30am Ranger Geology talk which is very informative. Surprisingly there are no Americans for the talk just British, French and Koreans, a good indication that we are now back on the tourist trail.   This is a great spot to view down over the main canyons and study all the craggy rock formations. Unfortunately the far views are interrupted by the smoke haze created by numerous fires still burning in this region.  Double back stopping at a number of viewpoints before turning off to the campground.  The Ranger described the road surface as "washboard" and we soon realise what he means as we bounce over the corrugations.  Plenty of space at Willow Flat campground $5 (£3.50) night.  After lunch our French friend heads off whilst we have a siesta.  Just before sunset we walk to the Green River overlook which is interesting but a cloudy sky and the distant smoke don’t show it at it’s best. 
Thursday 18 July  Set off at 6.00am and see the sun rising as we drive out to Upheaval Dome.  A 1 mile hike takes us to the crater rim with an upsurge of rocks within.  They are still not sure if it from a meteorite dropping or salt beds underneath forcing their way out.  Next stop is for the Mesa Arch walk which brings us to a rock arch framing the distant landscape with a rock formation known as "The Washerwomen".  Out of Canyonlands National Park then straight on to Arches National Park ($10 normally). This park contains the largest concentration of sandstone rock arches in the world.  Drive 18 miles to the far end of the park to start walking from the Devils Garden.  It reminds us of Ayes Rock area with similar type rocks and red earth.  A 2 mile walk takes us first to Landscape Arch with one of the longest spans in the world.  Return via Tunnel Arch which is more like a tube and Pine Arch which has a lone Pine tree in the bottom.  Short drive and then walk to Skyline Arch which you can actually see from the road.  Most of the arches in the park can only be seen to their best advantage by taking a hike.  Heading back up the road we stop and walk to Sand Dune Arch where you have to squeeze between the "rock fins" and climb up sand banks to get to it.  Fiery Furnace viewpoint gives us a great view of a concentration of rocks with cracks between which look like fins, the ends of the rocks look like flames in a fire.  Salt Valley Overlook shows us a valley where the uppermost rock layer is salt.  Delicate Arch viewpoint is a short stroll but the only thing different about the arch is that it stands completely alone.  In the Windows section of the park we like the twin North and South window, look across to Turret Arch then do yet another walk to the unusual Double Arch with two arches joined at 90 degrees.  Drive slowly out past Balanced Rock, the Petrified Dunes and the Three Gossips rock.  We’ve both really enjoyed it but found walking in over 100 degrees a killer, mind you we have done 7 walks and probably gone about 10 miles in total.  Fill up on fresh mountain spring water at the side of the road by the Cisco turnoff.  Head through Moab and south stopping only to take a photo of the magnificent Wilson Arch.  Although the National Parks encompass a high concentration of interesting rock features you can still see great examples of everything by just driving around the area in general.   Turn off towards Canyonlands Needles section and cross a sage covered plateau before descending into Indian Creek Canyon.  Stop at Newspaper Rock where a panel of pre-historic art can be seen.  The rock is covered in ancient (thought to be Indian) petroglyphs.  Small figures have been etched into the black rock coating leaving a cream outline.  Animal pelts, broad shouldered figures, horses and riders are some of the shapes we can make out.  Conveniently for us there is a free camping area directly opposite.
Friday 19 July  Set out looking for a place to settle for the day.  Cross back into COLORADO and get our first disappointment at the McPhee reservoir where there is almost no water talking of which we are drinking well over 1 gallon each per day to stave of dehydration.  Plenty of water in the Mancos State Park but because of the fires all camping has been banned in these parks.  Continue into Mancos then double back to visit Mesa Verde National Park $10 (£7) inc in pass.  First we have to unhitch the trailer as we are not allowed to take it into the park.  Spot a dead rattlesnake by the roadside.  The park is where the Anasazi lived around 1,400 years ago in villages built into the rock faces.  It is split into two parts but Chapin Mesa is closed due to the fire risk.  That area has had no fires for over 300 years making it very volatile whereas Wetherill Mesa had it’s most recent fire of many in 2000 which burnt an incredible 10,000 acres.  Ascend steep and winding roads to the Visitor Centre where we book on the 4.30pm tour of Long House $2.25 (£1.55) and watch a film.  A further 12 mile drive takes us to Wetherill Mesa where we make the steep descent to Step House.  This small area shows two different examples of Anasazi dwellings, kivas (ceremonial rooms) and pithouses. Clamber back out and mange to get onto the 4.00pm tour which starts with a miniature train ride.  Our group of 40 are guided down 60 steps then a steep track to emerge level with the impressive Long House village tucked away under a cliff.  There are 150 rooms and 21 "kivas" and we learn about how they lived and survived here for 750 years. The village is on quite a narrow ledge and they built contoured walls to fit the curve of the cliff.  After our 1 1/2 hour very informative tour we take the train loop which stops at a look out point to another village called Kodak House then Long House.  Drive out of the park to pick up the trailer before settling onto Wal Mart car park at Cortez
Saturday 20 July  Highway 160 takes us South West to Four Corners Monument.  This is the only place in USA where four states meet, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona.  They say you can lie with a hand or a foot in each of the different states – we don’t.  Continue into ARIZONA in the area dominated by the Navajo Indians.  Turn off towards Monument Valley which straddles the Arizona-Utah state line.  Movie makers have flocked here since early Hollywood and this was where John Ford made John Wayne a star.  Also many car commercials have been filmed here and it is just like the classic shot with the straight road appearing to lead nowhere through the barren desert and enormous red rock buttes rising in the distance. Just into UTAH  we turn off into an area where Navajo craft and food stalls make an improvised shopping street.  For $5 (£3.50) your can enter the Tribal Park and drive around the monoliths but when we learn how bad the road is we back off and just take photos.  One thing we are surprised about is that despite how majestic Monument Valley looks it actually only covers a very small area.  Proceed through Mexican Hat named after a rock which vaguely looks like an upturned sombrero.  Drive out to Goosenecks State Reserve for the view down into the San Juan River.  A textbook example of an entrenched meander the river, a thousand feet below, snakes around in such convoluted twist and turns that it flows only six miles in total for every one mile west.  The river has warn away the rocks in such a way that it looks like the sides are stepped and with the sun shinning brings out the different colours.  From the lookout you can see at least six turns and it really is a most amazing sight.  Not only that but you are allowed to free camp here so we set up stall and just can’t believe what a fantastic view we have.
Sunday 21 July  We had hoped to take the short cut north from here using the Moki Dugaway.  This is the spot where "Thelma & Louise" were filmed driving off the edge of the cliff.  The road from the north stops abruptly and apparently dissapears.  In reality straight over the cliff is the "dugaway".  This is a very steep narrow gravel track which clinging to the cliff side drops 1000 feet in just 2 hairpin bends.  Signs suggest it is unsuitable for RV’s and trailers so we admit defeat and detour 150 miles to get to Natural Bridges National Monument – $6 (£4.20) inc. in pass.  Drive out to look over Sipapu Bridge then on to Kachina Bridge where we take a hike.  It’s a long and moderately strenous walk down often over rocks with a rail to cling on to.  At the bottom we are directly under the arch which is decorated with Petroglyphs.  Now we can appreciate just how huge it is and what powerful forces must have eroded the rocks in it’s formation.  Round the far side of the arch we come upon a group of 3 early Anasazi dwellings and more pictures.  In what little water there is under the arch we spot a wild deer known here are a mule deer.  It’s unafraid and we observe it for quite some time and hopefully get a good photo.  It’s a tough climb out with the noon sun beating down.  The last stop is the oldest and narrowest bridge Owachomo.  Put some more miles behind us and pass the neck of Lake Powell where dozens of boats bob in the water.  It’s a lovely drive but extremely hot and no breeze.  Turn towards Capitol Reef and pull of down a gravel side road.  At the end of the road standing alone is an enormous rock formation which looks as if there is a huge fortress on the top, it’s called Factory Butte and looks magnificent in the late afternoon sun.  Settle in for the night in what turns out to be a very quiet spot.
Monday 22 July  An early start on the road.  We are amazed when suddenly amongst the barren area we find green fields with cows grazing.  Good views approaching Capitol Reef with the red, ochre and grey of the rocks forming unusual patterns.  The Fremont Petroglyphs look particularly good when viewed through the binoculars provided.  Many of the 1000 year old figures look like spacemen but you wonder just how they carved them so high up the sheer rock face.  Fruita became a Mormon community in the late 1800’s and we look into the old school.  They were big fruit farmers and the orchards still exist today.  The National Parks maintain them covering costs with the "U Pick" system charging 50c kilo for fruit to be taken away but any eaten there is free.  Apricots are in season so we eat and buy.   In to Capital Reef National Park normally $4 (£2.80) but we find it a disappointment.  Without a 4WD to get down the tracks and time to do the long hikes you see nothing different than from the main road which passes across the top of the park.  Shortly after leaving the Reef region we hit the sharp contrast of Dixie National Forest where bear warning signs abound.  Ask at the Forest Office as we would like to see one but as they have only seen 1 in 4 years our chances are not good.  Emerge into Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument.  Driving through this area covers many elevations and showing up many layers of different rocks hence the name.  It’s a lovely drive and we enjoy an after lunch dip in the Escalante River.  By the time we arrive at Bryce we are sure we have a problem with the brakes.  Trying to use the gears for breaking doesn’t work as even in 1st gear the speed will creep up to 50 mph.  Pat did mention that she has had a lot of transmission problems, she wasn’t kidding.  The garage tell us we need new brake pads (Pat also told us she had them checked before we arrived and we have only done 3,000 miles).  Fortunately they have them in stock and they are fitted within 1/2 hour $105 (£70) in total which isn’t too bad.  Drive into Bryce Canyon $20 (£14) normally and straight onto Sunset campground $10 (£7).  Just catch the 5.00pm Ranger walk around the rim but it’s mainly about biology and we lose interest as we are far more interested in the view below us.  This area is called the amphitheatre and you look down on thousands of hoodoos which are eroded rock towers. There are many different colours (often multi-coloured), shapes and sizes and it looks just fabulous.  Walk around the rim to Sunrise Point then back to the campground where we find we are out of gas as is also the reserve tank.  Steve has to unhitch the trailer and take a tank in the truck to have it refilled.  Use the same garage where we bought the brake pads but the credit card we used earlier is refused.  Fortunately he has enough cash but this gives us another problem to deal with.  There are lots of big blue Jay birds around and one comes close enough for us to get a good photo (hopefully).
Tuesday 23 July  7.30am set out on the Queens Garden walk which takes us down into the canyon amongst the hoodoos.  Start by the Silent City then descend on the Navajo trail.  It’s extremely steep and the trail goes though a low arch cut into the rocks and takes many twists and turns.  Now we begin to appreciate how big the hoodoos are and are amazed to find tall pine trees growing amongst the rocks.  At the canyon base we walk through a green garden area before starting the climb out.  It’s a fabulous walk but feels much further than the 3 miles covered because of the 500 foot + elevation change.  Catch the free park shuttle bus out to Bryce Point where we get stunning views back over the amphitheatre and of an area called the Grotto with white rock arches.  We are loving it all so much that we set off to walk around the Rim first to Inspiration Point then right back to where we started at Sunset Point just revelling in all the fantastic formations.  Having covered a good 5 miles we pick up the truck and trailer and drive to Fairyland Point on our way out of the park.  Definitely the best park we have seen so far.   The main road takes us through Red Canyon with lots more hoodoos but only in red.  Panguitch Lake makes a nice lunch stop then a pause for a snooze whilst a thunderstorm passes over.  Continuing we traverse an area covered in lava rocks which have been pushed up through the earth’s surface.  Cedar Breaks National Monument normally $3 (£2.10) p.p. is a pocket sized version of Bryce Canyon with friendly squirrels everywhere.  At Cedar City we use the Internet to report the credit card problem, visit the launderette then settle onto Wal Mart car park.
Wednesday 24 July  It’s Pioneer Day in Utah state which means many towns are having parades and BBQ’s.  We opt out and drive to Zion National Park normally $20 (£14).  Already our $50 (£35) park pass has covered $106 (£74) fees so it’s brilliant value and we’ve still got over 11 months use left.  Private vehicles are not permitted on the main scenic drive so we park at the Visitor Centre and catch the very frequent shuttle bus first to Zion Lodge.  The park is famous for the ancient sand dunes which became the massive multi-coloured vertical sandstone cliffs.  Set out on the Emerald Lakes hike with the lower and middle lake being poor but the upper lake worth the extra .3 mile vertical climb.  It really is emerald reflecting the green ferns growing off the gigantic sheer rock face which surrounds the sand edged pool.  Shuttle to Weeping Rock with a short hike to a gorgeous spring-fed garden that dangles from a rocky alcove.  We are lucky and see 3 male deer grazing in the area.  The park road ends at Temple of Sinawava and here we take the Riverside Walk which tracks the Virgin River.  It’s a lovely walk with many places where you can get into the water.  This time we complete the family and see a baby deer on the river bank and lots of friendly grey squirrels. The track peters out at the narrows where the only way to continue is to wade up to waist high through the water.  We turn back and find a beach for lunch then a swim.  Get off the return bus at the newly opened Zion Museum and look at the displays and of course a film.  Just manage to catch the next bus but then find it’s going in the wrong direction.  Hop off at Canyon Junction and make the most of our mistake by taking another swim in the River and enjoying a natural Jacuzzi where the water is funnelled through a narrow channel.  Leave the park after a very enjoyable day but we still put Bryce as our 1st choice followed by Arches.  That completes our parks tour in Utah and it has all been fabulous but for anyone on a budget you can actually see examples of everything without ever going into a park, the parks just have a greater concentration of things.  We spotted a track to the river on highway 9 coming in so between mile markers 24 and 23 we turn down onto Bureau of Land Management land to a free camping area on the banks of the Virgin River.
Thursday 25 July  This is such a super spot we stay for the day.  Get around to a number of ongoing van repairs then go mad and wash the trailer and truck.  In between all this we keep taking cooling dips in the river as it is very hot.  In fact at 7.00pm it is still 110F outside.
Friday 26 July  Just leaving the camping area when we spot a car bogged in the sand.  It’s a couple of South African brothers who arrived late last night and couldn’t see where they were going.  Using our levelling boards and manpower they are very grateful that we manage to free them.  They work in the backpacking industry in South Africa and give us a number of tips and their details as a contact.  I5 heads North and the traffic builds up about 50 miles south of Salt Lake City where the motorway widens to 6 lanes.  Catch a glimpse of the famous Mormon temple but it doesn’t tempt us to stop.  North of the city it takes us 1 1/2 hours to cover a 5 mile area with roadworks.  The Salt Lake itself looks huge and although stagnant it has recently starting rising so they have had to build the road up higher.  Flying J Truck stops welcome RV’s and sell cheap diesel so we tank up then park for the night. 
Saturday 27 July  Set out early and enter IDAHO (Famous Potatoes) State.  Short stop for breakfast then a detour at Twin Falls.  Shoshone Falls are higher than Niagara but at the moment are dry!  Continue along the "Thousand Springs" scenic byway.  It’s not particularly scenic and at first the only springs we see are muddy waters bubbling up into barrels on farmland. After over an hour we reach a "Geologic Marker" which points to what appear to be a number of waterfalls in the cliffs at the far side of the Snake River.  In fact this is underground spring water emerging through the rocks.  The rest of our journey on I84 has warning signs for "Dust Storms" no doubt because of the flat plains.  All we see are grain and potato crops and dairy farms.  Next it’s into OREGON the "Beaver State" and our clocks go back 1 hour to Pacific Time (8 hours behind GMT).  Just north of Baker City we cross the 45th parallel which puts us exactly halfway between the Equator and the North Pole.  At the Columbia River we turn East to Sand Station Recreation Area on Lake Wallula which was formed when the River was dammed.  It’s a free camping spot and very busy.  Most of the people are in tents on the beach, lots of Mexicans and many rough and/or poor looking people although they do seem to have money for drink!  One car looks to have all it’s owners worldly possessions strewn over the roof, seats and surrounding area.  The owner staggers back at one point with beer can in hand.  It’s a lovely spot with a swimming beach and it’s also getting late so we park on the edge and take a dip after tea.  The Sheriff arrives and chats to the afore mentioned car owner but seems happy enough and leaves.  Feel sure we are OK but wouldn’t want to be here in a big posh American motorhome.  At 9.30pm some loud heavy rock music begins blaring out of the vehicle parked behind us.  By midnight Steve is a bit frustrated and in the nicest possible way asks them to turn it down.  Jeffrey is most reasonable, apologises and in fact turns it off even though he had just been going to put some AC/DC on – phew.   
Sunday 28 July    It’s too nice a day for travelling so we settle on the beach which is like black volcanic sand.  The water is warm, clear and perfect for swimming.  Jeffrey keeps coming over to chat, not sure if he is really interested in hearing about our travels or if it’s because he "just loves our accent".  Make a move around 4.00pm and continue around Lake Wallula into WASHINGTON (The Evergreen) state.  Put in a couple of hours driving to get to Yakima where there’s a Wal Mart.
YAKIMA – Wal Mart
Monday 29 July  What starts as a lovely hot morning rapidly deteriorates as we head Northwest.  Things get so bad in the mountains that we are driving through drizzle with the heating on in the truck.  Turn North at Seattle then stop at Bellingham for Wal Mart to do an oil and filter change on the truck, a very reasonable $28 (£20).  Cross the border into CANADA, BRITISH COLUMBIA and immediately note that we are now working in kilometres and buying fuel by the litre.  Around Can $2.40 = £1.  Drive in ever decreasing circles to find where Auntie Joan lives in Surrey near Vancouver.  She is really surprised but very pleased to see us.  Lots of catching up to do having not seen her for 4 years. At 83 her hair is now white, she’s aged and shrunk a bit and limps a little from when she broke her leg but still the same Auntie Joan.  John cooks us a lovely meal after which he takes us for the short drive to the sea.  Having not seen the ocean since arriving in America it’s a welcome sight.  Feel like we are back in England as White Rock has lots of fish & chip shops along the sea front.  Remember it all well from when we visited in 1989.  John takes us on a good tour before we return to our 5th wheel which is parked outside the community centre.
Tuesday 30 July  A much nicer day with the temperature soon warming up enough for me to trade my long trousers for a skirt.  Auntie Joan stays at home whilst John takes us to the nearby shops, visitor centre and library.  Stop for a snack lunch at Tim Hortons before spending the afternoon in the garden ploughing through the tourist information.  I cook a Chinese stir fry for us all in the house before we return to the van
Wednesday 31 July   Rain through the night and a cool start to the day.  Whilst Auntie Joan is at "school" doing exercises and singing John takes us for another ride out.  In Canada not only do they add state tax to the prices shown but also a national tax and of course in restaurants 15% service is also expected.  John explained to us that 60% of the people in White Rock are retiree’s, we reckon that also 60% of the population are also British.  This is also noticeable in the supermarkets where they sell British favourites such as Marmite and HP sauce.  Nice afternoon for sitting in the garden.  Wednesday evening is family night at "The Pantry" and we join John, Joan and her friend Betty for a meal.  Main course specials are good value at CAN$6.95.  (£3.00)

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