Saturday, May 21, 2016

Colorado's Banana Belt

Making our descent from Raton Pass (7, 225 ft.) to Pueblo West (5,226 ft.) seemed pretty uneventful.  [Please note that the elevation at Winterhaven, California, where we were this past winter was a measly 131 ft.!]  Pueblo was at one time one of the largest steel-producing cities in the US and was referred to as a "Steel City".  The region is semi-arid desert land and usually receives 12" of precipitation annually; therefore, it tends to get less snow then other major cities in Colorado.  This is why it is referred to as the "Banana Belt".

This day was sunny as we pulled into Haggard’s RV Campground on a Wednesday, which was earlier than we expected.  We always feel at home at Haggard's - hard to believe that it was a year ago that we had pulled in for a one night stay as we were making a hurried trip back to Minnesota. 
Going down at a fairly comfortable 6% grade
Mountain range at Raton Pass

Nancy & Matt Fetty are the owners of Haggard’s in West Pueblo.  We met them about three years ago when we first stopped at their campground which we read about in the Escapee's magazine.

New brick on the main building
Matt & Nancy
We love returning to see them and see all of the wonderful upgrades that they have completed and are working on currently, and to hear about their future plans for the campground.  They are both genuine, hard working individuals and we have adopted each other as family.    We definitely recommend if you're in the area to stop and rest, telling them that we sent you.  Click here for their website -  Haggard's RV Campground
The view from our picture window!
Matt & Jeff looking busy.

Our first day was the sunniest 
and then it went downhill for cool.

We're the one with the flag flying high!

During our first week we were able to hook up with friends from Denver.  We met Gary & Penny in 2008 on a catamaran trip in the British Virgin Islands.

Trying to stay connected during the years after this trip has been a challenge as their previous homes have been in California and Hawaii (and we were still in Wisconsin), before moving to the Denver area.  It was great to have them stay with us in the campground over a weekend so that we could catch up on what everyone was doing.   We all had a great time and have already started talking about us driving closer to Denver next time around so we can see their new home.  We are definitely looking forward to that.  As getting to the top of Pike’s Peak is, what you might say, on our Bucket List!

We did take Gary & Penny to see Bishop Castle before they had to leave.  This structure was started by Jim Bishop in 1969 and is nestled in the San Isabel National Forest.   It stands 160 feet tall, and has a fire-breathing dragon chimney and a Great Hall with some beautiful stained glass windows.   They both agreed it was cool and unique as it continues to be a work in progress.

Look up high to see the dragon's head!

If the sun catches the glass just right in the Great Hall,
it can definitely be a spiritual experience. 

A beautiful view from one of the catwalks

The main entrance to the property

Gary & Penny loved exploring the Castle.
A slight detour for a well needed visit to a Verizon store in the area was definitely on the agenda.  Our Droid of almost four years was failing fast!  Two years is pretty much the life expectancy (because of upgrades and all) so the sales staff was pretty amazed.  What a great sales team at the store in Pueblo West where Luie and Erin assisted us in our new purchase of the Droid Turbo.  This phone is definitely the cat's meow for us and will continue to make our lives much easier as we travel down the open road. 

We must also share the food experience that we had that is unique to this area.  That would be the Pueblo Green Chili “Slopper” which is quite a common menu item.  They are really delicious and can be as hot (or mild) as you’d like them to be.  Kay is definitely going to try her hand at them at some point, so check out this site and see if it’s up your alley also.  Enjoy!
What is a Slopper?
Recipe for Pueblo Green Chili

Paying attention to what’s happening weather-wise is always something that we try to stay on top because it definitely dictates what we’re going to do on any particular day.  We have to admit that we’ve been pretty lucky so far with the weather and travel days that are scheduled.  But that was going to change.

Well, when you’re in a state that is known for snow . . . it's going to snow if the weather calls for it.  I guess that’s why when you’re retired you don’t really need to be in a hurry to get somewhere especially if it dictates your safe zone.  Therefore, since we don’t travel on the weekends what are a few more days to stay put.

The Coach's first taste of snow!

Some really big wet flakes that pretty much melted by the next day.

The towns west of where we were are so special to us when we come this way that they are definitely repeat visits for us.  We were able to makes these trips before the weather turned ugly.

The town of Florence (5,180 ft.) is considered “The Antique Capital of Colorado” - a small town and a down-to-earth family feel.  It is quite the oasis of antiques and art.  Walking through the many shops, there is just so much to look at.  We were able to find jewelry pieces for both of us - a green turquoise bracelet for Kay and a turquoise men’s ring for Jeff.  Fun things included some antique shot glasses to match one that Kay has saved from her Dad.  [Note:  A little shot of Crown Royal - from the freezer -is an occasional treat for us.  This information came from our Texas "Gentleman" friend, Wayne Long whom we met in Terlingua, Texas in 2013.]

Oh, the stuff that was in this place! 

Our turquoise treasures and shot glasses.  The picture
makes these rather "little" shot glasses look LARGE!

CaƱon City (pronounced like “canyon”) is another cool town that connects uniquely with driving destinations such as the famous Phantom Canyon.  This road follows the route of the Florence and Cripple Creek Railroad which hauled rich gold ore from mines near Cripple Creek (9,935 ft.) and Victor (9,730 ft.) to processing mills in Florence (5,180 ft.) during the mining years 1894-1912.  Quite a drop in elevation you could say. 


At the start of the trip (and a lower elevation)
we see some Aspen trees in bloom.

Guess who Kay got her poseys from?

A unique camera shot in Victor.

This mural caught Kay's eye.

A view of the working, Cripple Creek Gold Mine.  One of the largest in the world.

"Hi" from Kay & Jeff
Phantom Canyon always draws Jeff’s interest so that he can have some fun with his gold panning adventures.  Since we left the sluice back in our storage unit in Wisconsin, the pan takes up a lot less room that’s for sure.  It’s too bad it wasn’t warmer out, but that’s what you get when the weather changes.  A nice hot cup of coffee sounds good right about now.


We did pick a good day to do a Jeep trip to Bighorn Sheep Canyon.  Long known as a gateway into the Rockies, Highway 50 (once known as the Rainbow Route) runs west through the towering rock walls of the Arkansas River Canyon.  This beautiful canyon hosts a thriving population of Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep, Colorado’s state mammal.  We’re told that these animals are often seen on both sides of the river, but on this particular day we did not see a one. 

Quite a breathtaking view, isn't it?

"Honey, can we fish now?"
Once again, the day could have been much warmer, but we made the best of it – in awe of the beauty of the Arkansas River that flows in this canyon.   There were quite a few people fishing for trout at this time and we so wanted to join them, but for us this time around we were there to enjoy the scenery only.

Our 2-week stay was once again memorable.  We met some new friends, Bob & Rita, who domicile from Florida.  Jeff made a batch of chili and cornbread and we had them over for supper and enjoyed some lively conversation.  It just so happened that they too stayed until after the snow so they could continue their journey to Oregon to see a friend.  We will definitely stay connected with them during our travels and hope to meet them again.  Safe travels to them!

A very caring couple who make jewelry
and stained glass items. 
Making our next travel plans by trying to stay out of the states with potential bad weather, we decided to travel north around Denver and then head into Wyoming. 

Day 1 – Driving 330 miles before stopping at a State Rest Area in Orin, Wyoming for the night was just about right.  This was our first time driving in this area in Wyoming.  The diversity of the land was quite beautiful.

The "infamous" snow fence that is commonly seen in Wyoming.

Many groups of Pronghorn Antelopes
kept us company along the road.

Day 2 – A little more of a push in miles at 460 for this day, getting through a good portion of South Dakota to arrive in Mitchell, SD where we stayed overnight in the parking lot of Cabela’s.  (This place is beginning to be a tradition for us as SD does not allow overnight’s in their Rest Areas and Cabela’s does.)   Non-the-less, it was good to be off the interstate for the night.  We usually go into the store and purchase something, but we wanted to get an early start that next day so it will just have to wait until next time.
The rolling hills of South Dakota, and quite
a stretch 400+ miles to get through the state.

The sunset over Cabela's in Mitchell, SD
Day 3 - Driving the 260 miles into Minnesota before pulling into the Masonic/West River Park in Hutchinson was a find.  The park has 12 full hook-ups (plus a separate dump if you need it) for $25/day.  It does not take reservations but because it was in the middle of the week, we were able to get into a site for the weekend of Mother’s Day.  The drive to see Jeff's Mom and Kay's daughter Jill (with grand kids Joe and Julia), is about an hour 1-way.  A little bit of a hike but not too bad. 

Don't mind us while we pass this burning
truck alongside the road.  Yikes!!!


Minnesota spring brings out the colors
Pulling into the town of Hutchinson, Minnesota

A great little park!
Our pelican friends.

With the fires in Canada, the setting sun was definitely on fire!

Julia (almost 3) with her Grandpa!

(l-r): Ampere (HS exchange student from China),
Jill & Julia, Joe (13 yr), Grandma & Grandpa



The long awaited visit to see Dorothy.
We're in shorts.  It must be warm out!

After a very good 4-day stay at this park we needed to travel about 90 miles for an appointment for some fiberglass work at CMS Auto Body in St. Joseph, Minnesota (close to St. Cloud, Minnesota).  It is at this shop location that we stayed 3 nights as they worked on the coach for us.  This was to repair the damage when we were towed back to Fort Stockton, Texas by the wrecker. 

Once everything was done here, we headed back to the park in Hutchinson.  Our plans are to stay a week so that we can visit with Jeff's Mom and Jill (and the grand kids) before traveling to Wisconsin.  It's time to see Jeff's daughter and son and our other three grand kids (if they can work us in!). While we're in Wisconsin, we will be staying at the ranch of our good friends, Karen and Ron.  (If you remember one of our past blogs we showcased their visit to see us in Benson, Arizona.)  We are looking forward to this trip.

Abby says, "Hi"

So until then ~ Hugs to all!