Friday, May 27, 2016

Golden Spike National Monument and Brigham City, Utah

From Golden Spike RV Park, Brigham City, Utah    Our week at Park City, Utah, and indeed our seven months of group travel, ended on yet another cool, rainy day.  Sweet Joyce surprised Wayne and me our last morning with a parting gift of her delicious homemade chicken enchiladas. They came ready to bake, along with chips, dip and the precious enchilada recipe.

Goodbyes are tearful for us so Joyce, Pam and I tried to keep our conversation light and happy that morning. Here's our last girl group photo -- it was taken in Pam and Ernie's coach.

The previous weekend, Lexie's health had become a concern again, so we started her on strict crate rest again. We were still convinced the problem was spinal.  Her walks were very short -- just a few short steps to do her business and then back into the crate. Confined, she seemed to feel better.

Mid-morning we were gone, heading north to Brigham City where we hope for warmer temperatures if not a bit more sunshine. Elevation here is a full 1,000 less than Park City.

The town is small but pleasant. Everything here revolves around the Mormon Church.

By far, this church is the finest building in Brigham City. This photo was taken on a Sunday morning.
Notice the horseback riders. 
We arrived at Golden Spike RV Park in plenty time to bake Joyce's enchiladas for an early dinner. Yum. They were good, cheesy and warming. I tried not to think of the calories and cholesterol. I'm down thirteen pounds and anxious to keep them off.

Chicken, cheese, heavy cream, cheese and more cheese. 

So rich, one is enough, along with a salad. 

The first few days at Brigham City, were filled watching Lexie and doing housekeeping chores, including making a change in the sleep arrangement for Lexie and Ozzie. That called for a visit to the local Ace Hardware where we found a nice thin but sturdy board to put under our mattress. At night, we simply slide the board part-way out and put their beds on it with the wall to support the other side. We also did some de-clutter work that resulted in a couple of visits to a local charity. The fire pit we bought in Gulf Shores last fall was among the donated goods. No place to store such an infrequently used and dirty item.

Golden Spike National Monument 

The location of the final spike driven into the steel that completed the transcontinental railroad is at Promontory Summit north of the Great Salt Lake and 32 miles west of Brigham City. The location is designated as a National Historic Site and Monument.


We scheduled a day to go, taking Lexie (crate and all) and Ozzie with us. The day was mostly overcast and plenry cool for them to remain in the truck during the short time we were there.

Scenery along the way to Promontory Summit
In 1862 Congress authorized Central Pacific and Union Pacific Railroads to undertake the mammoth task of connecting the two halves of the American continent. A central route near the Mormon Trail was chosen with Omaha as the terminus. Each railroad company received subsidies ranging from $16K to $48K per mile of railroad built, depending on the level of difficulty of the terrain covered.

Central Pacific broke ground in January 1863 and Union Pacific, the next December. Progress was slow and most of the country's attention was on the Civil War. Central Pacific crews struggled through the Sierra Nevada range and there were raids by the Sioux and Cheyenne. Material had to be shipped around Cape Horn. Workers were driven relentlessly until they could routinely lay two to five miles of track in a day.

A Record! April 28, 2869
The laborers in the railroad building effort were diverse: Union Pacific Railroad worked America's unemployed -- Irish, German and Italian immigrants, Civil War veterans, ex-slaves and American Indians. This volatile mix brought bloodshed and drunken brawls in the "Hell On Wheels" camps thrown up along the way. Because of the drain on the California labor pool for the gold and silver booms, Central Pacific Railroad hired mostly Chinese immigrants who became the backbone of the company's work force.

While railroad workers didn't always get along, they were effective in laying track that always measured exactly four feet, eight and one-half inches apart. They joined two oceans and cemented the political union of the country with a physical link that snaked across hundreds of miles of sparsely settled land. It was a formidable task. The two railroad companies raced toward one another through Utah, each hoping to claim more land subsidies. They pushed so hard that, at one time, they drove workers nearly 200 miles in opposite directions on parallel grades.

The final obstacle would be here at Promontory Summit
Finally Congress declared the meeting place to be Promontory Summit.  On May 10, 1869, two locomotives -- Central Pacific's Jupiter 60 and Union Pacific's 119 pulled to the one-rail gap left in the track and the symbolic golden spike was tapped into the rail.

The "purpose built" replica of Union Pacific Railroad 119

I never saw an explanation as to why the "purpose built" Jupiter 60 replica was not on site. 
In the end, Central Pacific had laid 690 miles of railroad and Union Pacific laid 1,086 miles. Combined, they crossed 1,776 miles over desert, rivers and mountains, including the Rockies.

The locomotive makes regular runs for visitors to the site.
They merely fire up the the engine, back it up a ways and return it to the monument site. 
Engraved on the Golden Spike is "May God continue the unity of our Country as this Railroad unites the two great Oceans of the world." The gold colored spike in the photo below is just a replica. The original spike was removed from the rail when the ceremony was complete and is on display at the Smithsonian.

Souvenir golden spike. 

Following our visit to Golden Spike National Monument, someone on Facebook made reference to "Hell On Wheels" and the good looks of an actor in the television series. I didn't know what they were talking about. Wayne and I watched a few of the remaining A&E episodes but didn't find the show or the actor appealing.

The stay at Golden Spike RV Park in Brigham City began as two days and turned into thirteen -- a frequent phononomen for us. The weather was warm for the most part and we had a good place to walk the dogs. Lexie remained confined to the crate but her back was sensitive to the touch. We both were worried.

Our campsite at Golden Spike campground was quite pleasant, mainly because we were on the front row, facing out onto a nice green, treed lot with the street beyond it. The street in front of us made for a really good little dog walking place. I recorded this little video to share with Pam and Joyce when we first arrived.

During our time at Brigham City, Joyce, Charlie, Pam and Ernie drove up from Park City one afternoon. We all enjoyed a really fine dinner at Maddox Ranch House Restaurant, although the wait for our table was long. It would be the final meal together for us and the end of our wonderful fall/winter/spring cross-country excursion together. Once more, Joyce, Pam and I managed to avoid a long, tearful farewell. I knew I would miss them and I did. The withdrawal was awful for several weeks.

Golden Spike RV Park 
On Thursday, June 2, we finally left Brigham City, Utah in route to Montana for summer.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Park City and Utah Olympic Village

From Park City RV Resort, Park City, Utah      Pam and Ernie arrived Park City ahead of us, on May 10th, while we were still in Grand Junction, Colorado. Charlie and Joyce followed within another day or so when they finished their visit to Capitol Reef National Park. This is our final stop as a traveling group.

Along the road to Park City from Salt Lake City (elev. 7,000')
The day of our arrival, the day was warm and sunny, but once again, we seem to be a step ahead of bad weather. Most of our week in Park City was just downright cold and/or rainy. Drat!

One of our few afternoons to be outside.
Our campsites all had nice views, overlooking a stream and mountainside.
Left to right: Ernie's head, Pam (sunglasses), Joyce, Wayne (white cap) and Charlie

Park City is a special place and one could feel the urge to ski by just being here. Not me though. I am a Southerner want no part of snow chains on my tires or winter sports injuries. However, on some of the rare warm days, we enjoyed browsing downtown Park City and feeling the youthful enthusiasm of those who dare to embrace winter activities.

Joyce, Pam and I encountered these three handsome senior fellows in downtown Park City.
Charlie, Ernie and the Wayner. 

Zoom is restaurant is associated with Robert Redford. We hoped to eat here (just to say we did) but to our surprise, found Zoom closed for repairs... indefinitely. 
We stopped in for libation at the No Name Saloon & Grill in downtown Park City.
Left to right is Ernie, Wayne, me, Pam, Joyce and Chuckles.
As often happens, Pam and Ernie ran into someone from their hometown. 

Pam and Ernie have visited Park City in years past. Charlie too -- on a business trip. They knew about the Olympic Park training facility here. They said watching summer ski jump practice might be a fun, once-in-a-lifetime experience.

So we made a date and watched the strange sight of snow skiers flying down the high slopes into a swimming pool. Frankly, I don't know what keeps them from killing themselves, but they didn't and the practice was a memorable thing for me.

Hard to see but there is a skier on the slope between my right elbow and shoulder.
Despite our best efforts, getting the "perfect" photo was near impossible.  

View from alongside one of the lower slopes.
Our ski-jump viewing area was the middle patio of the building in the picture.

Air injectors are turned on just before the skiers hit the water.
The bubbles are turned off between skiers.

Here you can see the bubbles in the pool as the skier hits the water.

This facility was built for the 2002 Winter Olympic games and now offers a variety of tours and visitor activities.  The park hosted bobsled, skeleton, luge, Nordic ski jump and Nordic combined events.

Today the venue is an active Official U.S. Olympic Training site providing a facilities for Olympic and development level athletes.  A very reasonably price shuttle tour of the property was next on our agenda. I think it was $5 or $10 each, for seniors.

Our shuttle driver was a former competitor who works here while he awaits his next gig. Too old to compete now, he is a sports announcer who has worked most Winter Olympics since 2002.  I forgot his name but he told me he expects to be called any moment for the next job.

As interesting as the shuttle driver was to talk to, the tour guide was equally as interesting visually. The tall, lanky self-described "ski bum" considers himself an old man among skiers. His knowledge of the property and the sports was impressive.

Pam and Ernie listen intently to some of many winter sports facts as explained by our guide, whose name I have forgotten. 
A few facts about the 2002 Winter Olympics:  The area formed a ring of five connecting cities, with metro Salt Lake serving as the center ring. These northern most city was Ogden -- Provo and Orem were in the south. Park City and Heber were the easterly rings while Kearns and West Valley City served as the westernmost rings.  The Olympic area was 70 miles long and 50 miles wide. Olympic Village was on the campus of the University of Utah in Salt Lake City.

Our guide narrated as the shuttle took us up the mountain side to Bobsled Plaza where the bobsled, luge and skeleton events begin.

Ongoing activities for summer visitors on the Olympic property began the week we were there. Alpine slide, biking and hiking trails, a mountain challenge and adventure course are available to the public. During Charlie's first visit here, he took one of the bobsled ride and said it was exciting but rough. A zipline is on the property but was not functioning when we were there.

View looking down over the bobsled course

Men's luge start is the white ramp to the left. Women's luge start is to the right. 
The shuttle took us on to Peak Plaza where this K-120 Ski Jump view awaited those of us willing to look. Gulp. No, I can't imagine how it would feel...

Looking out over some lower, smaller ski jumps and the beautiful Utah countryside. 
In the picture above, the grassy area to the right, near the road, had been an Olympic event parking area in the winter of 2002.  It was taken up after the games.

Our time together was winding down during the week at Park City. Wayne and I will move along to Brigham City, Utah, where the lower elevation should translate into warmer days. The two other couples will stay on in Park City for a few weeks before they go on to the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone.

We did get one more short afternoon together at Brigham City, where we did, of course, go out to eat. As so often happens, we found a terrific restaurant at Maddox Ranch House. Oh... so good. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Ozzie Goes Home... Kind Of.

From Junction West RV Park, Grand Junction, Colorado     Before going on to northern Utah, Wayne and I made a one-hundred mile detour from Moab to Colorado.

Our plan is to rendevouz with Ozzie's foster mom, Robin, for a visit. It will be the first since we adopted him in September of 2011.

Ozzie, waiting for Robin
While the campground was just a big gravel parking lot, it was a pretty good location for us to see Robin who would be driving in from Rifle. The sun was nice but the daytime temperature was too cool to enjoy being outdoors anyway so we settled for an indoor reunion.

Robin provides a foster home for dogs rescued through Breeder Release Animal Service (BRAS) in Bon Carbo, Colorado.  Ozzie was one of her many charges. He came from an Amish puppy mill and was a terrible mess until BRAS and Robin got veterinary care and grooming for him and gave him a new start in life. He was four years old when he was rescued. Robin fostered Ozzie for about five months before we saw him on and applied to adopt him.

But that was then. Nowadays Ozzie has his own Facebook page, Ozzie's Diary, where he posts important dogs stuff about his retirement travel life, Lexie, puppy mills, animal abuse, dogs available for adoption and other stuff. We never forget and always appreciate the good work done by Robin and all the other fine people who give homes and loving care to these pets. Without them, the rescues just couldn't be done.

Robin with Twit (L)and Mikey.  Ozzie (L) and Lexie are in my lap. 
As we knew it would be, our visit with Robin was wonderful but way too short. She brought along two of her fosters but could only stay for a couple of hours. We reminisced about our adoption application, our first meeting and Ozzie's life with us.

Lexie and Ozzie.... listening to every word and watching Robin's every move. Ozzie is scratching his left ear.
As often happens, Wayne found Grand Junction had a variety of big rig services so while there, he made appointments to have the coach serviced and to have a bent jack plate straightened. We stayed on for a second night at the campground and left late afternoon of the third day.

It was an enjoyable and productive stop, but too short.  From here we'll return to Utah and meet Pam, Ernie, Joyce and Charlie in Park City.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Arches: Red Rock Wonderland

From Spanish Trail RV Park, Moab, Utah     Our second day in Moab started with an unwelcome steady rain which threatened to thwart our plan to tour Arches National Park. But by 9 a.m. the rain stopped and sunshine could be seen in the distance. Our group decided to meet in Arches Visitor Center at 9:45.

Another selfie
All eight of us, Pam, Ernie, Penny, Bob, Joyce, Charlie, Wayne and I watched a short movie at the visitors center and were ready to explore Arches by 11 a.m.

Joyce, Charlie, Pam, Wayne, me, Penny and Bob seated for the movie. A kind stranger took the picture. Ernie was MIA. 

A bit "like herding cats," as Bob put it, our group of eight, divided into three vehicles, finally got back to the parking lot, loaded and pulled away from the visitors center. We wound around the first steeply ascending curve and looked back down onto the line of visitors coming through the entrance station.

Looking downhill we see the ever growing line of visitors.
Moab is a short distance down the center highway. 

Arches National Park is beautiful. Both cameras, my point-and-shoot and the cellphone, one in each hand, clicked away as we followed the others up, up and through the majestic red rock.

Bob and Penny lead the way through Courthouse Towers.
Formations called Three Gossips, The Organ and Tower of Babel lie ahead. 

The Organ
Arches was making a good first impression. We "oohed and awwed" as we passed the Petrified Dunes viewpoint and notable formations beyond. Our first official stop, however, was to see Balanced Rock where the eight of us explored the base like a troop of Scouts, pausing for every opportunity to get that "very best" photo.

Up the short walkway to Balanced Rock. The weather was surely cooperating now. Shirt sleeves or light jacket weather.
Joyce, Penny and Pam lead, followed by Ernie and Bob. Charlie and Wayne pull up the rear. 

Pam took this group photo with the giant Balanced Rock in the background. 

My favorite "nature" photo at this stop was not of rocks at all. 

The ride continued and we wound around Panorama Point and then left at the split in the road. We passed Salt Valley Overlook and Firey Furnace on our way to Devils Garden Campground where we stopped at a group picnic area. Like Canyonlands, Arches doesn't have eateries but this time we had lunch enough to feed a small army. The picnic tables were for reserved day use but all were empty so we selected on in a nice sunny location, feasted and reloaded quickly.

Part of our lunch gang... Left to right, Ernie, Penny, Bob, Wayne and Pam. Charlie and Joyce are somewhere....

Landscape Arch in Devils Garden was next. This area is was just around the bend from where we ate lunch. A close up view of Landscape Arch would require a near 3 mile hike -- 1.6 each way. I jumped out of the truck to start the hike with the others while Wayne searched for a parking space.

That's me inside a sandy slot canyon. Joyce was the camerawoman.

Looking down onto the trail with snow capped mountains in the far distance. 

About a half mile into the hike, Wayne caught up with Joyce, Charlie and me as we lagged behind Penny, Bob, Pam and Ernie -- the serious hikers among us.

Wayne dressed today for cooler weather. Here's he's come out of his sweatshirt in just his undershirt. 

Time mixed with weather is the creator of these arches as old ones collapse and news ones are created. The walk was beautiful, despite the crowds. I can't imagine what these National Parks are like during the summer season. The National Park brochure reports more than 2,000 arches are cataloged here -- ranging in size from 3 foot to the longest, Landscape Arch at about 300 feet.

One of many small, unidentified arches. 

Joyce and Charlie went on ahead of Wayne and me. The thought of Lexie and Ozzie in the truck, along with the crowded trail, dust, hills and warm sun took their toll on Wayne and me. We decided against continuing to the destination Landscape Arch and turned back.

Another dead tree photo opportunity. 

The vistas and paths through the beautiful red rocks satisfied Wayne and me.  We saw Tunnel Arch along our abbreviated walk. The others hiked on to Landscape Arch and later Joyce told me we were really close at the point where Wayne and I turned back. She went on to say the she thought the walk itself was just as thrilling as seeing Landscape Arch.

Thank you, Pam, for providing your excellent photo of Landscape Arch. 

The truck was still cool when we got back to it. The outside temperature was in the 60's. Just down the road, another arch caught my eye. Wayne stopped the truck and I scurried over an embankment and up a short trail to snap a closeup of Skyline Arch.

Skyline Arch

By the time we saw the sign for Sand Dune Arch and parked the truck, the six others had finished the hike to Landscape Arch and caught up with us. Our group antics required more pictures.

Seems to me, this should be called "kissing arch" because of the placement of the two overhead rock formations.

The trail to Sand Dune Arch is short, flat and easy. It becomes quite narrow in places but opens wide here. The trail does go on past the arch for a little way before closing almost completely and becoming impassable. The sand is deep here inside the canyon and walking is difficult in some places.

The couple on the left of this photo were trying to get a photograph.
Our group, (L to R), Joyce, Charlie, Pam, Bob, Ernie and Penny, photo bombed the couple's effort, I think. 

Parts of Sand Dune Arch have fallen and more activity is expected. In this warning sign, a break-off just two months ago is shown. Our group lives dangerously, though and all but Wayne and I insisted on standing under the arch. 

A bit more Tom-foolery in the Sand Dune Arch slot. That's Penny, Pam and me.
Joyce, Ever Ready as we call her, the usual explorer, opted out of this bit of rock climbing. 

Rock climbing
Finally we left Sand Dune Arch. With so many intriguing names for the rock formations, I couldn't resist naming the next one myself. We caught a glimpse of it on our way to Landscape Rock.  I remembered to snap a picture as we headed back.

The final stop in Arches would be to get a distant view of Delicate Arch. I had hoped to see it from a closer vantage point, but this will do for this trip. It might be too warm to leave the pups in the truck and the strenuous hike to reach the arch wasn't appealing to any of us at this time of afternoon anyway.

Delicate Arch 
It's quite possible that Wayne and I will return to Arches (like Canyonlands) and the town of Moab. There are several points of interest in the area that we haven't seen or explored. As I mentioned in the previous post, a large rally forced our visit to be shorter than we had hoped. Meanwhile, I'm thankful we had this time together here.

Around 5 o'clock, our group gathered for happy hour at Bob and Penny's campsite before breaking up for the evening. That's their beautiful Entegra Anthem coach in the background.

Bob, Joyce, Charlie and Mike, another campground neighbor. 

Mike, his wife (whose name I don't remember) and Penny, holding her dogs

Penny, her dogs and Wayne 

Pam and Ernie 
With dinnertime drawing near, Joyce, Charlie, Wayne and I were in the mood for Thai food so we were first to break up tonight's happy hour. We found a really good place in downtown Moab called Sing Ha Thai Cuisine. The entry was a bit unusual, a shared foyer with a barbershop and then through the door, the place looked more like a storefront than a restaurant. 

Restaurant counter

But inside, the tables were nicely arranged, the mood was authentic and the food was wonderful.


My dinner 

Wayne's dinner
We will leave Moab after just three nights. Pam and Ernie will go to Park City, Utah, while Joyce and Charlie visit Capitol Reef. Wayne and I will travel a short distance east into Grand Junction, Colorado. We are looking forward to a long awaited visit with Ozzie's foster mom, who we haven't seen since his adoption in September 2011. We will catch up with the others in a few days at Park City.