Colorado Trip 2008
by Don Kleczynski
|Click on any below pictures to view Don's spectacular photography. ~KR|
|Our annual Colorado trip is much earlier in the year than normal but this the only time to fit it in our summer schedule. Maybe that sounds kind of strange for people that have been retired for eleven years and had just celebrated our 50th Anniversary June 21. How could all our free time be so restrictive? It just seems to happen!
This year we opted for a slower paced journey to Hotchkiss, CO so that our aging Ď92 GMC pickup might have an extra day to enjoy the trip without getting fagged out each night, and be able to arrive more rested and refreshed. Each succeeding year itís taken an extra kick of the tires to get Jimmy up and at it the third day after two grueling 11 hour days of gulping the gas to pull the hills and sweating the heat. Itís taken a little more push power and some extra words from the driver this year to coax us up and over some of those hills that never seem to end. Jimmy coughed a couple times each day but prayers kept him eagerly going, knowing the great reception awaiting us at our daughterís from all the family.
Our first day out at 5:30 am. July 21st, beat Portlandís morning rush hour traffic and we sailed on out I-84 without problem and in record time. Jimmy was as anxious to begin this journey as we and he purred along through the scenic Columbia Gorge and got us to Pendleton without him being too thirsty. Good place anyway, to give him a shot of go juice before climbing the 9 mile Cabbage Hill mountain out of Pendleton that rises at a quick pace to make your ears pop at the top!
We opted to gas at Pendletonís Casino off exit 216 rather than normal stop off at exit 210 because they have always had cheaper gas prices. So far today everyone at $4.17 per gal. so figured we would beat that at the Casino. How did they know we were coming?? Gas at $4.26 per gal. Guess itís better left unsaid the words of my displeasure!
We are into our first stop-over at Farewell Bend State Campgrounds thirty miles north of Ontario by 2:00 pm. Pretty early in the day to shut down but nothing within range ahead to allow us to go on without making it an eleven hour day. Farewell Bend is a beautiful setting of gorgeous scenery of the tall, barren, brown-covered hills surrounding the Snake River that winds itís way through the canyon. Water level is much higher than we normally see, making the beauty of the area that much greater. We walked our way around the sprinkler systems until we find a sit down place in the shade along the riverís bank to contemplate our trip, our life, and enjoy natureís splendor!
Really hot here this day but the air conditioner in the trailer has the chance to cool us down some. Yes, it has the chance but the campsites have only 20 amp. service and not enough to run that and anything else. We couldnít sleep with the noise of the air conditioner anyway, so suffer in the heat. Thermometer placed outside said, ďLook at me, Iím still at 85* at 6:30 AM. Chose not to look but once!!
We are out by 7:45 the second morning with lots of time to re-fuel and make our way to Mountain Home by 10:30, the time scheduled to meet with a cousin for lunch at Pilot Truck Stop. I had never seen and only discovered her whereabouts a few years earlier. Our normal trip schedule doesnít allow for this stop, nor this time, but we were determined we could change the schedule enough to make it work this year. What a wonderful little gal, what a wonderful visit! How short one hour is to catch up on so many years of lives for each of us! Hard to leave in just one hour but this is a work day for her, and she will have sacrificed about 3 hours of her time to meet with us, since her job is 45 minutes away. Thank You very much!!!
It is only 11:30 so time enough to drive to Willard Bay State Campground near Brigham City, UT for the second night and still early enough to get our feet wet in the Great Salt Lake. We wouldnít want to do much else than ankle deep in this mixture of unsightly broth, and did so only to say we did!! People are playing, swimming and boating as if itís the choicest water around. Actually this isnít the main Great Salt Lake with itís salty brine, but a diked off fresh water lake of huge proportions, that is used as the city water source.
Another hot night with Thunder and Lightning to applaud us along our trip. Thunder clouds hovering all day Tuesday and likewise again today. Jimmy took another big gulp at Willard this morning before courage to pass through Salt Lake City about 9:00 am. Are we in the right place? Whereís the traffic we usually have through here? Rejoice we did!!
At Spanish Forks we leave the I-15 Freeway to branch onto the two lane Hwy 6 with passing lanes, over Saddle Mountain Pass to Price and then Green River beyond, where we pick up I-70 Freeway there to Grand Junction, CO. We skirt Grand Junction to Clifton before dropping off onto Hwy 50 to Delta, CO. The time is 4:30 pm. by the time we arrive in Delta. Too late, too tired, too hungry to complete the last leg of this trip to our daughter Laurie and family. Camp in Delta this night, check the local grocery stores in the morning and arrive refreshed to a grand and glorious welcome! We honk Jimmyís horn as we pass within ľ mile of their place on our loop route into the lane to their house. Their dog, Tag, is the first to greet us as he comes running up the lane with the happiest grin on his face, tail a wagging, jumping as if he really knew just who we are!! Yeah, a great greeting from Tag, but he canít compare with the exuberant hugs and tears of joy from the family waiting us to stop and get out!! Any fatigue of the trip is quickly gone! As the years go by, another grandkid there is away working when we arrive during the day. Now, hours and days go by before everyone has a chance to come visit and thatĎs the way life must be. The clock on the wall keeps ticking, time goes by. Enjoy these days because next year will be different again!
We arrive on Thursday morning, take time to visit before setting up the trailer, unloading the tools brought along, then accessing the help we can provide while we are here. Hauling, cutting, and stacking slab wood for their winter heat supply is the job of most importance since this year no one with time from their jobs to accomplish. ďJimmyĒ has volunteered to pull Uncle Glenís trailer for the 4 mile trip to the small sawmill that has the wood baled into approximately one cord units. They load one on the trailer, we haul to home, Josiah and I cut with chainsaws while the younger family stack as fast as we can cut. A job alright in the morning but too hot for the afternoons. Temperature cools by evening when Jeff gets home from work so he helps cut the evening loads. Seven loads in three days with the eighth an evening load for Jeff on the fourth day. Our trip this year is two days shorter than normal so only 1 Ĺ days left for extra jobs. We had to leave a couple jobs for next year, or for one of the boys to tackle.
Whoa! Talk about nightly thunder and lightning storms. A whole week of them starting at Farewell Bend in Oregon that first night and they were still going strong until the following Monday at Laurieís. Colorado has thunder to go along with their lightning and itís even louder if you are in a tin can of a camping trailer!! The thunder was accompanied several nights by the sounds and presence of wild animals going through their yard and sometimes jumping onto the roof of their mobile home These creatures are never seen in the dark of night but thought to be mountain lions and bears and some other creature with even stranger sounds. A few of their cats have disappeared. Joan and the family hear these noises but I only heard the really loud thunder claps. I slept while they stayed awake to listen. A construction company across the fence had a bear find itís way into one of their shops about three weeks before we arrived. The owner unknowingly went into the shop one morning, discovering the trapped bear.
The surprise too great for the owner. He died of a heart attack while the bear made itĎs escape.
On Sunday July 27th, most of the kids and us went to Crawford Reservoir so the kids could swim and raft in this calm water on another day in the high 90ís. The water level was the highest we had ever seen as a result of the heavy snowfall and also somewhat because of the earlier time of our trip. Another beautiful setting, another wonderfully scenic spot. A spot we always try to visit whenever we come to Colorado! Bill wasnít feeling too well so he and Laurie stayed home and wondered why we were still gone during the extended heavy rain they were having. Sunny and dry at the Reservoir just 15 miles away! They have strange weather that is different nearly every 10 miles in any direction. Sun, to black rain clouds, to thunder and lightning, to beautiful puffy white clouds, can all be seen from their place even at the same time, as they have a commanding view of a vast distance. The view isnít of flat land but of low rolling land and gullies, with higher hills in the distant; all of which are barren, but this year, still with some green.
Our final weekend upcoming with as many projects done as the time was to allow. Friday evening everyone gathered at Jonathan and Patriciaís rented duplex for a barbecue dinner. The house sits on the edge of a plateau about 200 feet above the valley and the Gunnison River that runs fast and wide just a short distance away. What a beautiful view from up here of the surrounding countryside that can be seen for miles in 160 degrees!! The fourth step off their narrow backyard is a doozer, so be awake when you go outside!!
On Saturday August 2nd, all the family and Uncle Glen came to spend the day to visit and to play games. Iíll watch! Only watching, was what I thought I was doing as I stood on the wheelchair ramp built a couple years ago while most everyone else was hitting a couple beach balls back and forth past three people standing in a small rectangular pool as they tried stopping the ball. When accomplished, that other person had to change places. As I stood watching the ball came bounding at me, I naturally hit it back. Back to one standing in the pool! Hey, Iím only watching!! Suddenly Iím no longer a watcher but up to mid-knee depth in the pool! Grandmaís been in and wet along time already!
Tomorrow we will be heading back to Oregon so today we have the tools to load and prepare for final hookup in the morning. We leave only on Sundays so we can all join one last time for a picnic at Confluence Park in Delta. Son-in-law, Bill not up to par everyday while we are here but managed in good spirits and good shape this day, and joined with each of us for an enjoyable picnic, and joined in the hugs and farewells of another year!
We are out of Delta by 1:30 so we can get to Green River, CO by 4:30 or 5:00 pm. for the first leg of our journey home. We opted for Green River State Park Campground this year as it is much prettier than the other campgrounds in town. Other years we thought we needed electric as Green River is always HOT!
This State Campground has no hookups but we are conditioned for heat this year so there is no problem. Besides the afternoon has cooled from the daytime 101*, the evening promises more cooling, and that it did. Lots of shade trees, green grass, the Green River to sit alongside and watch the flow, the beauty of the scenery to glory in this evening.
On Monday morning August 4th, we are out and away by 7:45 and on through Salt Lake City by 12:00. Traffic easy but always tense as traffic averages five to ten mph above the 65 mph speed limit by the timid. Who knows about those others? Our normal stop is at Twin Falls KOA but we arrived at that exit early enough to tempt going onto Mountain Home KOA another 80 miles. Arrived there after 5:00 pm., too tired to think anything about visiting, plus we needed an early get out for another long run tomorrow. The host was an older gentleman ready for a good laugh. I told him we needed a shady spot and we would be ready to be served cocktails by 6 oíclock! At least we got a shady spot!! He escorted us to our site on a two wheel scooter. About four speed bumps along the way. Maybe the scooter would high center with a normal crossing and the reason he did a wheelie at each crossing. The guy had to be 75 or 80 yrs old!
We left Mountain Home by 7:30 on Tuesday August 5th and into Burns by 11:30 to be burnt by $4.35 a gal. gasoline. Prices had gone down from $4.15 by 8 to 12 cents a gallon in recent days but not here. Normally we go up the hill out of Burns to Delintment Lake 45 miles away but this year we wanted to go directly to N. Davis Creek forest campground 25 miles west of La Pine, Oregon. That takes us on Hwy 20 from Ontario through Vale, Juntura, Burns, to Bend and then south to La Pine. The 100 miles, Vale to Burns with ascending steep hills is difficult enough but the 130 miles Burns to Bend is a long haul of non-changing scenery of desert and sagebrush. The highway is straight with only a small curve every 10 miles. Just to cut the boredom? Rolling hills peaking out at 30 feet might be considered changes. Bend never looked so good, even with their traffic.
Our campground reached by 4:30 pm. We are the only campers here today so we selected our choice site to thrill in this area of streams emerging from underground, that feed into this part of the Wickiup Reservoir. The water level in the Reservoir is lower than we have seen before, but then, we are a month later than our normal for camping here. This is the Deschutes River system and this water used for irrigation along itís way to the Columbia River in the Gorge, a long distance away. A quiet and pristine spot, just waiting to give us rest and recuperate a couple days from the long drive. We have our inflatable kayaks stowed in the camper but fear to use them this year as Joan and I both have a sore or wound not healed. I ignored that last year and was given more than I bargained for. We arenít ready for those consequences this year!
A Big Bang thunder storm woke us at 5:00 am. Wednesday morning August 6 and that followed by a morning of rain. Maybe we should be disappointed but we arenít, as this gave a good excuse to just rest. Soon the day became quiet and still, the lake a mirror of peacefulness. A gaggle of Canadian Geese came to enjoy the lake but they soon left. On their leaving, they disturbed a huge Blue Heron into flight to cross the lake into the pine trees beyond view. Soon after, a small flock of ducks came swimming by in single file fashion leaving an expanding trail of water motion behind. The afternoon came sunny and warm and chance to walk the back trails along the reservoir, and enjoy spots along the rivers originating from underground, fed from Davis Lake some ten or more miles away. By afternoon we were getting antsy, so the walk a good outlet for pent up energy we know we are supposed to have!
Thursday August 7th and time to head for home and pick up the pieces of life we left behind 2 Ĺ weeks ago. Maybe just as well as another day starting with drizzle rain and we learned at home, another round of thunderstorms that this time would leave some forest burners in NE Oregon. We also learned two days after departing Colorado, a severe thunder storm brought torrential rain and flash flooding across their area and probably across a good portion of our route home. Timing sure right for us to be a head of all that! Timing good also as my hearing aide went on strike the day we got home, deciding the past two months just too much! Itís still resting peacefully in itís little box a week later.
ďJimmyĒ had a hiccup a couple times a day on our trip over to Colorado and a few more while we were there. No big deal but still a cause of concern. Fed him a gas additive to clear itís feeders seemed to help, so thought we were in good shape. A few more of those occasional hiccups per day on our route beyond Ontario on the two lane highway with hills and desert for miles. Prayers started from home at our start, increased on our way back home. Couple extra hiccups on our way out of the last campground but nothing too severe, so we travel on with God our protector in charge. We are home without incident, without further anxiety.
Before the week is over I put another ten miles on the pickup. Monday we wanted to pick up items in Woodburn 5 miles away that only ďJimmyĒ able to carry. Oh, Jimmy, whatís the matter? Your minor hiccups have become gasps and jerks! Your auto doctor is only a couple miles away. Can you make it?? We limped into the parking lot and he nearly died on the spot. The auto doctor says he will have to stay overnight, weíll call you tomorrow after we put him on the scope and monitor his actions. The next day we learn the distributor and all itís innards are the problem, he is ready to go home by afternoon. How wonderful to have Jimmy back on the road fully cured! Aw, but he isnít cured! The same problem again on the way home. Return, and another overnighter. Where do we go from here? Their diagnostic scopes said there wasnít a problem before we left for Colorado, and now it says there isnít a problem, when yet there is. Diagnosis not yet final so Jimmy is still in the auto hospital a week later.
Each year we return home from a great trip, a trip filled with Blessings granted us in untold numbers. This year we were watched over even more so. How fortunate that our pickup made the grueling journey up and over the many hills, through the heat of each day, without faltering of failing. Jimmy brought us home! A couple days and mere miles later, he quit! His problems not yet diagnosed a week later. The fuel system all checked out to be working correctly. The problem thought to be in the ignition system. May need to bring our mechanic grandson in Colorado out to Oregon for a few days, huh? That wont work either as he used all his vacation time to come celebrate our Anniversary in June, and that was certainly more important than this!!
We shutter thinking of happenings if Jimmy would have quit anywhere along the way home, and especially on the 260 miles of two lane highway between Ontario and Bend or the 100 miles of forest roads before getting to Oakridge!! A breakdown anywhere would have been devastating! Our prayers, and those of dear friends and relatives that we have a safe journey, has again brought us through.
Thanks so much to each of you, and to our Lord in His mercy!!