Goodbye, Trailer. Hello, Winter

I need to write about the last month before it all fades away into the black hole I tend to get in my memory.

We had driven from Houston to San Antonio, where we stayed for three days with my best friend from high school, Anne Marie, and her husband, Harry.  They had a buddy who was interested in buying our travel trailer but who ultimately had to decline due to the quickly approaching Christmas holiday.  Understandable.  We still came out ahead since we were able to enjoy a very nice and unhurried visit with our friends.  But we had to get going to stay on schedule, so left and made our way towards El Paso, across the bottom of New Mexico and into Arizona.

A view out the truck window at Juarez from the U. S. side

Neither Robert nor I had ever seen saguaro cactus in real life…they are a trip, with their “hands” in the air, big as trees.  We would love to come back and take pictures with them, but since we were actually in a bit of a hurry by then to sell the trailer and they don’t grow to the north of Phoenix, where Prescott is located, we had to pass them by.  Unfortunately for Moonlight, another thing that grows down there is grass that produces caltrops-like burrs that stabbed and stuck to her paws.  Every time we stopped for her to go potty, she stepped on a few, even on the sidewalks.  She was most unhappy.

Put your hands in the air, like you just don’t care!

Robert had made an advertisement for the trailer on Craigslist while we were still in Texas, so he started getting texts and calls about it a couple of days before we even arrived at our friend Sue’s house.

Robert in our very clean trailer, ready to show to prospective buyers.

We wound up selling it to a young guy with a little family who wanted to park it out on his lake property.  Cool beans!  We lined up a uhaul rental trailer for our return trip back to Alaska and managed to transfer our entire household’s belongings into the compact 4×6 space and the back of the excursion.  Robert packed it in such a way that it would be easy(-er) to offload some furniture I wanted to give to my eldest daughter, as we would be stopping by again to see her, the grandkids, and my son in Grand Junction.

The Electric Igloo going off with her new family. I hope they love her as much as we did.

While staying with Sue and her husband, we also were able to meet with Joe and Bobby, also from Anchorage, and have a nice dinner out, all together.  Being involved with the Chugach Gem and Mineral Society has brought us some wonderful friends.  Good times, indeed.  Sue took us to a really cool junk shop near her house, where I picked up a sad-looking trumpet for $25.  Not entirely certain why or what I’m going to do with it but I used to play in middle school, so I bought it.

Of course we HAD to stop here!

After saying goodbye to Sue, we headed on to Durango, Colorado where we stayed a very pleasant night with our friend Rose, who used to be an antique dealer and whose lovely home is full of interesting curiosities and brimming with beautiful artifacts.  Just the kind of place that gets a couple of collector’s such as ourselves’ hearts beating faster, and in such gorgeous surroundings!  We both are anxious to return to the southwest area of Colorado someday soon.

Instead of taking the more direct route of Highway 550 north from Durango to Montrose, Colorado, we opted to stay out of danger from avalanches and a lack of guardrails and go up and around into Utah through Moab.  What an interesting place.

Decent into the Moab area

There were orange sandstone formations, including an obligatory arch, waves and ripples and humps of stone.  Another place we intend to investigate more thoroughly in the future, by jeep, if at all possible.

I don’t know what this is but there’s a hole at the bottom

 

There’s a hole in this one, too

A short visit with Josh and his girlfriend over dinner, then on to secure a hotel room before meeting with Katie to give her a little round antique table and hope chest that had belonged to my Grandmother DeRuiter.  I would have liked to have brought them up to Alaska with us but there are already two chests in this house.  Besides, Katie needs more room for hope right now, so I lovingly turned the heirlooms over to her.  The next day we were scheduled to leave on our trip north, but little Erabella had been sick that night so Katie and the kids stayed home and we visited a little more.  We left Grand Junction around noon and took I-70 west towards Salt Lake City, Utah.

The entire corridor from Provo through SLC to Ogden must have used to have been so incredibly beautiful, set in between two mighty and picturesque rows of mountain ranges as it is, but now is so built up with ugly beige buildings, businesses and subdivisions that it’s hard to see the appeal to warrant such sprawl.  A thin but noticeable brown cloud of pollution hung over it all.  We both really dislike having to go through mile after mile of intense traffic, but once you get through it into Idaho, a deep sigh has usually dispelled the aversion.

The ‘burbs of Salt Lake City, Utah

We had radio to listen to and cell service, however, and we learned that there was a winter storm barreling down from the northwest which we were on course to intercept unless we tried to race it and get into Montana that night.  We debated whether to chance spending the night in Pocatello, Idaho or try to get over the passes before the storm got worse.  Being the navigator at that point, I suggested we try slipping over before the worst of the storm hit the passes, and Robert agreed.  So we drove that night until we got to Dillon, Montana where we got a room and slept in a bit that next morning.

The last leg of our epic road trip was nigh; Montana through Canada to Anchorage.  In three days in the dead of winter.

Ramble On

After spending almost two weeks in Colorado, we woke up this morning with chilled toes and cold noses, the rest of us being ensconced within our layers of flannel and wool.  It had been warm during the days, well into the 60’s, and only recently dropping into the 30’s at night, but last night hovered close to freezing temps.  Time to move on to our next destination, Texas.

While spending time with family here on the Western Slope we had also taken a weekend trip to my old stomping grounds of Colorado Springs, on the Front Range.  Here we spent time with my good friend, Jennifer and her boyfriend, Taylor, and drove around like tourists looking for yard sales in Old Colorado City and Manitou Springs.  Robert enjoyed the many fine examples of neon workmanship announcing the presence of dining rooms and motels, and some not so fine remains of what had been beautiful signs that had been allowed to rust and decay.  I had some issues finding my way around town since some landmarks have been replaced by new growth, but by the end of our stay I was getting my bearings again.

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Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep on the way to Colorado Springs on Hwy 50

Our trip had another purpose, and that was for us to reconnaissance a possible suitable route through the mountains.  The last time we had come to Grand Junction to visit, we took Highway 50 over Monarch Pass on our way to Texas.  This is a daunting idea with such a heavy trailer, especially after our experience with the Pink Mountain Debacle.  Long and steep is the approach to the pass, with many curves, and the off side is brutal on brakes.  I used to visit my Dad when he lived near Crestone in the San Luis Valley and I would take a less traveled road which I remembered had more gradual grades and a lower altitude pass, Highway 114.  So we checked it out on our way to the Springs, sans trailer, and it seems to be our path of choice.  We’ll head south through the San Luis Valley and over towards Raton Pass, another area of concern, but after that we’ll be on (mostly/comparatively) flat land.  The caveat being, we need to leave before any precipitation hits those mountain passes, because if it gets snowy and icy, we’ll need to go through Utah and down to Arizona instead.  So far, so good…fingers crossed!

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A view of South Park from Wilkerson Pass on Hwy 24

After our visit, we took a different route going back to Junction, taking Highway 24 through South Park and meeting up with I-70 at Minturn.  Just outside of Minturn is the abandoned mining town of Gilman, where we stopped to take some pics.  I reckon the stream flowing below the mine has got some placer gold in’t.

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Gilman. I’d pan that.

There was another couple also at the pull off, who asked where in Alaska we were from (our license plates are a conversation piece, we’ve found!) and we told them and lo and behold, they were from Alaska originally and just moved down here a couple years ago!  I didn’t get their names but the guy is a two time Iditarod musher.  Yeah, because who else do you meet on a secondary road pull off, but an Alaskan musher?  Sorry, guy.  I wish I had asked yall’s names!

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Mushers gonna mush

Yesterday, we went grocery shopping and sanitized our freshwater tank, today we’ve rinsed and filled the tank with good Colorado water and I’ll be packing up for an early departure in the morning.  We’ve both had such a good time in Colorado, it seems a shame to leave.  We’ve had fun spending time with our little grandchildren and the kids, as well as with friends.  However, the nip in the air is undeniable, and there will be Thanksgiving dinner with Robert’s family in a couple of weeks, so it’s time to ramble on.

Thinking the Unthinkable

Right now we have a problem, and I’m trying to stay positive despite it, but losing ground fast.  We had set out on this journey to have an epic adventure, which if you’ve been following us, know we’ve been getting it in spades.  What we have not gotten so much of is that stuff you need to have to buy fuel, food and electricity….money, which we had planned on making by buying fun little things that we could pick up for cheap and sell on ebay and also fit into a flat rate box.  If it fits, it ships, right?  Unfortunately we’ve been finding very large things for cheap, like $50 antique console radios and $40 vintage gas stoves, etc.  Really great stuff that some elbow grease would make beautiful and useful again but would have to be carted around with us for weeks or months until we could bring them to a more marketable city or even bring back with us to Alaska.

I think we’ve done a pretty good job of not being overly extravagant with our eating habits but it continues to be our greatest expense.  I had been careful to pack as much as our fridge and freezer could hold but since coming back into the lower 48, I haven’t been as diligent about keeping the larder stocked.  I find myself in a cycle of running low on supplies, then not replenishing our stocks due to financial concern, to then not having any prime pantry items and winding up going out to eat, resulting in spending twice as much (at least).  So, having identified the issue, I know what I need to do to correct it.  The wolf isn’t at the door but I’ve heard him around 3 am, howling in the neighboring pasture we’re camped out by.

So with these factors weighing down on us, we’re starting to consider selling our abode either before we leave Grand Junction in a couple of weeks or after we get down to Houston where my in-laws live.  I’m confident that our fortunes will change for the better after we get down to Texas, so the question now is, Will it make better sense to keep it to live in even though we can’t get it to the farms and into neighborhoods where our bread and butter lies?  (See Robert’s post all about this very subject here:  http://www.novioljourneys.com/?p=293)  Or should we cut our losses and get a couple thousand dollars from the sale of it and start anew with something smaller?  We truly love and feel comfortable in the Electric Igloo but perhaps we should downsize even further to something more maneuverable and economical to tow.  I think we’ll begin to have a clearer picture of what we ought to do in a few days.

On a happier note, we’ve been spending precious time making memories with our grandchildren, Bella who is 3 1/2, and Bo who is 2.  They are busy and fun, but Grandma and Grandpa know that their own child rearing days are over.  We are exhausted.  But so, so happy.  Relieved to be able to have our own peace and quite afterwards certainly, but happy.  See?  I feel hopeful again already.