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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Visit to Tomball, Texas

Recently, we spent a few days staying in Tomball, Texas on a Houston business trip, and stayed at the Corral RV Park. Our site was rather nice, which backed up to a wooded area where deer came at night. they also had a nice pond, which allowed fishing, with free access to a local golf course. Free wireless Internet at a fast speed was also available in the recreation room, complete with pool table, ping pong, and vintage video games (including our all-time favorite Galaga). Many of the RVers looked to be fulltime residents. The only drawbacks included the trains blowing as they came through nearby late at night at intersections, a nearby hospital (with ambulance noises), and local construction. They also had coin operated showers, which we haven't seen in awhile. Seeing as how other campgrounds in the Houston area were booked, we came to Tomball. The downtown looked interesting, with antique shops and old buildings. Named after Thomas Ball, the "Father of the Port of Houston," there is an historic log house in town that dates to 1857. "Being near Houston, the sleepy town is being transformed, as new subdivisions and growth is all around. Hopefully, Tomball will be able to keep their original small town appeal that makes it so special. Tomball will celebrate it's 100 year anniversary as a town in December.

Posted by Carl Burnham at 11:59 AM

Monday, October 22, 2007

Meanderings of a Texas to Colorado Trip Part III

We slept late and got up to a gorgeous day. The wind was blowing, with only a few clouds over the mountains. Can barely hear the shooting range in the far distance, the Cherry Creek State Park is unique in having one on the opposite side of the campground. In places you can see surrounding suburbs and buildings, but from our campsite only mountains. Given the location, it is very popular, though the park is regulated as to not let in too many people at one time. Can get a quick tan, as the sun beats down. The family came over and we enjoyed a sandwich picnic, then threw some softballs. A camp host just down the way has a Travel Supreme similar to the one we had years ago that we took to Alaska. When he was explaining about the tricks to using the water nozzle, I couldn’t resist telling him about the time that we went up a steep old logging road in the wilds of British Columbia. Our truck overheated and a tow truck just happened to be coming from the other direction. He was able to tow our truck, then our fifth wheel to the nearest town, Lilloett, an hour and a half away. An IT guy that installed satellite systems for the nearby Indian reservation was kind enough to give us a lift to town.

Estes Park, Colorado
From Denver, we moved on to Estes Park. Our campground there was the same one we stayed at eight years ago. The view of the mountains was just as beautiful. We told the office staff about how we had strung a long cable to their recreation room to get a dial up connection back when it was under different ownership. The wireless connection operated only part of the time, likely due to the number of RVers using it. We played chicken foot till the late hours. Chicken foot is a form of dominos. A lot of fun and easy to learn. That night the wind blew especially hard. Thought that our RV was going to topple over as we got rocked around. Can see that winter is approaching fast. The campground is closing for the season in a few days.

The first day in the Rocky Mountain NP we drove up to the Alpine Center but found that it was closed. Being the last day it was to be open for the season, we were disappointed, but got some snow photos in. The colors in the park were so vibrant, with yellows, reds, greens, oranges, all sharp and crisp in the high elevation. Late in the day on Monday we started seeing elk herds. Could hear them in the distance, and sounded like whales. The biggest elk we saw was about a 12 pointer, next to his harem by some park cabins. Late the next day, we saw several elk walking through downtown sampling the flowers and window shopping. Some were walking down the middle of main street when a young elk came running after them, making a little squeak as he ran. Before we left on Tuesday, we headed back into the park and hiked around Bear Lake.

We then headed back towards Denver, taking a scenic route through a deep canyon that followed a river. Several of the motels had already closed for the season. The next day, we traveled to Golden, touring the Coors beer facility. A big operation, the intricate process is explained on how beer is made during the free tour, with three free samples of different brands given at the end of the tour. There are plans in the works for a merger with Miller.

We also toured the Pioneer Museum, and walked along the riverfront to watch kayakers. Bought some blackberry wine in the old Foss General Store which sadly has closed the general store section and just sells liquor. When we came through 8 years before, the store had a unique selection of western apparel and general store merchandise. The next day, we moved to Moutaindale RV Campground, a remote campground between Canyon City and Colorado Springs. Saw signs warning of bears, but didn’t see any. The sky at night was tremendous, and we could see the Milky Way clearly and stars that we don’t normally see. There is a private outdoor hot tub where you can soak and view the stars at your leisure. When coming back from town, we would see a couple of big bucks along the road. The wireless connection was rather slow or nonexistent at times possibly due to router configuration, which seems to be a common occurrence in many campgrounds. There was an area that had wired Internet workstations with fast speeds.
Royal Gorge Bridge
Visited Royal Gorge bridge, the world’s highest suspension bridge. Formed by the Arkansas River, the span was built as a tourist attraction. As we walked across the bridge, we could feel the sway and marvel at the construction. Some of the ties that make up the bridge had rather large gaps in them that got our attention. A friend and former boss of mine, Ron Forsythe, in his first flight as passenger in an F-80 jet fighter back in 1963 when he joined the Air Force Academy, had a thrill ride as it flew under the Royal Gorge Bridge. As we got to the bridge late in the day, all the local attractions were closed. We ate at the Gooseberry Patch, one of the better restaurants in the Canyon City area, recommended for their range of menu selections.

Spent a day driving up to the old gold rush mining towns of Victor and Cripple Creek. Getting there was an experience. Phantom Canyon Road is mostly a dirt, washboard road with steep drop offs, with an ascent of 4,550 feet. Took us over 2 hours to go 22 bumpy miles, with beautiful views along the way. We drove through two mountain tunnels and an original steel bridge from the late 1800s days when the railroad ran along the route.

Pioneer Museum in Cripple Creek

The Cripple Creek area was one of the most productive gold mining areas ever. Many relics from the period are part of the scenics. Many of the towns have casinos, which have revived interest in the area. There are several historic byways, but be aware that some are 4wd only. Our return trip to Colorado Springs was paved, recommended for those who don’t crave a more adventurous path. On traveling back to Texas, it was mostly uneventful, as we took an alternate route through New Mexico. We plan to return to explore more. There is a lot more to see.

Posted by Carl Burnham at 10:36 PM

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Meanderings of a Texas to Colorado Trip Part II

We groggily got up, prepared for another day of driving. After a mile or two, the scenery changes again to sagebrush with buttes and mesas in the distance. The animals are all curled up snoring in the back, oblivious to it all. See the occasional windmill whirring in the wind, still providing water to livestock. Our orange “Service Engine Soon” light displays as a constant reminder that the automakers have too many gadgets. Had it checked out at an Auto Zone before our trip, and it was a turbo sensor gone out. No biggie. I could have used another infusion of coffee to clear the cobwebs.

Dumas was a good sized town, complete with Walmart, pioneer museum, and the usual shops. I joked with my wife about the name. On the outskirts is a huge cattle holding area, so be prepared to hold your breath. Diesel prices hover at around $3 and higher as we get closer to Colorado, about 20-30 percent higher than gas, which is the opposite of what it was a few years ago. Sounds like some price gouging to me. The land flattens out again like the Mississippi Delta, with corn fields with whiffs of fertilizer.

Stratford was the last major town before Oklahoma (they are proud of that and the fact that they are the pheasant capital). From there well into Oklahoma it was a bumpy road. Boise City had a rustic downtown, with chamber in an old caboose across from the courthouse in the square. As we neared Denver, we could see the scenic mountains paint the background as the clouds caught the light of the late afternoon sun. We made our way to Cherry Creek State Park, an unusual park in that it’s in Denver but hidden away.

The park has great views of the mountains. The leaves were falling, with a mix of yellow, brown, and greens. After unhitching, we made our way to my sister-in-law and her new husband’s house. Rhonda’s parents flew in and had been having a good time at the Botanical Gardens and seeing the local sites. They were also joining us on our trek through Rocky Mountain National Park.


Posted by Carl Burnham at 2:52 PM

Friday, October 19, 2007

Meanderings of a Texas to Colorado trip Part I

The morning was unusually crisp and cool, at least for Texas as we got ready to depart. You would think that we were going to Alaska with all the stuff we were taking. Did I mention our mascot, Gus and his cat pal, Tiger were tagging along? After finally getting packed, we headed out around 10. Have mp3s of George Strait crooning out tunes. Tiger was in panic mode with tongue wagging and wild eyes, clawing at his cage door. He settled down after awhile and resigned himself to his fate underneath his bed. Gus was in blissful heaven. Not much bothers him on trips we take him on, except where thunder’s involved.

Some of the sites we see - Mules for sale.. Old barns that are long past needing paint.. Grassy Texas pasture land.. Exotic animal and bird auction..

The gentle slope of the hill country on 183 and October are a perfect combination. See the occasional metal roofed ranch house.

Lampasas. Neat old Baptist church. An hour and a half into our trip our Lowrance GPS suddenly decided it would work for a change instead of being just an expensive mp3 player.

Texas is a big dang state…

Goldthwait was rustic, with old service stations, antique shops, and courthouse. The towns we go through have inspiring names that don’t quite match their sleepy appearances – Early, Rising Star. If we would have had time we would have stopped in at antique stores, but we were on a schedule.

Thank God for cruise control…

When we got to Abilene to fill up, we still had a ways to go to our campground in Amarillo. After awhile we saw small mesas with large windmills similar to the ones we had seen in Palm Springs, Ca. The arid land soon changed to fields of cotton mixed with oil rigs as we neared Lubbock. The land soon becomes flat as a pancake with an occasional stand of trees or grain mill. Tiger hasn’t said a peep since we got started. Think he’s in shell shock from all the driving. Little does he know…

After we arrived at the RV park and got situated, Tiger had to explore every nook and cranny of the RV before he would settle down. To say that our camper is cramped is an understatement. Except for the highway noise, our RV park was ok. We got there after 8 so we missed the indoor pool and hot tub… Did get to check our email through a $3 a day wireless service.

Posted by Carl Burnham at 11:01 PM
Categories: Destinations

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Create your own virtual Halloween pumpkin

Have a safe and happy Halloween!
Create your own virtual pumpkin
Here's a fun diversion. Create your own virtual lantern without all the mess by visiting here

Posted by Carl Burnham at 2:26 PM

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Top Movie Locations to See - Ridgeway, Colorado

If you are a John Wayne fan like I am, you'll enjoy this video sent by a friend. Shot on location around Ridgeway, Colorado in the San Juan Mountains, the movie True Grit was one of John Wayne's most memorable as Marshall Reuben J. 'Rooster' Cogburn. He reprised the role again six years later.

The video shows scenes where the movie was filmed around the picturesque town of Ridgeway in the late 1960s and compares to the same locations today. We visited the San Juan Mountains near there a few years ago (very scenic!), and plan to update our segment on in the near future. Be sure take the Durango & Silverton RR when in Durango (hear it now - need Real Audio). For our upcoming trip to Colorado, we'll be headed towards the Rocky Mountain National Park, Boulder, and Denver areas. We'll keep you posted..

Posted by Carl Burnham at 7:47 AM
Categories: Destinations

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Snow Cap along Route 66

The last time I saw him was in 1995 when I stopped in to Seligman. He was quick as ever with the one-liners and corny jokes.
Business cards lined the walls of people that have stopped in to get an ice cream, cheeseburger (with cheese!), and to hear him joke. The famous also came. Judge Ito from the famous O.J. Simpson trial had just recently visited the week before, I guess to get away from all the media coverage. Quirky, old painted cars lined the building.
Juan Delgadillo was a welcome icon on Route 66, the Mother Road, that keeps bringing people back to experience a slice of the way it was.
Delgadillo's Snow Cap, Seligman, Arizona
So I was sad to hear when I got an email from his niece with Route66giftshops.com mentioning that he had passed away 3 years ago at the age of 88.
I treasure his business card which reads on one side with an image of him and an old gas pump -
"Eat here and get gas"
"Slightly used napkins and straws"
I agreed with what she said that, "He sure he is making God and the Angel's laugh up a storm!"
Cousins now run the Snow Cap, keeping on a tradition of service, with jokes to make your journey a fun one along your Route 66 adventure.
If you have a chance to get off interstate 40 between Williams and Kingman while going through Arizona to see the Grand Canyon, stop in and get an ice cream and spend some time walking around and say hello to the zany folks in Seligman.

Posted by Carl Burnham at 6:49 PM
Categories: Attractions

Wildlife and ghost towns around Rocky Mountain National Park

We are getting excited about our return trip this fall back to Rocky Mountain National Park after 8 years. Our guidebooks will be updated to include new segments. I'm sure that the outskirts and Estes Park has grown more with tourism. It was fun to ride bikes around Estes Park and explore the town, but our favorite was around the park itself. We did go to Denver recently. Read about in our Colorado destination guide.

Here's a snippet of our travels around the outskirts of the park back then -
Remnants of Lulu City

"Today we hiked 7.5 miles along the Colorado River to Lulu City, an old ghost town. There sure wasn't much left of Lulu City though (probably nothing left now). It was an old silver mine town. All we saw was a few tumble down logs that used to be a house. We wandered off the trail and found the old mine which had iron bars across it. We had a good time playing with a golden-mantled ground squirrel (looks just like a chipmunk except bigger and with spots on his stomach). I was sitting down eating peanuts and raisins and the squirrel came right up and got on my shoe and took a peanut. While hiking back we came upon a cow elk grazing beside the river. We watched her for a while and got some videotape. When we got close to the parking lot there was a deer walking across near our truck. She went over to some picnic tables and licked the barbecue grills. We got footage of that also. On the way back over the park we saw 2 big horn sheep rams at the very top, where I videotaped them though there was nowhere to pull over to get a real good shot.

Then a few miles later we saw 2 big bull elks grazing on the side of a mountain. We got out and got some excellent videotape footage and some photos with the telephoto lens. One of the elk was a FOURTEEN point (see above, this was before advances in digital cameras..). The rack was huge, I don't know how he held his head up. After that, it started raining and we came on back to the campground. When we got to our campsite, we could hear coyotes howling in the distance. You could also look up in the night sky and see the cloudy sketch of the Milky Way galaxy."

As we traveled, we had one of the first wireless networks, two wireless cards. People would be amazed that we both could be connected via a dial up! Course, connecting was sparse in remote areas. Now, wireless is everywhere. So much the better for travelers today! Read more about our first trip in our travel archives.
Recommended Colorado travel books
For detailed Colorado maps and directions, check out our recommended books on Colorado.

Have tips on great places to see around the park and Estes Park? Add to our blog comments and let us know.

Posted by Carl Burnham at 12:31 PM
Categories: Destinations
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