As of this writing, we are in Itasca State Park, Minnesota. We have covered a lot of territory (1500 miles) since our last post. From Ouray, Colorado, we stopped for a week at the Blue Mesa Recreational Ranch, near Gunnison, Colorado. This RV resort is just across the highway from the Blue Mesa Reservoir on the Gunnison River. The resort offers sweeping vista views of the lake and of the surrounding rolling hills, mesas and sage barrens.
A highlight of our stay at Blue Mesa featured a scenic loop drive to Crested Butte and back to Blue Mesa along Scenic Byway 12 through Kebler Pass and highways 133, 92 and 50. We very much enjoyed the views of mountain valleys and aspen forests along the way.
We had several days of thunderstorms and rain during our stay at Blue Mesa. We enjoyed watching the storms roll in across the mesas, trailing gray veils of rain and spitting lightning. Later, we enjoyed listening to the rain on our trailer roof. The dogs were less than impressed by the lightning and thunder, though, hunkering down in the bedroom until the storm had passed by.
We also took another scenic drive down to the historic mining town of Lake City, Colorado. Lake City is a stop on the Alpine Loop which runs over the Cinnamon and Engineer Passes to Silverton and Ouray. Jasmine and Pepper enjoyed a break there to play in the stream.
On the way back from Lake City, we took a side road up and over Blue Mesa, an area of rolling meadows and sage barrens. Somewhere along the way we picked up a small sharp rock in the tire of our Toyota Tundra pickup. By the time we got back to Gunnison, the rock had drilled in, a slow leak had developed and our tire was well on the way to going flat. We changed out the tire and got the tire fixed the next day.
From Blue Mesa, we moved on to Eleven Mile State Park, near Lake George, Colorado. We passed over the Continental Divide via the Monarch Pass.
We stayed for six nights at the Rocky Ridge Campground in Eleven Mile State Park. The main attraction of this state park is the Eleven Mile Reservoir, a popular location for boating and fishing. Highlights of our stay included day trips to nearby Eleven Mile Canyon, historic mining towns of Cripple Creek and Victor, and a trip to Castle Rock to meet up with Kim’s cousin, Robin.
Jasmine had a small accident during our drive to Eleven Mile SP. We had stopped for a break at a town along the way and Jasmine tripped on her leash getting out of the truck, taking a tumble and tearing a toenail on her right front paw. I bandaged up her foot and we moved on to the campground where we setup camp and then inquired at the park office regarding a nearby animal hospital or vet. Since this was Labor Day weekend, we were concerned about finding an animal hospital that was open. Fortunately, a vet in Woodland Park was open and could see Jasmine. The vet cleaned up Jasmine’s paw, bandaged it and gave us antibiotics and pain medication for her.
We returned a few days later for a followup visit and the vet removed the bandage, declaring the nail was healing and was reattached. Unfortunately, Jasmine tore her nail again a few days later while we were visiting with Kim’s cousin, Robin, at Castle Rock, necessitating a trip to another vet. This time, the vet removed the damaged nail and re-bandaged Jasmine’s paw. Jasmine is now doing well and her paw is healing nicely.
I returned to Victor one afternoon to photograph some of the grand old Victorian-era buildings in the downtown area, as well as some of the nearby mining ruins. I find while Cripple Creek is the better known mining town, Victor offers more photo opportunities than Cripple Creek – many more of the original buildings have been preserved in Victor, where Cripple Creek has rebuilt with modern casinos and other tourist attractions.
From Eleven Mile State Park, we moved on through Nebraska towards Iowa. We had originally planned for one stop in Nebraska, but then reconsidered as that would resulted in two very long and exhausting driving days. We instead opted for two overnight stops and booked reservations at the Sleepy Sunflower RV Park in Ogallala, Nebraska and the Grand Island KOA in Doniphan, Nebraska. To accommodate our new schedule, we cut our stay at Eleven Mile SP short and departed after six nights, instead of the seven we had reserved.
The drive went well until the second day when we got a flat tire near North Platte, Nebraska. All had been going well until I heard a muffled boom and the tire pressure monitor sensor alarm went off. About the same time, Kim called me on the Walkie to let me know that something was flapping off of the trailer tire. I pulled over to the side of the interstate and checked the tire. There was a nasty gash in the sidewall of the driver side front trailer tire, but only a small puncture through the inner plies. Attempting to change the tire on the narrow shoulder of the busy interstate would have been dangerous, so I kept the emergency flashers on and drove slowly on to the next exit – about 2 miles. Using the trailer hydraulic leveling jacks, I was able to change out the tire while Kim drove into the nearby town to pick up some lunch. Shortly thereafter, we were back on the road and arrived at the Grand Island KOA without further incident.
From Grand Island KOA, we moved on to Missouri Valley, Iowa. We pulled into a truck stop in Missouri Valley and were met there by long-time friends from college, Vince and Becky Orr. We had all kept in touch through the years by email and Facebook, but it had been at least 27 years since we had all been together. Vince and Becky escorted us out to a camping site at their gun club shooting range, near Logan, Iowa.
Vince and Becky are members of the Nebraska Territorial Rangers (NTR) gun club. The NTR club stages old west cowboy action shooting events where members dress up in cowboy/old west period costume and have shooting competitions using mostly historic black powder weapons.
The NTR shooting range, Gunfire in the Hills, is located on a lovely forested site in the rolling farmland of the Loess Hills of western Iowa. The shooting range has many old west building facades to add interest and atmosphere to the events. A grassy field across from the range provides camping – about ten sites have 30 amp electrical hookups.
We camped for two nights at the NTR site and Vince and Becky joined us with their own fifth wheel. One evening, the Orrs treated us to dinner at a local biker bar, the Twisted Tail – great barbecue. We all fixed breakfast the next morning and Vince grilled Iowa rib-eye steaks that evening. We also visited Vince & Becky’s home, near Missouri Valley – very nice house on large wooded acreage – we took a jeep drive through the woodlands.
We very much enjoyed visiting and catching up with our friends and hope to visit again whenever we are in the area. Oh, and when the Zombie Apocalypse starts, we’re making our way back here to the Orrs & the NTRangers!
From Missouri Vally and the NTR club campsite, we moved on to Ankeny, Iowa. We camped for five nights at the Prairie Flower South Campground at Saylorville, Iowa. While there, we were able to spend time with my family – my mom, sister and brother-in-law – Marta, Shirley, and Craig, respectively. Craig and Shirley were only available the first night of our stay and were traveling to Denver the next morning. We’ll catch up with them again for camping in about a week.
We enjoyed just spending time with my mom & to have some of her wonderful cinnamon rolls. One evening, we drove to Ames, Iowa, for pizza at the Great Plains Sauce and Dough Company. Great Plains was one of my favorite pizza places from college days and the quality of the pizza is as good as remembered – great to see that some things haven’t changed!
During our stay, we also met up with Kim’s cousins, Tom and Cherie Bell. As an early birthday present for Kim, Mom treated us to an evening of wine, food and music at the Snus Hill Winery and invited Tom and Cherie to join us. We had a great time and enjoyed the music of the Brian Holtz Band. Tom and Cherie joined us the next day for dinner at our campsite. Again, it was great spending time with family. We look forward to another visit as we swing through Iowa again in a few weeks time.
From Ankeny, we moved on to Minnesota, spending one night at the Minneapolis NW KOA and then on to Itasca State Park. Kim’s family and many of her family friends are from the Bemidji and Park Rapids area of Minnesota. While here, we are spending much time with Kim’s uncle, Tom and another family friend, Barb.
We have been enjoying the local sights, visiting family landmarks, such as a nice cabin on a nearby lake where many summers vacations were spent, and dinners at local restaurants. We’ve enjoyed seeing Tom feeding the wild deer and turkeys in his front yard. We’ve visited the Headwaters of the Mississippi River flowing out of Lake Itasca and have seen the Paul Bunyan and Babe, the Blue Ox, statues at Bemidji. The trees are just starting to show fall colors.
We still have a few days left to enjoy this area before moving on to Two Harbors, Minnesota. Until next time…