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Tuesday, May 11th 2010

10:07 PM

Vacation Day 10

Today we had our typical continental breakfast provided by the motel and then started for Mesa Verde.  We weren't at all prepared for what we found there.  First, once inside the front gate, we drove 15 miles to get to the visitors center.  There we were at an elevation of about 8,000 feet with temperatures around 50 degrees and winds gusting to about 40mph.  Inside the park rangers spoke to each visitor or group of visitors individually to explain some of the possible activities with the park.  A couple of the tours we figured would be too strenuous for Sue to handle.  Besides, she certainly does not like to be on a ladder and that would have been a requirement.  So we opted for a few of the self-guided activities.  The first was a visit to a place in the park named Spruce Tree house.  It was constructed by the Anasazi in a natural cave in the early 1200s and contains about 114 rooms and eight Kivas.  They say it was home for about 100 people.  But I wonder why 100 people would build 114 rooms.  It seems to me that there would have been more people there than that.  Some of the rooms were store rooms, but still ...

There was also a very good museum there with displays regarding their pottery, their hunting, their farming, their clothing, and certainly their architecture.

Other ruins we visited there were remains of earlier buildings built in the 900s AD

This is called a pit house.  It was usually a rectangular pit with poles at the corners to hold up a roof made of small branches and covered with adobe.  The round depression in the floor was the fire pit.  The entrance was through a hole in the roof, usually pretty much directly over the fire pit.


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Monday, May 10th 2010

9:39 PM

Vacation Day 9

We slept late today.  We stayed in our motel room until almost noon.  We just needed some extra time to recover from Sunday.  After getting some coffee, we went to another dinosaur museum.  It was a nice little community museum with some interesting displays.  Sue stills like these triceratops best (you can tell from her smile)

There were also three Permian trees here.  The Permian period is earlier than the dinosaur time and there are only about six trees from that period known in the entire world and three of them were here.  They look like wood, but feel like stone.

From there, we started for Cortez, CO, just outside of Mesa Verde National Park.  Along the way we spotted the sign for Hovenweep National Monument.  So we headed out across the hillsides to see this place.  These are ruins of the ancient people of this area.  Very old.  Most of the buildings seen here were constructed in the early 1200s. 

Notice how this tower stands on top of a big old boulder.  That rectangular opening is the door.  Now, imagine how you would get into it.  Why would they build a tower there on that boulder like that?? How would they get into it??  Why would they spend so much time creating such a tower, fitting the stones together so well that they hold up for 800 years?? And then what ever happened to the people that built it??

Here's another building that shows what must be have been a series of peep holes.  It seems that often holes like these would line up with the movement of the sun to track the equinoxes and the soltices. 

What an interesting and mysterious place.  We were glad we took the time to stop.


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Sunday, May 9th 2010

10:24 PM

Vacation Day 8

Sunday we checked out of our room at Green River, UT, and made our way to the Arches National Park.  I told Sue I thought we might spend four hours there. She thought she would get bored to death way before that. 

One of the first views we had upon leaving the visitors center was like this.

That is a four lane highway visible across the photo with a semi moving through there.  This is called the Moab Fault.  I'm not sure how to gauge the height of that wall across there.  It has to be at least 300 or 400 feet high.  And it stretches for miles along the highway.  It isn't always that great a height from the highway to the top of the fault.

The first viewpoint on the drive through the park was named Park Avenue.  There we were greeted by sights like this.

Again the sizes of these views just cannot be understood from these tiny photos.  But if you look very, very closely in this photo you will detect a group of at least five people.

A few viewpoints later we found this balancing rock... The wind was blowing like crazy while we were there, like it was trying to move it.  It did succeed in blowing off people's hats.  I caught mine just as it lifted off.  But that rock didn't budge even a little bit.

Sue thought this park was rather like Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs, but only many, many times larger.  Of course, there were also quite a few stone arches, such as Landscape Arch seen in this photo.

Turns out Sue didn't get as bored as she expected.  It was about eight hours before we left the park and drove to a small town called Blanding, UT, for the night.

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Sunday, May 9th 2010

7:47 AM

Vacation Day 7 Part II

I'm getting behind in my entries here.  For some reason I can't always get my laptop to access the internet, even when it claims it has an internet connection ....  ??? 

Saturday we went to a state park in Utah named Goblin Valley.  I first heard of it when in Utah briefly back in 2003.  It was the site where some of the movie Galaxy Quest was filmed.  It you remember the portion of the movie when they were on another planet where there were giant rock monters.  That was filmed there.  Those rock formations, referred to as 'goblins' because of their spooky shapes, are just amazing.  (Similar formations are found in some other areas in much smaller quatities and are sometimes called 'hoo doos'.)

This one looks like a big mushroom.

I think that in the pictures they kind of look like big blobs of play-dough.

Doesn't this one look like some kind of animal or duck or something???

This picture show their real size compared to Sue.

Sue thought we would spend 20 minutes and be done and ready to leave, but walking around among the goblins was more fun than that and we ended up roaming around for at least two hours. 

It was still fairly early in the day, so we drove over to Moab, UT, after that and roamed through several of the souvenir shops.  By the time we finished that we were starting to get hungry, but decided to take Utah Scenic Byway 128 from Moab through the Colorado Riverway Recreation Area.  We were both glad we did even if it meant we wouldn't eat for about three hours.  The drive was indeed very scenic, with lots and lots of red rock.

Here is one vista that greeted us before we had gone very far along the way.

This picture shows the setting of a lodge along the Colorado called Red Cliff Lodge.  Look it up at www.RedCliffLodge.com.

By the time we got back to the Tamarisk for dinner it was after 8pm.  Fortunately they are open until 10pm and we had a great dinner buffet and fell asleep almost as soon as we got back to our motel room.

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Sunday, May 9th 2010

2:12 AM

Vacation Day 7

We had quite a day today.  We roamed south of Green River today and found some interesting sites.  Here are a couple sample photos.  Will have to wait till later for more.

This is our third and last night at Green River.
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Friday, May 7th 2010

11:34 PM

Vacation Day 6

We decided to find more dinosaur relics today... so, we headed out for the Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry.  Not only did it turn out to be a bit longer drive than we thought, more of the roads were unpaved than expected.  We drove 13 miles on dusty, dirt and gravel roads to get to the visitors center, which was actually quite nice.  But it definitely is way out in the middle of nowhere. In fact 'nowhere' would be significantly easier to get to.

But it was worth visiting.  Thousands of dino bones were found there in an area no larger than a quarter of a football field.  So far, no one has found a reason for so many bones to be in so small an area.  Not only were there so many bones, but they were in generally excellent condition while being spread out.  In other words the bones from one animal were not found together like the dinosaur would be in real life.  Rather the bones from one dinosaur were found spread all over the site.

Ths phono shows how a couple of the bones were found.

While there, we found out about a currently active dig site about 25 miles away and decided to go see it.  So we drove for another 45 minutes even further from 'nowhere' on dusty dirt roads to find this currently active dig site. 

There we were able to see dinosaur bones yet uncovered and talk with a paleontologist about the site and the process.

This photo shows bones still in the ground at the dig.

Here we can see the field jacket covering the vertebrae that were found still positioned like they were when the dinosaur was alive.  We also see a few of the tools used while digging.

The people involved in the dig were from the College of Eastern Utah which also has a prehistoric museum in Price.  So, we then found our way to Price, UT, and located their museum and went through it, too. 

We drove a total of 243 miles today.  From Green River to Price is about 65 miles.  There is nothing between the two towns, just wide open spaces.  We saw miles and miles of scenery like this photo.

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Thursday, May 6th 2010

11:09 PM

Vacation Day 5

We only drove a total of 143 miles today, but we did a lot of other things.

First, we visited a museum in Grand Junction, (Museum of Western Colorado).  Not a terribly impressive museum.  It did have a nice collection of handguns that originally belonged to well known people of the west, ie Wild Bill Hickok, Anne Oakley, etc.

Then, we visited another museum, actually a second location of the same museum, called Dinosaur Journey, in Fruita.  This was a pretty neat museum.  There were lots of dinosaur tracks.

There were all kinds of dinosaur bones here, from little six inch bones to big six foot ones.  There were about a half dozen dinosaur skeletons. 

There were also several dinosaur models, like this triceratops.

 These models were about life sized and made to look as much as possible like experts think they looked in real life.  Several of them even moved. 

There was also a paleontology lab, where we could see people working on various fossils.

After that we visited the Colorado National Monument. 

We thought we would only spend a short time there. 

But found that we had a hard time leaving, since the views were so dramatic and beautiful.

Then we drove to Green River, UT, for the night.  That was by far the most boring drive we've had so far.  From Fruita, CO, to Green River, UT, there was very little to be seen.  No trees.  No people, No buildings, No animals, And almost no vegetation.  Not even any mountains, at least I wouldn't call those geological formations mountains, just weird shaped things.  Not sure what to call them.

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Wednesday, May 5th 2010

10:45 PM

Vacation Day 4

Today's drive was shorter than other days have been, about 320 miles.  But it certainly was not less interesting.  I-70 between Denver and Grand Junction is a huge improvement over previous highways to cross the Continental Divide. 

  • The Eisenhower-Johnson tunnels at the Loveland Pass took 11 years to build (1968-1979) at an elevation around 11,100 feet.  These tunnels save about an hour on the drive across Colorado. 
  • When we crossed the Vail Pass, it was still like winter.  There was snow everywhere. 
  • And the stretch of highway through the Glenwood Canyon has quite an intersting history.  Construction of this 12 mile section of I-70 was begun in the 1960s, but was halted due to environmentalists protests.  It took about 30 years to resolve the controversy and the highway wasn't completed until Oct 1992.  Special blasting techniques had to be developed to prevent interference with the existing railroad.  It has the distinction of being the most costly rural freeway in the US.  The view through the canyon is fantastic. 
  • We also noticed interesting sights around Rulison, CO.  Turns out there was a nuclear test project there in 1969.  The DOE cleaned things up there pretty well.

We saw temperatures ranging from 46 to 81, too.  All in all - a fun day!!

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Tuesday, May 4th 2010

10:58 PM

Vacation Day 3

Spent the day hanging out around Aaron's place.  Sue wasn't feeling well this morning, so she didn't feel up to going anywhere.  We did find a Sinclair dinosaur sign and visit the Garden of the Gods briefly.  It was a very nice day, but quite breezy.  We were able to see the snow blowing around up on Pike Peak.  We had dinner with Aaron and Courtney at Ted's Bison Grill.  It's a very nice place and the bison burger was delicious. 

Here's Pike Peak:

Here you can see how the snow is blowing around:

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Monday, May 3rd 2010

10:05 PM

Vacation Day 2

Woke up to a sunny day in MO.  After a nice little breakfast in the lobby, we hit the road a bit earlier (according to local time) than yesterday.  Turns out we had 699 miles to cover today.  But we had the advantage of slightly higher speed limits.  The weather was very nice all day.  Temperature was about 73, with lots of sunshine.  Kansas is a wide, wide state, even wider than this photo.  Got to Aaron and Courtney's place about 8pm Colorado time

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