Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Who Is That Old Woman?

Who is that old woman? She looks an awful lot like my mother. Yikes! I’m looking in the mirror and she is me. How did I get this old? For years, I’ve seen my mother when I looked in the mirror. In fact, since grade school, people have recognized my mother because I looked so much like her. But I didn’t see it until I was in my 40s or 50s.

Later this week, it’s my time to turn 70. John reached that milestone in February. Years ago, I saw a reference to women with crepe paper necks. I really know what that means today. It isn’t just my neck. It is my arms and my thighs. But probably the worst part is that I am shrinking. No, not losing weight. I am getting shorter. Apparently, our spines compress and we get shorter as we age. That means, I can weigh the same but be fatter around my middle. Yuk!

Some birthdays are more remarkable or significant than others. At 16, I got my driver’s license. At 21, I could legally drink. I’d rather be 40 than pregnant, I said (and meant it). Fifty—half a century—was significant. When I turned 60, we went on a hot air balloon ride. I had been over weight and out of shape for years. But for the previous 9 months I had been working out on weights and losing weight. I felt capable of getting in that balloon basket—and out. And the rather hard landing confirmed the idea I needed to be somewhat fit to do it.

In the past 10 years, I have become more fit than ever in my life. For over 5 years, I ran 3 miles a day—something I had sworn I would never do. And I loved it. But my aging body had different ideas.

At this age, I feel like the Tin Man in the Wizard of Oz. Somebody oil me! When I wake up, it is hard to get moving. It is really funny to watch me try to get down to the ground after I’ve been on my feet for some time. My joints do well when I keep moving, but if I keep them in one position for very long, they would rather no change position. “A body at rest, stays at rest; a body in motion, stays in motion,” so they say. However, I can no longer run with my arthritic knees—at least if I want to walk comfortably the rest of the day.

In addition to arthritis, I have been fighting high blood pressure for the last 13 or 14 years. I find I don’t have the energy I used to have. I used to work 8 hours, commute for a total of 60 to 90 minutes a day and spend the evening teaching a class at church or cleaning house or working on the computer till 10 at night. Can’t do that now.

All of this is the negative side and negative feelings. But all is not doom and gloom. I am grateful almost every day for what I can still do. This week we went on a 5- to 6-mile hike at 9,600 feet elevation. I look around at others in my age group and many won’t walk a block, much less 5 miles.

I am blessed with a husband I love and who is my best friend. We never run out of things to talk about. We have a great lifestyle, traveling the country in our RV. There are lots of places to go and things to see. I look forward to the future—it just isn’t as long a future as I used to plan for.

Life is good, even at the age of 70. What do you suppose I will be doing when I turn 80?

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

First Hike of the Summer

Finally, we had a day off with nothing we had to do. No trip to Denver or Colorado Springs for our new truck. No doctor's appointments. Plus, we have been here for a month and are becoming adjusted to the thin air at 9,600 feet elevation. So we went for a hike. We chose a 5 1/2 to 6 mile hike to the old Cheesman Ranch in the north part of the park.

Spring has finally arrived here and the aspen trees began leafing out this week.

A few wildflowers are blooming, a sure sign of spring. Surprisingly, there are lots of dandelions. Since I'm sure you all know what they look like, I'll share some other yellow flowers.

The north end of the park will be closed for most of June, during elk calving. Elk spend the winter here and their browsing on the bark of the aspen trees is visible. Here you can see recent nibbling marks.

We have often seen groves of aspen with black bark scars. Now we know that is caused by elk and deer, feeding on the trees.

The old Cheesman Ranch is picturesque, with a barn and corrals, a small cabin and outhouse.

Just over the ridge, we found a small shed that may have been used for grain storage, as well as a shelter for livestock.

This is where we stopped for a lunch break.

We saw and heard lots of birds during our hike. But the only wildlife we saw was this rabbitt.

We have always enjoyed spending time at Mueller State Park and have been looking forward to a summer in the Colorado mountains. Yesterday we had a beautiful hike and we feel we are beginning to enjoy what we came here for.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Time with Family

Twenty-six years ago, right after John graduated from seminary, we returned to Colorado and he preached at the wedding of his niece Jennifer Abbott to Scott Fawaz, recently graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy. We have seen them in the years since in Colorado, Ohio, and the Netherlands. Several months ago, they sold their house in South Carolina and returned to Colorado. Somehow, Scott lost his wedding ring during that move. Jennifer had a new one made and Saturday they came to Mueller State Park so John could bless the ring.

It was very informal, sitting outside. After the blessing, Scott and Jennifer kissed.

Scott's brother, Garrett, and his wife Carmae were visiting. Since Garrett was Scott's best man 26 years ago, it was very appropriate to do the blessing while they were here.

Scott and Jennifer's daughter Sarah came, as well.

John was honored to perform the ring blessing for Scott and Jennifer. We feel they have been a real part of our lives over the years, including confirmations and baptisms and exploring far away places. We love them and their family and it was a special afternoon.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Dinner with Friends

Yesterday morning, we woke up to an email from Barbara and Ron, saying they would be in the area for a couple of nights. Could we get together for breakfast, lunch or dinner? You bet. They are staying in Colorado Springs and met us in Woodland Park, a town about midway between the Springs and Mueller State Park. Barbara and Ron are RVing friends from Phoenix who are heading out for a summer of traveling in cooler climes.

We weren't familiar with the restaurants in Woodland Park, but after an internet search, chose Fiesta Mexicana. It certainly was a good choice. We all enjoyed our meals and we had a great time talking and laughing and enjoying our time together.

The restaurant was full when we finally decided it was time to leave, so it was difficult to take good pictures. But the chairs are so beautiful. This is one. Someday, I want to take pictures of more of the restaurant's decor.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

No Way to Keep House

Look at this mess!

This is what our RV looked like most of the day Monday. Can you guess what was going on? Look at the pleated fabric and all that string. And consider the canned goods on the floor.

One of our day-night shades had a broken string, meaning it didn't go up and down. I restrung one on a window on the end of the slide a couple of years ago. This one was even more difficult. It has 4 strings, not two. With the help of info on the the web and from John, I got the job done, after several house of work.

But that doesn't explain the canned goods. Remember last summer when shelves in the canned good cabinet, as well as a pan drawer, broke as we drove to Alaska? Well, that cabinet shelf broke again. So John had to re-glue it.

Our RV doesn't have a lot of space to move around in. To do this kind of work, we have to spread out on the floor. It certainly makes life difficult. It was good when we could put everything away.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

What a Difference

What a difference a few days make. This is what the Mueller campground looked like a week ago.

That was May 14. May 17 was the first day we accepted reservations here. That seemed to open the floodgates. The campground was full Friday and Saturday. This is what we saw last Saturday.

In addition, a number of folks brought their horses to Mueller for a trail ride.

Right now, we are back to a quiet, almost empty campground. But this coming weekend is Memorial Day, the real start of the camping season in Colorado. We understand the campground will be fairly full all week long from then on.

There are a lot of wild turkey at Mueller. Wednesday, as we driving out the entrance road, we saw these four hurrying into the forest.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Preparing for the Onslaught

We have used state parks, commercial campgrounds, national park and forest campgrounds for 25+ years, but this is the first time we have seen what it takes to open a campground after it has been shut down for the winter. Just like RVs have to be winterized when they are stored for the cold-weather months, campgrounds at higher elevations (anywhere it freezes for several hours at a time) are also winterized. Now is the time all of that is reversed.

Water has to be turned on to all of the faucets throughout the campground. Everything has to be checked for leaks. Each shower has its own instant hot water heater. Those have to be reassembled. Toilets have to be checked, as do sinks. Vault toilet facilities have to be opened and cleaned and the lights that are controlled by an electric eye must be checked. Every electrical hookup box that was turned off has to be checked—does the 30 amp outlet have power? The 20 amp outlet? And does the GFCI work to prevent shocks due to improper grounding and other issues.

Fallen branches have to be picked up. They may be blocking campsites. Besides, they may be used for campfires, even if they are six feet long and the fire ring is only three feet in diameter.

The campground registration building has to be cleaned and opened and extra seasonal staff trained for campground registration and maintenance. Signs indicating the hours the Visitor Center is open have to be changed and notices of programs put out.

There are always problems, of course. The power went out just as the vault toilet lights were being tested and the shower house was being prepared. Today, a concrete saw was rented to allow access to a broken water pipe in the dump station.

Campground reservations begin today. Somehow, that must give everyone permission to come camping. During the first 16 days of May, no more than 5 to 10 campers were here in Mueller State Park at any one time. This weekend, all but two of our 110 electrical campsites are reserved.

It’s like someone has turned on the faucet of trailers and vehicles and kids and bikes. Thank heavens all the water is running in the restrooms and showers and water spigots and dump station.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013


Monday, we took our truck to Maxair in Colorado Springs to have a spray-in bed liner applied. When that was completed, they installed our toolbox. We carry a lot of stuff in that toolbox and we are glad to have it back in place. We had to take all that stuff out and stow it away in our RV and in the RV basement so it could be removed from the old truck and moved to the new truck. For a week, we have been living in the midst of a crowded mess.

Since the work on the truck was going to take 7 to 9 hours, we had a lot of time to fill. The truck is our only vehicle so Maxair dropped us off at The Citadel Shopping Center for the day. What do you do for a full day at the mall? First, we used the mall halls to get 3 miles of walking. We had to stop and look at the puppies in the pet store.

Next, we went to the food court where we ate some cookies and read our kindles. By then, the Verizon store was open and John was able to upgrade his phone. All day on our hands, John bought an iPhone! We have both joined the 21st century--at least where our phones are concerned. I tried to buy some tops, but couldn't find anything I liked.

We checked out some free-standing stores around the mall, then had lunch at IHOP. Then we settled into some comfortable couches to do more reading.

Finally, about 3:30 they picked us up and we had our truck back. Doesn't the truck bed look nice?

Today, we put all the stuff back in the tool box. Yea! Next week, we have another long day of waiting at Maxair while they install a hitch and some other add-ons. That day, we plan to go to a movie.

At 14,114 ft, Pikes Peak dominates the skyline in southeastern Colorado, no matter where you are. Named for Zebulon Pike, probably the first American to sight the peak in 1806, it is a landmark to everyone traveling in this part of the state. This is the view we have from Mueller State Park.

This is what it looks like when we drive on a road near St. David's Episcopal Church in Woodland Park, where we have been worshiping.

We could clearly see it from Colorado Springs, as well.

Friday, May 10, 2013

More Cold and Snow

Wednesday night it snowed again. When we went to work Thursday morning, everything looked like it had been frosted. Remember when we frosted our Christmas trees? It was beautiful the first part of the morning.

John had a bunch of snow to shovel around our RV, as well out front of the comfort station across the road. The trees were really loaded with the heavy, wet snow.

This is the 5th wheel hitch we took out of our old truck. Anyone interested in buying it? We will clean off the snow cover. We plan to buy a new, automatic sliding hitch for the new truck.

We didn't get too much sleep overnight while it was snowing. About 2 am, I realized it was really cold in the RV. I checked the stove and found we didn't have any propane flowing. John went out and turned on the other tank. Still no heat. We had a very small flame on the stove burner, but no heat. An internet search suggested that meant the pressure regulator wasn't working correctly. Since we knew the now-empty tank on the other side of the RV had been working fine, John switched the two tanks--in the middle of the night in the middle of a snow storm! Finally, the furnace started and kept running. That was at about 3 am.

It is May and the snow melts quickly. But then the moisture freezes overnight. Look at our truck this morning.

In the past three days, we have seen wild turkey, mule deer, elk and coyote. The deer were right out front of our RV, the elk on a hillside in the park, the turkey near the maintenance shop. We saw the coyote on the road into Divide. I only caught the deer and elk in my camera.

Where is spring? Hopefully, these May snow showers will bring June flowers here in the mountains.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

In late January 2009, we left Colorado and headed to Arizona to escape snow in the winter. We were both born and raised in Colorado and we had spent every winter of our lives with snow and cold--until 2009. Since then, we have been in various degrees of warmth and able to comfortably go outside every day--barring lots of rain or wind. We used to enjoy skiing and being outside, even in the snow and cold. But all that warm weather seems to have made us into wimps.

Shoveling snow last week really wasn't fun. Overnight temps in the 20s and low 30s are difficult. Even with down jackets, we prefer not to spend much time out in the cold. What has happened to us? When we agreed to spend the summer at 9,600 feet above sea level, we knew it would be cool, or even cold, at times. And we stowed away our shorts. But we didn't expect lots of snow and this much cold. The nighttime lows aren't as bad and daytime highs in the 40s.

We are trying to adapt and make the best of it. We haven't had anything like Christmas weather since 2008, so we are trying to enjoy the snow as if it were Christmas. And it really was this beautiful this morning with everything frosted in white.

Monday, May 06, 2013

New Wheels

Sometime in the next year, we plan to buy a new 5th wheel-trailer. We have been in this one full-time for about 4 1/2 years, including a trip to the east coast and another to Alaska. We think the next RV will be our last and should be good for more years--if we choose--because we won't be traveling as much. Our current truck has no trouble pulling our 2009 Montana, but if we get a heavier trailer, we decided we will need a different truck.

So today, we traded in our old, much-loved and reliable 2008 Chevy 2500HD diesel

for a 2013 Chevy 3500 diesel.

When we started this process, be planned on special ordering just what we wanted, like we did last time. However, the Chevy factory is not accepting any new truck build orders because they are refitting the factory for the 2014s. We queried several dealers online to look for already-built trucks and ended up dealing with Emich Chevrolet on Wadsworth in Lakewood. There aren't a lot of 3500s sitting on lots. And even fewer extended cab models than crew cab models. Once we checked out a crew cab and learned it isn't much longer than what we have now, we decided on that.

Today we picked up our 3500 diesel single rear wheel, 4-wheel drive pickup with more bells and whistles than we ever would have ordered. But we got a really good deal and we love it! Now, we just have to add the bed liner, 5th wheel hitch and a few other after-market mods and we will be set to go. But, until we get that hitch, there is no chance we can move our house on wheels.

Saturday, May 04, 2013

Mueller State Park

Beautiful views, friendly staff and wildlife. What more could we ask for? We are very impressed with the staff and our summer volunteer position here at Mueller State Park in Colorado. This is the 5th state park we have volunteered in and it is certainly the most friendly and best run one we have experienced. As we have walked around the campground, staff members we hadn't met have stopped to introduce themselves. The people in the maintenance department that we work with are friendly and helpful. We think we will enjoy our summer here.

Most of the snow has melted. We did see a few snowflakes coming out of the sky today and probably will again. At this elevation, a weather system that produces rain in Denver or Colorado is very apt to produce snow here. But we can also expect that the sun, which shines 360 days a year in Colorado (a fact I learned in grade school), will provide warmer days.

Today, we cleaned a cabin for the first time. The park has three really nice cabins. Our primary responsibility is to see they are clean and ready to occupy. The procedures are very thorough. I wish I could count on the motels we have stayed in being as clean as we are to keep these. We have also been cleaning the comfort station and vault toilets. That isn't always a great job. But we learned on our first volunteer assignment that people really appreciate the fruits of that work. And we know that the cleanliness of the restrooms is a rating we look for when choosing a campground.

In addition to friendly people, we have encountered wildlife. So far we have seen deer every day and one day we saw a small herd of elk. As we see other wildlife, I will post about it.

It is so good to be in the Colorado mountains. Before retirement, we camped in this and other Colorado mountains state parks often. We are looking forward to our time here.

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Summer Job?

What on earth is this about? We came to Mueller State Park in Colorado for a summer job. We started work yesterday, May 1, and look at what we encountered. As we were learning about the job, it started snowing.

By the time we got back to our RV about 2:30, we sure hoped the "Arctic Package" on our trailer would keep us warm and safe.

The weather report on the internet shows the snow (in blue) surrounding our location (the red pin). And look at the temperature!

We put aluminum sun shields in our windows to help keep out the cold over night. The low this morning, before the sun came up, was 11 degrees. We did, however, make it through the cold night just fine. We haven't dealt with real snow for 3 years. John was out of practice shoveling.

But we have to admit, it is beautiful outside. We always enjoyed snowscapes--until we decided to escape to Arizona in the winter. Our bikes had some snow on them.

And the landscape was beautiful.

I saw an American three-towed woodpecker (thanks, Carolyn) in a tree.

It's been fun to have a little blast of winter. But we are ready for at least spring, if summer is some way off.