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COLORADO TRIP 2007 ----------------
August 12 to August 30, 2007 by Don Kleczynski
Hobby work for both Joan and myself (sewing for Joan, woodworking for a neighbor with catalog business for me) snowballed for us beginning early July after most of the year in a slow down mode of work pressures. So much to do in preparation for a trip to our Colorado family, that has to start Sunday August 12. Hobby work to complete, items for the trip to buy, pack the items, pack our needs, get the pickup and trailer ready, and still have time to enjoy a great visit from a couple of wonderful grandchildren from Michigan August 6 to the 10th. And so we do! And so we did!
August 12th arrived on schedule and we too are on schedule with everything done and accounted for. A restless nightís sleep in anticipation of the coming day, prepared us to wake the alarm clock, have a quick breakfast, and get the show on the road by 5:45 am. We are out of Hubbard onto Hwy 99E to Oregon City to pick up I-205, and itís connection to our main traveling route of I-84 East through the scenic Columbia River Gorge. The Gorge is always a beautiful drive and this day equally so even with the sun shining into our eyes most of the way through, as it rises on this new day. Nevertheless, the post of the pickupís door frame and window visor ease the directness and allows seeing the wonders of this region. Tall fir trees line the area until Hood River before relinquishing to a sparseness of trees and eventually to the brown and barren hills beyond The Dalles. We have already passed Vista House sitting on Crown Pointís jutted-out rock formation 2000 feet above I-84 and the Columbia River , and also having passed the famous Multnomah Falls and itís incredible free waterfall from the sheer basaltic rock cliffs, and also Bonneville Dam and itís great impoundment for hydroelectric power. The Dalles and John Day Dams also passed before reaching the confluence of the Deschutes River with the Columbia where there is always 20 or more fishing boats waiting for something in the water to snare on those threads dangling from a pole.
Onward we travel through much bleaker landscape until nearing Boardman where we pass 5 road miles of nurtured trees to be harvested for paper pulp, on an eight year cycle, that stretches far beyond our vision in length! Green, agricultural lands raise our hopes for a few miles before the return of barren hills that extends beyond Pendleton towards LaGrande. Nine road miles up Cabbage Hill out of Pendleton challenges our rig to the summit before giving us respite in the glories of tall fir trees to beyond LaGrande. More desolate terrain to Baker City and another agricultural area. From there itís up more hills and more desolation for 100 miles to Ontario before sporadic greenery again commences.
We are into Boise at 2:30 pm. and a second refill for our thirsty Jimmy on still this first day of travel. More brown, desolate hills and terrain await us along I-84, past Mountain Home, and on to Twin Falls where we find our customary camp site at the KOA campground. The time is 5:00 pm. PDT, 6:00 pm. MDT where we now are after 11 1/4 hours, 588 miles. The weather has been in the 90 - 100* range and still pretty warm this evening. The camping trailer air conditioner got itís work done!
Our second day out (Monday August 13th) comes an hour earlier than at home, but we are up to the task and on the road by 6:45 am. MDT. Seven miles of desolation before the vast agricultural area of Twin Falls with a tremendous number of irrigation sprinklers aglow in the early morning sun. Such a beautiful sight to behold of water pouring forth itís bounty on crops of alfalfa, pinto beans, sugar beets, potatoes, limited grain varieties and these greater acreages of corn being grown this year, through these 35 highway miles of such a lush growing area. A few huge dairy operations of several hundred milk cows are seen along our route. More desert and desolation follows for another 150 miles before Tremonton, Utah and another agricultural area of mostly alfalfa hay fields. A welcome relief!! Jimmy in need of a refill, as we are also, as we come into Willard (near Brigham City) before tackling the 100 mile run through Ogden, Salt Lake City, Provo and to Spanish Forks. The Salt Lake City corridor we survived, cruising the 3 to 5 lane freeways at 65 mph while the local traffic zoomed by at 75. It is noon, lunch stop at Burger King in Spanish Forks where we exit I-15 to Hwy 6 to take us over Soldier Pass at itís 7477 foot summit elevation. We then drop through canyons of sheer cliffs and into Price, Utah before the final 60 miles of this 130 miles of two lane highway with numerous passing lanes before connecting with I-70 into Green River and then into Grand Junction another 110 miles. Green River is always the hottest spot on our trip. No greenery to be seen as the famous melon growing areas are off highway. Israel melon is one variety grown here and is the most luscious and juiciest ever eaten. The drawback of it being it doesnít ripen until last of August so canít take it on East, and is too tender to keep more that a couple days for traveling on homebound. We eat fast and truly enjoy, but sorrow in not able to bring along for others to so relish!!
We have traveled many miles of desolate landscape on this journey but have not been bored, as when least expected, another small cove, another small valley has been found by some fortunate person to farm the land, regardless of the difficulty presented! Cattle, alfalfa, and some grain crops sustain these people isolated by miles from their neighbors, by miles from the nearest town, by several more miles from a city!! Irrigation is needed for alfalfa although much of the grain crops are dry-farmed across these hills, looking too treacherous for equipment.
We have connected with I-70 at Green River, UT where we marvel at the tall rim rock cliffs abounding for miles and miles. Flat crowned mesa tops and the sheer mountain sides of rim rock amazing, yet tantalizing. The bases are of sloping terrain from the erosion of the walls over the centuries. We have another 100 miles of desolate country to Grand Junction, Colorado where we have scheduled an overnight stop at the State Park and Campground in Fruita, Colorado, a few miles west of Grand Junction. We would normally turn off of I-70 towards Delta and Hotchkiss onto Hwy 50 at Grand Junction, but we are warned of Hwy construction so opt a turn off at Clifton farther east, then swing around the east and south of Grand Junction. The Fruita campground immaculately kept and an enjoyable stop for us this day at 5:00 pm. although only 513 miles. The weather cooling, thunder clouds and rain approaching. Several lightening bolts, couple drops of rain, but only two of those really noisy thingys to shake these travelers!!! We are alongside the towering hills of the Colorado National Monument with itís beautifully variable, red rock colorings, pinnacles of slender formations with their balancing rocks of greater size atop. A 23 mile paved road winds through this Monument high above the rich agricultural area of Fruita, and itís neighboring countryside. We have traveled those 23 miles three other times, so pass on doing so this trip.
Another 18 miles to Clifton this Tuesday morning, then 50 miles to Delta for re-stocking the trailerís grocery store before traveling the next 22 miles to our daughter and family out of Hotchkiss. We call ahead as we travel through the 10 blocks of the small town of Hotchkiss and local farming area, loop the highway to their home, honking the horn in exuberance as we pass along the loop so they can monitor our progress. Just two more miles to enter their long driveway where their dog rushes to greet us again this year with the greatest of smiles and greatest of excitement as if knowing who we are. Aye, but this is only the dog!! The excitement, joy, hugs, and re-acquaintance so longed for of family, is by far the most rewarding and the most thrilling that we could possibly hope for, could possibly experience!!!! The long hours of driving, the long days of the past year, have been richly rewarded by such a wonderfully happy re-union!!
The time is about 10:30 am. so plenty of time to find the good stuff the trailer has been hauling these many miles. Grandma always packs every nook and cranny in the trailer and now each surrenders exciting treasures that many eager hands quickly transfer into the house to be enjoyed by everyone together. Winter coats found at Goodwill and from local garage sales all in nearly new condition, school supplies for the home schooling, clothes of various sorts, and of course the edible treats that only a Grandma can find, and hide, within this trailer for the youngsters of unquenchable appetites!!
We spend this first day (Tuesday 8/14) just visiting with the family at home and await the older boyís days end from their jobs; meanwhile locating an un-hitch spot for our camping trailer. Took awhile before actual visiting could commence with all the excitement of treasures brought. This is a family of nine children, ranging in age from six to twenty-five. Sam (22 yrs old) married in 2005, Jonathan (21 yrs) set to marry October 20th of 2007. The oldest, Jeff (25 yrs), seriously considering in the near future?? Katie (18 yrs) graduated from high school this Spring and is currently job searching, hoping to find something other than the seasonal plant Nursery work she has been doing the past years. The younger kids of working age, continually find ready odd jobs from neighbors for which each of the older kids set the standards of dependable hard workers. We take our woodworking tools along each trip for home repairs and each year we have the next child in line to eagerly help and gain some experience during this short time. Josiah (15 yrs) and Ryan (13) were my main men this trip, although Reneí (11 yrs) is pushing for her help time now too!! Rebecca (9 yrs) and Isaac (6 yrs) waiting in the wings!
On Wednesday, Joan and I took Bill (husband) to his dialysis treatment in Montrose, 50 miles distance as we needed to pick up repair supplies there since there is no lumberyard in Hotchkiss (2 miles) and the one in Delta (22 miles) requests too many dollars! Itís a pleasant and scenic drive to Montrose, and so an enjoyable trip although it takes most of the day. Work starts tomorrow, but this work is rewarding in accomplishment and in teaching the young help a little about carpentry and just fixing. Besides, sitting around doing nothing gets pretty boring.
Evenings are for visiting and many of those evenings the two girl friends (they are sisters), occasionally Sam and Anna, and often too, Billís Uncle Glen would come to visit and have supper together. How great for us to be treated as such royalty, and to have such great times together with everyone!!
These Colorado trips have also come to be an exchanging of gifts, since we canít be together at Christmas. Saturday (8/18) was the first time all could be together so an appropriate time for a barbecue and an opening of gifts. Yes, that trailer still had hidden chambers reserved just for these gift wrapped presents. A great time, so thoroughly enjoyed by each and all. But who was it that gave me this coffee mug with a painting by Norman Rockwell of a boy and a guitar singing loudly to his girl friend in the background? The girl pictured? She has her hands clasped really tightly over her ears. Fitting gift for me?? To check out my singing response one evening after an afternoon barbecue at Sam and Annaís, Joan, I and Reneí returning in our pickup, I gathered my best voice in song and serenaded them Ö briefly!!! Yeah, briefly as they couldnít stand it very long and begged me to wait until we got home so I could stand out in the pasture alone and bay at the moon along with the local coyotes. Sometimes I gottaí wonder if anyone appreciates good singing!! Thought I could fit right in with the present recording singers but guess Iím still ahead of my time!!!
Our first Sunday (8/19) we journeyed the 15 miles to Crawford Reservoir and itís State Park picnic areas where we always have a great time: to sometimes walk the nature path along the lake and enjoy the wonderful views from there, but this time, for the kids to launch their rubber rafts or to swim in these cool waters. I did neither as me and wilderness water havenít come to terms again yet!! At our first arrival there that day, dark rain clouds and wind nearly drove us back home. Luckily, before we could turn around, the weather changed to sun and calm and warm while those black clouds with the sheets of rain circled around us, over the surrounding mountains. Other years we have a wiener roast in the provided barbecuing stands at this park, but this day, the fire danger too great and such doings not allowed. The reservoir level is only down somewhat from itís record high of last year and so a gracious scenic area again for us this time. For a number of years the water level so low as to wonder how it could even be so considered a lake or a reservoir with only a trickling river supplying!
Jonathan and Patricia found a duplex house to rent while we were in Colorado, as their first home after their wedding. This about a mile off the highway, up a private gravel road serving three other residences, around a corner with a long drop off. The house sits on a mesa about 300 feet high overlooking alfalfa fields, the Gunnison River, and a view back to Delta maybe 7-10 miles distant. What a great view but what a long way down if you tripped!! Backyard about 8 feet wide before 80* slope down to the valley. Their side of duplex is a two bedroom with regular other rooms. Rooms not too large but certainly a nice unit with carpeting throughout. A really great place, except for the one corner on the drive up!! Joan and I expect to drive out by car for the October 20th wedding.
Some type of minor problems seem to have arisen the last few trips. Either blown tire, tire near to blow, a blown out road home causing a steep hill-climb detour, or this year a rear-end collision causing us a bent-down rear bumper. No one hurt but itís good we have a 5th wheel trailer instead of a pull behind. We are able to wait for repairs in Oregon. This year too, a kink in my back during the middle of the second week really slowed me to a snail pace so a couple jobs had to be delegated to Laurie and a good helper Ryan. Josiah too, got a severe back problem , plus a nose bleed requiring an emergency hospital visit to Delta 20 miles away one evening. A few other aches and headaches during our stay, but thankfully, everyone recovering in due course!!
One evening with all family present, Sam and Anna put on a couple most hilarious skits that kept everyone laughing in stitches. They even got Joan and I involved. They expected us to follow their exercising routines of limber joints. We donít have limber joints, guys!! Sam and Anna are a great team, always coming up with comic routines they work at together. Sam has great talent as a painting artist and as a musician (self taught on the key board and a composure of music). Iím one up on him though. He canít sing!! Each of the kids have amazing talents of their own and use them as their hobbies and self entertainment
Eventually the time comes all too soon for our homebound. One last picnic with everyone present except Uncle Glen at Confluence Park in Delta that Sunday noon (8/26) before we motored to Green River, UT for our first night of the home stretch. This is a beautiful park of great size around a man-made lake of sculptured design and enjoyable settings. The lawns a luxuriously green and mowed to perfection. Picnic tables with covered shelter offer respite from a glaring sun. Ducks and geese prance along waters edge or swim in this mirrored lake, creating rippling wakeís in their progress! Sunny and warm, as all the days have been this trip, although several times of threatening.
Time and life canít be stalled further. Time for hugs and goodbyes. Time for weeping and for sorrow of leaving, but rejoice in knowing we will meet again in October. But now, we must get on down the road in hopes of an extra night to camp in a forest campground out of Burns, Oregon on our way home. Labor Day weekend is at the end of this week of our trip, and we must be home before then! Our first night at Green River, the second at Twin Falls, and the third and fourth at Delintment Lake out of Burns. We travel the 45 miles into the forested hills to the lake and find to our amazement, the most ideal camp site in the whole campground has been left just for us!! We are within site of the lake and an easy carry down of our inflatable kayaks to the waters edge. This is only the second time out with these kayaks but we learned previously how to lumber our stiff jointed bodies into these scoot about balloons once they are on the water. We still watch that we arenít being watched during these maneuvers!! No one would be tempted to call us ďGraceĒ!! We only launched our ďshipsĒ in the evenings when the sun has lowered the heat of itís rays. Other years we had a raft but have found a great deal more enjoyment rowing these kayaks and found them to be much easier to do so. Halleluiah for me, as I am now my own Captain and my own motor instead of being just the motor!! A big plastic bag for my leg kept the water safely away this time. We paddled the breadth of this 75 acre lake without fear, in these stable crafts. Our new of life jackets, of fashionable designs, would keep me afloat anyway, even for the rock that I am!! Both mornings we are up to enjoy the first glimpses of the sun shining through the tall pine trees around us, shinning across the lake and the wisps of fog at waters surface, shinning with the promise of another glorious day.
August 30th we are on our final leg home through Prineville, Sisters, Detroit, Salem, and then into Hubbard, arriving about 2:00 pm. The next day we learn of the thunder and lightening storm in our camping area during the afternoon and into the next day. 7900 lightening strikes recorded in the Central Oregon region during those 24 hours, eight fire starts. We left Green River on the front edge of a heavy rain storm that lasted for 35 miles towards Price, UT. and now ahead of another storm. Otherwise the days were warm to hot. 89* at home this day felt more like the 100* of Utah and Colorado!!
We were Blessed by missing any severe weather along our route and during our stay in Colorado. We were Blessed that the fender bender wasnít severe and that no one was hurt. We were Blessed to have a great visit with family and acquaintances there and that we accomplished most of the tasks slatted this year. We were Blessed that no vehicle breakdowns to delay our travel occurred. And we were Blessed that aches and pains incurred, were not long lasting or severe to seek medical help. Yes, we have received untold Blessings through each trip, through each day, through each year. We graciously accept these Blessings and give untold Thanks every day that we have been so granted!! May you too find the Peace and Joy in your lives that Joan and I have found in these later years of ours!!