Friday, May 29, 2009

Power Out and Birds

This mentally-ill Rufous-sided Towhee lives near our trailer. He keeps looking at his reflection in our truck grill and bumper or in the mirror mounted above the RV hitch. Bang, bang, bang--he is either fighting the bird he sees or frustrated because that image won't play with him. I wake up in the morning to hear him hitting the RV at 5:30 am. We feel sorry for him, but don't know how to help.

Yesterday was laundry and grocery shopping day. We drove into Walsenburg to do the wash. While the clothes were in the dryer, we walked over to the Safeway parking lot and bought Mexican food out of a Class C motor home that is permanently parked there and often has large numbers of customers. We decided to check it out. The food was good! We sat in the truck to eat it, periodically going in to the laundromat to fold clothes. All of a sudden, the lights went out and the last dryer stopped working. Oh oh.

We finished lunch and folded all the dry clothes, then decided to take the damp load back to the RV and hang those items outside. It was a warm, calm day. We stopped by Safeway on the way and found their power was out, too, and so the store wasn't in business--no lights and no cash registers.

After taking out clothes home and doing haircuts, we drove back into town and Safeway was still closed, so we drove to Trinidad to the Safeway there. They have a gas station and we discovered he had four 10 cent a gallon discounts coming--we bought a tank of diesel for $1.79.9 per gallon! I wish it was always that cheap.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Wildlife and Iron Horses

This morning we biked to a cat tail-skirted pond on the wetlands trail here in Lathrop State Park. It is such a peaceful spot and the water provided a perfect mirror for reflections.

A lone black duck was feeding.

We watched a muskrat swim across the pond.

Red winged blackbirds bounced around in the cat tails. Many other birds were heard, but not seen.
As we biked back along the trail next to Martin Lake, we flushed out two great blue herons, but neither of us had a camera out to get a picture.

When we arrived here a month ago, the Canada Geese goslings were very small.

They must be almost teen-agers now.

After packing a picnic lunch, we drove to La Veta and Cucharas. The Cucharas River valley is lush and beautiful.

Many (more than 500) dikes run out from the sides of the Spanish Peaks. They are fascinating to look at.

We have had a lot of rain over the past week. At the higher elevations, it fell as snow.

As we drove, we saw wildflowers, especially Golden Banner and Wild Flax.
We were back in La Veta by noon to watch for the (summer) daily arrival of the San Luis & Rio Grande train. We have ridden the train twice in previous years. Today we just took pictures of this iron horse.

John talked with the woman who operates the snack car. Here she is waiting to take a short ride in the engine as the tender was filled with water during the lunch break in La Veta. She said she really likes working on the train.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Anything But Ordinary

Our week may have been ordinary, but there is nothing ordinary about where we are living. We are surrounded by many interesting birds and we have deer grazing right next to the trailer.

For my birthday, which is next Sunday, John bought me a new telephoto lens for my camera. For years I have wanted to take good photos of birds and other wildlife. There is so much to see here, it seemed the right time to get a 300 mm lens. It arrived this week.

Before it came, I took pictures of Canada Geese on our lake.

And of this Bullock’s Oriole (I think) on the bushes outside our trailer.

With the new lens, I captured these deer grazing while we ate dinner Saturday evening.

Today I got this photo of a Rufous Sided Towhee. I have seen them in several places around the campground. Today I watched this bird or another of the same kind trying to fight with its reflection in the chrome on our truck and a mirror on the front of our trailer.

This Say’s Phoebe has a nest on top of a light fixture on the side of the Camp Store building.

Martin Lake in Lathrop State Park has some beautiful sections. I photographed this cove one evening last week.

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Sunday, May 24, 2009

Ordinary Week

It's been a fairly ordinary week for us. We work Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday each week. The Camp Store is open those days. In addition, our duties include cleaning the two restrooms in the Camp Store building and cleaning fire pits. We enjoy the opportunity to work outside when we are cleaning the pits.

Last weekend the store was not too busy. But it sure has been this weekend. The Memorial Day Weekend campers were eager to come in and buy ice cream, ice and various items they had forgotten. That is really the purpose of the store. First thing Friday morning the "Campground Full" sign was set up at the park entrance. Thursday evening we received a lot of rain, but so far the weekend has been cool, but dry. Many of the campers are families, with lots of children. That means we sell lots of ice cream.

Tuesday we spent time in the Huerfano County Courthouse in Walsenburg, searching records to see if my ancestors who lived in Las Animas County south of here had also spent time here. Apparently, they didn't. We also toured the Walsenburg Mining Museum. The area has extensive coal and was actively mined for many years.

Wednesday we drove to La Veta, a small town 14 miles northwest, to do our laundry. The laundromat is much nicer than the one in Walsenburg—clean, with a change machine and rest room. Unfortunately, the machines are more expensive and the dryers weren't very hot. We will probably return to Walsenburg in the future.

Last Sunday I dropped our small camera and broke it. I was afraid I had lost the photos on it because it wouldn't download them in its broken state. On Thursday we drove to Wal-Mart in Pueblo—a 47 mile drive—and were able to buy another small Nikon Coolpix camera. In addition to the fact it takes even better photos than the old one, I was able to use the same storage card and download the photos from the old camera onto our computer. I really can't continue to break the camera just to get an upgraded version. But it wasn't tooo expensive an accident.

While we were in Pueblo, we also visited a Verizon store. Our two-year contract on the Sprint broadband card expired earlier this month. Our research indicates that Verizon has better coverage and there is no issue with roaming charges. We have 30 days to test the new card and return it without penalty if we don't like it. So far, we think it is at least as good as the Sprint card and they both cost the same.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

More Friends

This week we saw more friends. On Thursday morning I walked down to Martin Lake to take some photos of reflections on the water before the wind came up. It was so quiet and I could hear birds all around me. When I returned to the trailer, John was gone and I figured he had gone looking for me. When I left he was doing his workout.

In a little while, I looked out the window and saw an old friend from Boulder. I hurried to the door and found John and our friends Larry and Betty. They were on the way to Albuquerque and had stopped in Walsenburg for breakfast, then came by to see us. We had a great visit for over half an hour before they had to be on their way again.

We finally had three days off this week. We also finished installing and painting some signs on the Hogback Trail and added lots of new stock to the store's inventory. For three days we keep the Camp Store open for a few hours. We also have taken on the responsibility of cleaning fire pits and barbeque grills. Since only one of us needs to be in the store at one time, that is something the other person can be out doing. We both enjoy jobs that take us outside.

By the way, we have caught two more mice this week. YUK!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Meeting an Old Friend

We were driving down the road at Lathrop today when I saw a truck and 5th wheel approaching. "Stop that trailer. It has the TV antenna still up," I told John. He flashed the headlights, slowed down, opened the window and waved at the driver, who stopped next to us on the road. John got out and approached the other driver, when that man shouted "John" and got out of his truck.
Bob is an old friend from the Denver area. He and his wife, Lindsay, were members of St. Gabriel's Episcopal Church, where John was rector in the 1990s and they were good friends. Bob is the realtor who helped us find our home in Centennial and they bought our Coleman pop-up camper when we bought our first 5th wheel. We helped them get into RVing and they moved from the pop-up to a Hi-Lo and now they have a 5th wheel and camp most weekends of the summer. Bob was on his way to Durango to do some work in the southwestern corner of the state. What a shame we didn't know he was here last night. We would have enjoyed a long visit.
In the past few months, since we hit the road full-time, we have seen more friends and had more contact with people than we ever did living in the stick house and retired. What a great time we are having.
With one exception. We caught one mouse in a trap yesterday, one overnight. At least they are in the basement, not in the kitchen. The foam we used to fill holes beneath the stove must have done the job.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Green Grass and Friends

I really enjoyed the desert this winter and early spring—it was warm. The many varieties of cactus are so interesting. And the sunsets are spectacular. But it is good to get back to Colorado, where it is green, not brown. In addition, it's been hovering around 100 degrees during the day in Coolidge. We'll wait till January to return there.

This is the view out of our window. It is so nice to see grass and plants and birds, with nary a metal box (aka trailer) in sight. For two and a half months we will have the area to ourselves most of the time. And we are enjoying it. Lathrop State Park has lots of green grass and green ground cover. There are mountains in the distance and Canada Geese with their babies near the lake.

Our major responsibility here is operation of the Camp Store. We spent most of Wednesday putting out the merchandise left from last year. Yesterday we opened for the first time. The soda was warm, the freezer bare of ice cream and the shelves had no snacks. However, we are fairly well stocked with other items. By the time we closed last night we managed one sale. Today we had four sales.

We aren't doing great business, but the store has become a gathering place for staff, volunteers, children looking for something interesting and adults who want to see what is available.

First thing this morning a man walked in and said, "I know you from someplace." It took us a minute or two to connect the dots—we first met his wife four years ago when we were newbies at volunteer part hosting. Three years ago we volunteered with Ken and his wife, Virginia, at Ft. Parker State Park in Texas. Today we are experienced volunteers and full timers. They also are full timers and we compared experiences for quite a while.

Later, John sat outside working on his carving. A woman came in to check out the store, and then commented that her husband was also a carver. Soon he came up and talked about carving, Arizona and life in Alaska for a long time. Some of the nicest people in the world camp/RV and as we travel we seem to run into old friends again and again.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

A Bear!

        And we thought a mouse was a problem.  This morning we went out for our three-mile run (really a fairly slow jog).  About 1 ¼ mile into it, I looked down the road and said, "What is that on the road?"  At first I thought it might be a cow—inside the state park?  We both looked, and then I said, "It's a black bear."


        We both looked, took a deep breath, turned around and started running away from the bear.  I thought there was a restroom just a little ways back, but it seemed like we would never reach it.  I knew there was a trash dumpster near the road and I found myself wondering if we could stand behind it and circle around it fast enough to be safe.


        John kept looking over his shoulder to see if the bear was following us.  John kept thing, "When we run way, are we bating the bear like we would be if it were a dog?"  Then I thought I had read that bears didn't have good eyesight, so maybe it didn't even know we were on the road. 


        Every restroom in the park has signs pointing out that black bears live here.  We didn't have any doubt about what we had seen.


        For about a half mile, we kept running away from the bear and not talking.  We needed to save our air to run faster if the bear came after us.  Finally, we realized there was no threat.  We could talk about what happened and finish our shortened run.


        In the end, the bear sighting was probably the highlight of the past six months.  We haven't seen a black bear since Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, in 2006.  This was a big deal for us.  What do we do?  Change where we run?  Buy pepper spray to protect ourselves?  Obviously, we didn't get a picture of the bear.  We didn't have a camera and we wouldn't have taken the time to click the shutter if we did.  Somehow this experience today put the issue of a mouse in the trailer in perspective.


        By the way, something set off the mouse trap overnight into Monday, but we haven't seen any evidence of a mouse since then.  Yea?   


Sunday, May 03, 2009

A Mouse!

Saturday morning I walked over to the kitchen counter for my first cup of coffee and Horrors, what did I see? Mouse droppings. Now, this is nothing new to RVers who are parked in open country or near fields, or who have put their rig in storage somewhere. But the familiarity doesn't make it any more welcome. I told John, cleaned up the droppings, and then decided to have my coffee before we searched any further.

When I did search, I found nothing under the sink, nothing in drawers. Droppings were only on the counter and in the stove. A couple of hours later, we started work on removing the stove. Not an easy task. How do they put those screws in so tight? But eventually we prevailed and found three large holes around wiring and the gas line.

We were off the the lumber yard in town for expanding foam. John filled the holes and we crossed our fingers.

At bedtime, I baited two mouse traps with cheese, covered the stove and counter with newspaper and placed the traps there. We were relieved to find neither trap had been set off this morning. We will keep trying. If we find any more, you'll hear about it in the days to come.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Settling In

We are settling in at our new home, Lathrop State Park in Walsenburg, Colorado. We will be here till mid July. Lathrop is a park where we have camped many times over the years, mainly when we wanted to get out from Denver either early or late season or on our way to or from Colorado from the south.

We arrived Monday. We had planned to spend three nights at Trinidad Lake State Park, 35 miles to the south. We pulled in to look for a site, only to find the campground there is being upgraded and is closed. So we drove to Walsenburg and spent three nights in a campground host site with a great view of the Spanish Peaks. Then Wednesday we moved into the volunteer site where we will spend the summer. It is in a large open area near a ranger's house. We will enjoy our privacy here.

Part of our responsibility at Lathrop will be operation of a park store. But beyond that, we won't know much until Sunday when we begin our orientation. The park has two lakes for fishing, one that also allows swimming and water skiing, the other that allows wind surfing. There are several duck ponds with bird watching opportunities. Since our arrival, we have picked up our running, doing three runs at 6459 feet above sea level, an altitude we haven't seen since February 3. In the process we have discovered areas of the park we hadn't seen before and will spend more time exploring soon.

While getting settled here, there were other issues on my mind. We have a lease on our house in Centennial. When I contacted our current insurer, I learned, to my dismay, that they will only insure rental property if they also ensure our primary home—which we no long have. I made an internet search for insurers, and then visited an insurance agency in Walsenburg. Thank God for internet and cell phones. It has been stressful, with lots of phone calls and emails. Today we settled on a policy through the local agency here.

I am also looking for new insurance for our truck. When we sold our second car, our auto insurance didn't go down, it went up. The two-car discount was greater than the cost of insuring the old Buick. So we will try to find a more cost-effective policy.

I really don't mind taking care of these details, but it is something I would rather not have to worry about. Life goes on, even when you are retired and on the road, I guess.