Tires

We were on our way from Denver to Boyd’s Lake, a state park near Loveland that has more the character of a beach than the mountains.  It wasn’t a long hop, less than two hours.

We went through Loveland and were almost to the campground when we realized we’d missed all the grocery stores, so we turned back toward town.  A man in a pickup truck pulled up along side us and gesticulated wildly.

Down went the passenger-side window.

“You’ve got something wrong with your tire,” he said.

We pulled over, as did he, and felt along the backside tire to discover the bulge he’d seen.  He’d stopped, too, and directed us to a local tire store.  We thanked him profusely for saving us from disaster, then went and got a new tire.

Almost a week later, after two crossings of the Rockies and a nice stay in Rocky Mountain National Park, we were about to depart for my cousin’s house in Ward, when Rebecca insisted we stop at a tire shop in Estes Park.  She was concerned about a second tire, that still showed some of the excess bits of rubber on the edges where it hadn’t been totally trimmed after being cast.

I was not worried about the tiny flaps, but there was another issue:  We’d gotten the tires rotated when we got the new tire, and we did not specify to make sure the tire pressure was adjusted – our back tires require much higher air pressure than the front.  You wouldn’t expect a tire shop to need to be told, right?

The Estes Park tire shop reassured Rebecca there was nothing wrong with the tire, but upon checking the tire pressures, there was definitely some evidence they had not been properly inflated.  They corrected the error.

Another potential disaster averted?  Well, that’s not actually what this story is really about.

I started backing the Wegwam up to turn it around and drive out of the lot.  The back seat was in the seat, rather than the bed, position, which obscures the view a bit.  (See the unwritten story about backing into my neighbor’s car coming out of our driveway soon after we’d gotten the van.)

I heard this female voice.  “Whoa!”

I know we were out west, and that’s just something you’d expect to hear being said to a horse, but instinctively I immediately braked.  We felt no impact.

Relieved to have barely avoided a collision, I jumped out of the van and looked at the back corner, and there sat a car with a badly bashed in front-side panel over its wheel, right where the corner of the van had stopped.

You can imagine my heart dropped.

The lady who’d issued the “whoa” command came back to her car.

“Did we hit your car?”

“Yes.”

“Did we do that?”

“No.  A horse did that.”

She inspected her car where she thought we’d possibly impacted her headlight, but there was no damage.  She was worried about the bikes on the back of the van, but they seemed intact as well.

She sent us on our way.  Disaster avoided.  (It took me a couple of days to get over that one.)

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Denver

We spent four nights at the lovely home of Brecken and Larry.  I’d be remiss to not mention we came to Colorado to escape the heat, and the hottest day in Denver was a paltry record 102.

Denver from capitol dome

Denver from capitol dome

The road through southern Kansas would have to make you think twice about eating beef.  We passed several cattle feed lots where cows were packed together by the hundreds, lined up shoulder to shoulder with their head in feed troughs.  Hundreds and hundreds; and we passed dozens of cattle trucks hauling more cows to the lots.

The cows were probably happier chowing down than they would be later.

We walked a lot of Denver.  What we saw was a large grid of urban single-family homes built nearly a hundred years ago.  There were nice restaurants frequented by a young hippish crowd.

We had dinner at an interesting taco eatery near the Rockies’ ballpark, in a vibrant commercial district.

Our tour took us to the state capitol.  We were able to explore extensively inside, where we saw the rotunda, as well as both chambers and the old state supreme court.

The highlight was a climb to the capitol dome, including a circumnavigational trip around the dome. Walking across the park outside the capitol, we were offered to purchase drugs not available in the legal dispensaries.

BLM

BLM

We also saw a Black Lives Matter installation.

Our explorations took us outside the city, where we went on a nice hike in Evergreen.

Larry and Ramsey at Evergreen Mountain

Larry and Ramsey at Evergreen Mountain

My cute photo of Brecken and Larry is in my other camera and hasn’t been developed yet.

 

Get the Hell out of Dodge

We are in Denver.  This is how we got here.

After visiting family in Troutman and Atlanta, we set out for the west, with a first stop in Mississippi.  Our destination for the night was the John W. Kyle state park, the campground for which sits on a small lake right under a huge earthen dam holding back a much larger lake (Sardis reservoir).  There are several campgrounds lined up beside each other, most managed by the Corps of Engineers.

Before we pitched or bus, we made a couple of touristy stops.  First, we drove through Tupelo, where we stopped by Elvis Presley’s birthplace.

elvis

Elvis’s Birthplace

 

Next we went to Oxford, home of the University of Mississippi.  What we saw of the university did not reflect the southern stereotype of white columns and Spanish moss, but the town of Oxford retains its image of history.  There’s a square around the Lafayette County courthouse.

ajaxdiner

Ajax Diner

On one side of the square sits the J.E. Nielson Co., a clothing store that claims to be the oldest documented store in the south.  The rest of the square consists of restaurants, boutiques, and offices.  Unlike Chapel Hill, the storefronts have not been overtaken by chain establishments.  We had what turned out to be dinner at the Ajax Diner, an authentic old restaurant that serves down-home cookin’, including lots of veggies and catfish.  We got a bunch of fried okra.

Within walking distance of the square is Rowan Oak, where William Faulkner lived.  It is not the home of a pauper.

faulkner

Faulkner’s House

We spent our second night on the road in Branson, Missouri, the Gatlinburg of the Ozarks.  The Ozarks are not as impressive as the Smokies, although they are impressive in their own right.  They seem to stretch on forever across Arkansas and into Missouri.  The drive would be sensational in the fall.

branson

Newer area of Branson near the river.

Our campground was in the heart of the show district.  Branson traffic is at least as bad as that of Gatlinburg, but the Music City Campground was remarkably  quiet.

We opted to go see Illusionist Rick Thomas for our evening’s entertainment.  I was a fun show with a Greatest Hits of Magic air about it.  There were doves appearing from nowhere, pretty assistants, one of whom was secured in a box and cut into pieces, levitating objects and people, and even a helicopter appearing on stage.

magic

Appearing tonight with Rick …

For his last trick, he conscripted a lucky couple from the audince. Rebecca did not have to stay up there long, but I was in the spotlight the entire trick.  He took my watch and made it appear from inside a tin can inside a box on display in the audience from even before the trick.  With the watch reading 3:17, as I’d requested, when the can was opened.

We drove across southern Kansas to Dodge City for the final stop  before Denver, where we stayed at the Gunsmoke RV Park.  It wasn’t a bad campsite, and it had a nice, cool swimming pool. The town itself left everything to be desired.  It was hot, with little to do. The tourist attraction seemed to be a strip of old-western store fronts that appeared to have been recently constructed.  It cost ten bucks to get inside the fenced perimeter, which we chose not to pay.

dodge

Dodge City

Couldn’t leave fast enough.  Hence the expression …

What’s That?

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We strayed from the highway to drive through the town of Marquette (Michigan).

We stopped by the harbor to puzzle over a large metal structure that stuck out into the water.

FLS_5642A kindly couple of Yoopers explained to us that the structure was a retired railroad tressle. The train would pull ore cars out over the water, where a cargo ship would dock beneath, to collect the ore.

“If you stay on this road for a few miles, you can see one that’s still in use.”

So we drove around the shoreline and came to another of the behemoths, just as a ship was pulling in to be loaded.FLS_5655

We parked and watched the process for awhile. We never did see the part where they lowered the chutes and dropped the ore into the hold of the ship.

We also saw a 28-ton hunk of copper (the largest glacial copper in the world) along the drive.

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Yoopers and Pasties

June 14
Miles: 189
Destination: Munising
Wildlife: Bald Eagle, Loons

Mackinac Bridge

Mackinac Bridge

When we crossed over the Mackinac Bridge into the Upper Peninsula, we were confronted by strange signs advertising “Pasties.”

They weren’t for topless lunch counters, but rather meat turnovers. We decided we should try them out.

After a beautiful drive along the coast of Lake Michigan, we turned north, crossed through a long stretch of woodlands and a few farms (and innumerable lakes), and reached the outskirts of Munising. There we saw a restaurant featuring home-made pasties.

It wasn’t our best decision. Service was slow, the pasties were chicken, not the traditional beef, and they were served lukewarm. It was kind of like a chicken pot pie calzone (no cheese). When Rebecca protested, they said they’d make her a new one.FLS_5551 We didn’t have another hour to kill, but inside of five minutes a hot pasty appeared on our table.

Better, but not great, but the left-over half-turnover was a nice addition to the next day’s breakfast.

We went to Munising to take the boat trip to Pictured Rocks, a strentch of national seashore on Lake Superior featuring steep, colorful cliffs rising a hundred feet or more from the water.

It turned out it was “Yooper Day” at the boat dock. Anyone from the U.P. got to ride free.

FLS_5390We were standing in line with a family from Fayetteville, N.C., and fog was rollling in.

The ride out to the cliffs was pretty foggy, and the first views of the rocks were partially obscured. It had the makings of a FLS_5499disappointing day.

But the boat hove close to the rocks, and on the return trip the fog lifted in several places and the sun actually shone. It turned out to be worth the trip.

Our camp site was in a city campground just around the bend from the boatdock. We got to camp right on the water, which provided a clear view out into Lake Superior even though there was a big fog bank just down the bay.

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Yoopers, incidentally, if you didn’t figure it out, are people from the U.P.  Oh, we saw a sign for a brewpub in Munising, but we forewent it.

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