2018 California Vacation – Part 5

Thursday, August 9 – Montrose, CO to Lamar, CO

Today we just drove. We visited Black Canyon of the Gunnison last night which was our plan for today. We were so scared by the scenic drive and the overlooks so close to the edge of the canyon that we did not have the courage or the heart to go back this morning.

We slept in late which helped us a lot. We have had such fun that the rigors of this much travel hadn’t really bothered us but now it seems to be catching up with us. We were hoping that today’s drive would not be too bad because we knew that we would be driving out of the Rockies and into more of the high plains.

Colorado is so decidedly different from Utah. Both have mountains and majestic views but Colorado is green, and trees and grass are back in the landscape. It is a bit restful after all the golds, reds, and purples and harsh peaks of Utah. We still had some tricky driving though the road was very good and there were often 3 lanes with the extra for slower cars on the climbing side. Still, these Iowa drivers took sharp curves and switchbacks more slowly than some others on the road. We often pulled over for them to pass.

We were relieved when we reached Canyon City with interstate driving and flatter terrain. [Butch here, now we are safe and sound on flat land again, I have to say that I REALLY, REALLY HATE driving in the mountains. I did practically all the driving and the twisty up and down mountain roads with hairpin turns, switchbacks and shear drops had a terrifying and extremely fatiguing effect on me. The thing I hated the most was a sharp left-hand turn on a 8% downhill plummet with the mountain on the left. One lapse in concentration could have you pulling a Thelma and Louise with a 1000 foot drop.] Lamar is a typical small Colorado town. I did a Google Maps search for attractions and really only came up with a statue of the Modonna of the Trail. So you will have a picture to look at, here she is.

Madonna of the Trail

We found a Thai restaurant for dinner. I loved the fresh vegetables but Butch hadn’t missed them at all. We looked out the window while we were eating and noticed the Lamar Amtrak Railroad Station. We took a trip on the California Zephyr a few years ago, but it went through Denver. I wonder what route goes through Lamar.

Lamar, CO Amtrak Station

Friday, August 10 – Lamar, CO to Wichita, KS

We had a drive of about 5 1/2 hours today and was a piece of cake compared to mountain driving. We crossed the border into western Kansas and things started looking more like home. One difference is huge cattle lots along the highway with hundreds of cattle in multiple pens. It looks like this is where US beef comes from!

We passed the driving time with a book on tape. Today we were listening to a Virgil Flowers book by John Sanford. We thought about stopping in Dodge City but pretty much all of the attractions there are connected up into the Boot Hill Museum which looked pretty cheesy overall with fake gunfights etc. We decided to give it a pass.

We were slowed down on the road at one point where only one lane traffic was allowed. We saw this really strange traffic light contraption that deserved to be recorded in our blog. I wonder what one of those costs.

Strange traffic Light Thingy

We found a Frank Lloyd Wright House near our hotel in Wichita so decided to take a look. It was the Allan Lambe house and was one of the last Prairie  Style houses he designed. It is a style we particularly like but we arrived after closing time and only got to see the outside.

Frank Lloyd Wright Home in Wichita

It is clear that our travels are winding down. We checked into our hotel and ordered a pizza. We had been hankering for one for several days now.

Saturday, August 11 – Wichita, KS to HOME!!!

We were pretty eager to get on the road so we left an hour earlier than we planned. Butch drove virtually the whole way to California and back as far as Wichita. It was definitely time for him to have a break. Our hotel was right next to the interstate so we thought it would be easy to get on our way. Unfortunately, there was a huge rebuilding project going on and we made several wrong turns and finally followed some crazy directions from our Garmin to get going the right way. Since we had to drive on streets parallel to the interstate, she thought we were already on it. Her directions were contradictory and confusing.

When we finally got underway we tuned into our audio book, another Virgil Flowers book by John Sanford. Then it was just drive, drive, drive for hours and hours. Kansas looks more like Nebraska than Iowa so it still didn’t feel like home. At Kansas City we turned north on I 35 toward Des Moines and then it did. It was great to see rolling fields of corn and soy beans and lots of green.

We drove for almost 8 hours which was our longest on the whole trip. We arrived home and started the job of unpacking and doing lots of laundry. The big payoff was sleeping in our own bed.

This was our longest road trip and overall we did well. We had lots of fun, only got a little cranky with each other a couple of times. We  saw amazing sights, so many that they almost became commonplace. We are creakier physically as the years go by but we usually only drove about 5 hours in a day which was manageable. It was an amazing experience and we have lots of pictures to help us remember.

Butch here. In some ways, this vacation was an experiment. Our last 3 big vacations were all US roadtrips. The one to Washington DC was 10 days long. The one to Yellowstone was 12 days long and the one to the Grand Canyon was also 12 days. We have also had several shorter road trips of a week or less. This trip was for 20 days. It was sort of a test of our endurance. We thought the earlier road trips might not have been long enough. This trip was definitely a little too long. We like these roadtrips because we can drive right up and only have to walk a short distance to what we want to see. This is an important consideration since our various joints have started to become undependable. We would still like to travel internationally but having public transportation near our accommodations and the sights we want to see would be an absolute necessity. We were able to make that happen when we went to France and Holland. Both of those vacations also had a roadtrip experience. A roadtrip in England is not so far fetched. My aunts and cousins all live outside London which I have seen many times before. We would also like to have another train journey. The Empire Builder route from Chicago to Seattle is one we have our eye on. We would need to do some very careful planning for that because of Amtrak’s peculiar pricing policies. Given all that, you are probably not off the hook for reading these blogs for a while yet.


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6 Responses to 2018 California Vacation – Part 5

  1. Jenny says:

    Amazing adventure – very brave! Enjoyed reading of your ups and downs and the incredible sights you saw. Certainly enjoying life while you can ..Keep it up ! Lots of love and admiration Jenny xx

    • Karen says:

      Thanks, Jenny. We did have the tiniest bit of apprehension just before we started out but we had so much fun that we forgot about it most of the time. The scariest bit was mountain roads. Iowa is flat with nice rolling hills so that is what we are used to. We are so glad we went and are trying to have our adventures while we can.

  2. Sue says:

    Glad you’re back safe and sound. I hear you on the 8% grades. Drove that twice; Flagstaff to Sedona and coming into Salt Lake City. Did not like either.
    I keep hearing about the Mendocino Complex fire. Is that where you were?

    • Butch says:

      I’m not sure exactly where the Mendicino fire was. We saw a little bit of smoke off in the distance as we came in, but it didn’t bother us in any way.

  3. Karen says:

    I think the Mendocino fire is actually north of the town of Mendocino which has the same name as the county. The big news fire while we were in California was the Karr Fire which was the biggest of all and near the northern border….But climate change is not real, as you know!

  4. Doug says:

    Great adventure! You were brave to go for 20 days… it would have been long for us, too. We are also planning car trips like this with my mobility limits in mind. You must have driven through Gunnison and then very close to our beloved ranch on the Montrose => Lamar day. We have been over Monarch Pass 50+ times on our Colorado trips. Looking forward to more photos and Tales of the Road. Glad you are home safely, enjoying your own bed, hopefully bedbug and tick free, and back to your own cooking. Time for some rest….

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