Saturday, June 3, 2017

Hi Points, Low Points

We arrived safe and sound. Mostly. Steve's arthritis hit his hands so hard that I wound up doing most of the driving (no biggie), and the final day of the trip I sunburned both arms through the rolled up car windows. Yes they still hurt. Actual aloe jel  - the pure stuff - helps briefly.

The dogs managed the trip pretty well too, though Fred Bassett, at 9 or so, is finding it increasingly difficult to jump up into the back seat of our low-slung hatchback. This from our already Miracle Dog, adopted from a shelter after somebody turned him in after an apparent road accident where both his pelvis and one leg were fractured. Once he'd healed, Steve had been told he'd never do stairs, but he's managed pretty well to make it onto the living room couch all these years. It finally took his "Magic Word" to get him into the car, after I decided his heft meant I couldn't help him in either: "Milk Bone!" You just better have one on offer for him after using the phrase! He gets down pretty well on his own, but there's usually a lot of incentive from his bladder at the time. We do see an occasional limp, however.

His problems brought us to a decision we'd been discussing for months now. The time has come when we will no longer be dog owners. Bassets are notorious for bad backs, and if we keep traveling with him, that will be much sooner than later.

Ellie, on the other hand, is still frisky as can be, but since Steve and I have decided to do more traveling while we still can,  having any dog still presents issues. Ellie's early history of abuse leaves her with residual issues that also make her a special needs dog. She has severe abandonment issues. We can leave her with Fred for short periods, but if more than a couple hours she can get very destructive. And no, you CAN NOT pop her into the car and bring her along everywhere in Arizona. They arrest you for that. Also, since her early abuse involved being left for long periods outside the house in a wire crate, she absolutely will not tolerate any crate to this day. She is so frantic to get out that she works to dig through until her paws are bloodied. So again, a solution for a "normal" dog is not one for her.

When I got her, those issues were not problems. I was close to retirement, in a household of people with varied schedules which left her getting constant attention. Once retired, I was able to give her that attention nearly all the time. She makes a great lap dog, a wonderful guard dog both around the house and yard, and on her favorite corner of the bed, appropriately facing out to take on all comers. If everybody was sleeping, she still had Fred for company as he also had the run of the house at night.

But with all of it taken together, we decided on the trip up that the time had come for new homes for them. Our ideal, of course, would be home, singular, but we're realistic. I can only hope Ellie's new home is not with some know-it-all who believes a crate is about good behavior and not about the torture it would be for her. I'd rather see her put down than face that, but our favorite vet will not get involved since we can't point to some physical ailment to say this impairs quality of life.

The trip was about more than the dogs, especially the first two days through Colorado. Our always first stop, if our route leaves it at all possible, is at Four Corners where the best - to us anyway - fry bread around is to be had. Steve's history there goes back to when he was in high school and his much littler brother and parents were on a trip. Steve placed himself so he covered all four states at once, bent Max over his knee, and had his parents shoot a picture of a mock spanking in four states at once! Now, no spankings, not even any kneeling, just fry bread.

We made it up to Cortez for the night, checking in early so we had plenty of time to visit Mesa Verde and get back. Our original plan was to see a bit around sunset, and head back for more pictures in morning light. Luckily we went to the "Palace" first, since the trip just to the main overlook  for it with cameras and dogs managed to both awe and thoroughly wear us out. Leaving we spied a coyote leisurely strolling down the road toward us, but even the dogs were tired enough to forgo going ballistic like they usually do in our back yard when one passes. We returned to our motel room, where even considering losing an hour in local time, it was well before our usual bedtime, and were more than ready to hit the sack. None of this midnight stuff for us! In fact, no reading, not even any TV!

Our goal for day 2 was to hit Pueblo. We already nixed a return to Mesa Verde, agreeing it was a great idea for 30-year-olds. Not us. We did, however, detour for Chimney Rock. Nothing much to see there that you haven't already seen and with better views, approaching from the west. At least it was free.  We could have gotten out for a hike, but....

Driving through the San Juans was glorious. Verdant valleys, snow capped peaks, ranches, flowing streams, cattle and horses. For a mountain road it was one of the easiest driving I'd done in years. I've had my fill of white-knuckling switchbacks, thank you very much.

After passing several Forest Service roads, usually with signs letting us know one was there about three seconds before the turnoff while tailgaters were hot on our behind, we finally found one with a safe access and took it. It's one thing to pass beautiful country at 60 MPH, quite another to get up close and personal. I don't guarantee this was the best possible road of the all choices, but it had everything we could possibly want along it.

About a hundred feet in, a private road with a wide turning spot before the locked gate was on our left. PHOTO OP! Below us spread a meadow following the gravel road curving down to a quiet, reflecting lake, a tiny cabin roof just showing above the drop to the lake off to the side. Rising up the other side were a patchwork of bright green meadows and deep green pines, repeat repeat, until above the treeline craggy rock peaks held traces of the last of the spring snow, topped off by scattered clouds in a sunny blue sky. Beautiful as this was, it still was almost ho-hum until the wind started to gust through the pines. All too often the picture has to wait for the wind to die, but this was pine pollen time, and thick clouds of yellow were lifted and carried off  leftward with each blow.

When we were  finally satisfied with every possible permutation available through our shutters, we jockied the car around to head further up the road. There were a few homesteads along the way, until finally we reached where the madly running creek crossed the road we were on. It was narrow enough for a single land bridge, so we very carefully made sure stopping both before and on the bridge were safe for the pictures we wanted. I shot out the driver's side, enjoying how the current lifted over a couple sapplings lying in the water before noting that I was actually shooting through a broken railing in the bridge itself. In fact, on my side there were two breaks! Luckily the bottom planking looked secure.

Live and dead trees mixed, and both Steve and I have a fondness for weathered grainy wood, These were nothing as spectacular as the gnarly corpses back at Mesa Verde, but still worth a few shots. My favorite live tree shots, now that we were way past the blowing pollen, was at a pull-off, where a single spruce stood festooned with reindeer moss, or at least it would be called that in the BWCA. It stood next to the upper part of the creek whose narrow bridge we stopped at, only this time there were many more obstacles causing whitewater, and a wide space allowing a reflecting pond before the water headed out on its way.

We thought we'd taken enough time here, considering how much journey remained for the day, and turned back. A Forestry Ranger pulled up next to us in the one spot on the road wide enough for two vehicles, and we had a ten minute conversation on sights to be seen, where everyone was from, all the usual. He was heading back further up the hill where a small herd of Bighorns were grazing earlier that morning. Tempting as it was, we decided the likelyhood of any being still there were nil or fewer, and proceeded back to the highway.

After that pulloff, the rest of the day was just driving, by comparison. Sure, snowy peaks, clouds dropping small showers, fields and forest. The closer we got to Pueblo, driving east, the flatter it all got. We easily located our Motel 6, had pizza delivered, and suffered through our worst night of the trip. Our elevation was low enough that the day had gotten hot, and we had the -apparently only - room in the place with no air conditioning working. A call to the office promised a repairman. First thing in the morning! Or we could haul all our stuff up to second floor! Uh, hello, there was a reason I'd specified either handicapped or first floor! She couldn't manage to convince me that our comfort mattered to her.

We wound up keeping the dogs on their leashes and having the door to our room open once it cooled down. Not the safest feeling, but... After dropping the room about 10 degrees, and being exhausted again, we locked up until about 3 AM when apparently the heat even woke up the dogs. While Steve took them on a generous walk to cool the three of them down, I sat up with the room door open to collect as much coolness as possible. We made it through until morning. That's another motel on our "Never Again" list.

The last two days were driving, driving, and sunburn through the car windows. We did spy another coyote, two dozen turkeys, one live and two roadkill deer, and several bits of highway hamburger. Just after crossing into Minnesota, Steve was pointing out a towed boat with two vertical posts used for shallow fishing to keep the boat from swinging around at anchor. Before he managed to explain their purpose, the trailer, on our left, blew out a tire, throwing rubber all over. Despite the traffic, I managed to hit the brakes soon and hard enough to allow it to cross in front of us onto the right shoulder without causing any further damage, to themselves or others, so far as we could see before starting up again. Steve thinks they lost the wheel too by the time they stopped.

Our trip, at least, was safe! Maybe tomorrow we'll start to unpack.

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