Southern Utah

Heber City, UT to Alpine, AZ is more than a one day drive when hauling The Beast, so I broke up that leg of the journey by stopping, for no other reason, in Blanding, UT. And, a bit out of the norm, I decided to stop for 2 nights. Good call.

Blanding is in southeast Utah, not far from the Four Corners state line convergence. It’s mostly desert and red rocks, but there is a snow capped mountain not too far away.


First stop today was at Goosenecks State Park. Spectacular views of the canyon cut by the San Juan River:


As noted on the plaque, the top of the canyon is 1000 feet above the river. So my question is: which of these rocks will be next to fall into the abyss below? And when? 100 years? A thousand?IMG_5245

When you get down to the level of the river, it’s a big ole muddy thang.


Next up was Monument Valley, which I thought was a National Park, but no. It is part of the Navajo Reservation, so it does have federal protection. The scenery is just amazing.


South of Blanding is a little town called Bluff, very aptly named. It’s down in a canyon with bluffs rising up from the road.


I especially got a kick out of their “welcome to Bluff” sign, which indicated it was established in 650 AD.

There’s another formation in the area called Mexican Hat, for obvious reasons.


I don’t know what claim to fame Blanding may make, but ya gotta love a town that has a combination gas station/convenience store/A&W Root Beer stand (with drive-thru)/bowling alley.


And the bowling alley is legit. Six lanes or so, nice looking. Is this a great country or what?




Montana checked off the list: my 49th state. Stayed for a few days in Billings. Lots of prairie ‘tween Dickinson, ND and Billings, lots of cows. One thing that has puzzled me on my travels over the past year and that is the apparent lack of land usage for agricultural purposes. Out west it makes some sense because so much of the land is owned by the government, but even so, it’s been noticeable and puzzling, as I say. Found a cool trail to hike at a place called Phipps Park. The main geologic feature of the area is a series of rimrock ridges left by the sea that was here millions of years ago and as further cut by the Yellowstone River. The trail at Phipps Park takes you up on one of these ridges.


It’s about 300′ up to the ridge, so in my case there was plenty of huffin’ and puffin’, but once on the top there were some spectacular views.

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There were a lot of little side trails, as can be seen in the photo just above, making for an interesting place to explore. The other neat thing: there was a disc golf course that ran all up and down the ridge.



Blisters, though. My boots failed me with blisters on both heels.

The Rig has 2 propane tanks, each holds 10 gals of propane. When hooked up to electricity most things run on electric, except the oven/stove. But when boondocking with no electric then the propane or battery power takes the lead: refrigerator, heater, the LED lights, vent fans. Some things don’t work without shore power: microwave, A/C, the AC outlets. Bottom line: I don’t use a lot of propane. So far while traveling I’ve had to refill one tank a month. But in Billings I ran out of propane in both tanks. Fortunately I was in a place where it was no problem getting them filled. Seemed odd, though.

Spent the weekend driving from Billings to Heber City, UT, which is near the ski areas just outside of Salt Lake City. The drive from Billings took me west to Bozeman then south, along the west side of Yellowstone Park. The scenery on this part of the drive was fabulous. Most of Yellowstone Park doesn’t open until May 1st, so it’s still a bit early in the season, a good bit of snow still on the ground.IMG_5161 (2)IMG_5162 (2)IMG_5167 (2)

The scenery from Billings to Bozeman was less rocky than that seen back to the east: rolling hills with lots of greenery and some heavily-forested patches. Some rock outcroppings, but not a lot.

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Salt Lake City is underrated as a mountain destination, I think. Of course it’s located on the Great Salt Lake, which is an interesting geologic feature, but not particularly scenic, but SLC is also surrounded by mountains. Here’s a shot driving through downtown on I-15.

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Hard to beat the view from my RV site:

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Heber City is about 45 minutes southeast of downtown SLC. It’s not itself a ski town, but just a few miles away from Park City and Deer Valley (think 2002 Olympics), which are world-class ski areas. Heber is in a valley with a couple of beautiful lakes within a few miles. So, all in all, a good location. Time to check on some hiking trails…

Badlands, Jr.

Here in western North Dakota is the Theodore Roosevelt National Park. This is where TR came to escape his grief upon the death of his mother and his wife in the same house on the same day. He ultimately ran a cattle ranch out here.


As a rancher, old Teddy didn’t put up with no crap.


They call this area the Badlands also, but it’s not as bad as the South Dakota Badlands. For one thing, there’s a decent river that runs through this park, ergo much more in the way of trees and greenery. Plus, the wildlife here seems more abundant.



Those wascally prairie dogs: you can’t stop ’em, you can only hope to contain ’em. And, the buffalo were definitely roaming today:

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Even though these might better be referred to as the lower case b-adlands, the scenery is still pretty darn stunning.


Saturday I drove over to see some truly iconic scenery


Looks like they had some snow the night before, although the altitude there is only about 5000′.

Whilst in the area I couldn’t pass up the Crazy Horse Monument.


This sucker is gonna be WAY bigger than Mt. Rushmore. But they still have his arm, hair, body and the horse yet to do. Since it’s taken them 70 years to get this far we may be looking at next century before completion.

Badlands, baby

Hanging out now at an RV park right on the doorstep of Badlands National Park, which is an unusual place. The default geography around here is grass prairie, but every now and then you see upthrusts or canyons of exposed “rock”. The rock erodes easily (really, it seems more like mud waiting to happen), they say at the rate of an inch a year. So, in 10,000 years, kaput! It does make for some very interesting sites, though. I took a ton of pictures. Here they come.


It seems this area was under water 75 million years ago. And then after the land thrust up it was quite tropical. As a result they have a rich fossil record in the area.

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In several places they have clusters of junipers, as can be seen in the picture above. Kind of odd when they are on the side of the hill like that. Otherwise, not much in the way of trees, other than along a waterway. They get about 16 inches of rain a year.





I bet it would be especially interesting to view the area after a heavy rain.

This area of the country housed a bunch of missile silos during the Cold War, so of course they have found a way to memorialize that glorious chapter of our history.


Some of these historic sites have some odd things. This struck me as odd:


But mostly it made me yearn for the good old days when women knew how to wear hats and you could count on a mushroom cloud cake always nearby:


And here’s another thing I realized today walking through a gift shop. It’s official. We have too much wine.

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North, to Nebraska

Colorado Springs is always a nice place to spend a few days. I was there with the boys circa 2003 or 2004 and it was one of their favorite places among the places we have been. The town sits there fast against the “front range”, with Pikes Peak and a couple of other big ‘uns dominating the scenery. To the west: neck-stretching peaks, to the east, the end of the Great Plains.


The drive up from Albuquerque presented some interesting rock formations:


The RV park in Colorado Springs was not among my favorites. It was a nice setting alright, but when I was unhooking the Beast from the Big ‘un I had a moment of brain deadedness. Without boring you, dear reader, with the gory details, suffice to say I am now rolling without a tailgate. The park was a favorite among the local wildlife. This little lassie strolled right through my site, within 15-20 feet of my door.

And leaving for dinner one evening, 6 of it’s brethren were lolling around the entrance to the RV park:


I also saw a mess of turkeys wandering aimlessly through the park one evening.

Sunday I took in a Sky Sox game, which these days is the AAA affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers.


I’ve never understood that stadium. If they turned it 90 degrees to the west they would at least have views of the mountains to some extent. As it is, the mountains are not apparent at all, except from the parking lot. Baseball fans, remember this name: Lewis Brinson. Brewers #1 propsect is a complete stud. He played CF and he was all over the outfield. Big kid, very impressive at the plate.

Monday I went to a local park for a brief hike. This was right behind the Broadmoor Resort. I’ve known of the Broadmoor for years but had never seen it. Not that impressive from the outside.

I’m in North Platte, NE for the next 2 nights. It’s cold, cloudy, windy and muddy. Looks like a laundry day tomorrow. But, I cope:


An Italian petit verdot. Bit rough around the edges, as PVs can be.

I finished the LBJ book. Fascinating stuff. The author goes into great detail about how the 1948 Senate election was stolen by the LBJ team. It’s quite a dramatic story, far more involved than just the 87 vote  margin enjoyed by LBJ, which took days to determine (it was a very fluid situation, to say the least) and then was subject to being snatched away by further political and legal maneuvers. Thumbs up on the book. Next up:

The Sot-Weed Factor Audiobook

This is one of my all-time favorite works, now the third time through in the last 45 years. Set in the late 17th century and written in the style of the time, it tells the story of Ebenezer Cook, a feckless, bumbling, self-absorbed ignoramus of an intellectual intent on serving his commission as Poet Laureate of Maryland. A very colorful life unfolds all around him, but he’ll have none of it except as he sees it in his head. The language is so rich, full of simile and metaphor with constant historical references from the ancient Greeks to the political struggles of “current” times. Great fun.

Adios, Alpine. For Now.

Heading out tomorrow after 2 weeks in Alpine, AZ. The weather here has been spectacular: sunny every day, high in the low 60s, lows at night 30ish. On top of that: mission accomplished. Went to escrow today on a house, scheduled to close May 31. More on that once the transaction closes.

In the meantime, stops are currently scheduled in Albuquerque, Colorado Springs, North Platte, NE, the Badlands of South Dakota, Dickinson, ND and Billings, MT. After that, hopefully some time in the Yellowstone area, but no definite plans.

How about those Astros! And Rockets! Haven’t had any TV here in Alpine, but I’ve listened to most of the Astros games on the radio. They are playing good ball (especially the pitching) but I don’t think they have hit their stride quite yet. Love me some Sirius XM!

The book on LBJ is very interesting. The guy was an absolute political animal. It strikes me that he and Bill Clinton were the most alike of any 2 Presidents during my lifetime, excepting the Bushes, for obvious reasons. Should finish LBJ in a couple of days. Not sure what will be up next on the reading list…

Current Reading

A couple of items have been knocked off the old reading list lately. First up was an audio book:

“A World Undone: The Story of the Great War, 1914 to 1918”

A World Undone Audiobook

My knowledge of World War I has always been rather sketchy, so this book helped fill some holes in the general knowledge base. It was very good at pulling together many of the strands that led to war in the first place. There was also good detail on the first few years of the war and interesting background on many of the major participants, both institutions and individuals. The author seemed to be in a hurry to finish, however. The years 1917 and 1918 and the long-term effects of the war did not receive nearly as much coverage as the earlier years of the war, or so it seemed to me. That’s one of the problems with audio books: hard to objectively measure the relative heft devoted particular subjects or time periods. No accounting for what might have been slept through.

Another shortcoming of the audio format, particularly with a book of this type, is the inability to refer to maps, charts, pictures and other graphics. I found a website “40 Maps that Explain World War I” as a good visual aid; also regular supplementation through Wikipedia helps round out the overall experience.

Next up was:

Ty Cobb Audiobook

The author spends quite a bit of time exploding many of the myths surrounding Cobb: he was a virulent racist; his teammates and all the other players hated him; he sharpened his spikes and tried to terrorize opponents at every chance. The author assigns a lot of the blame to a hack that wrote a couple of Cobb biographies that sensationalized (or flat out lied about) many of the unflattering stories. In this portrait we see a superb athlete with a unique approach to the game, supremely confident and unabashed about pushing the boundaries of what a base ball player was expected to be at that time. Cobb was quite a cerebral fellow, an insatiable reader, a devotee of classical music and theater. The author ascribes the “racist” persona to a large extent based on the time and place of his birth: Georgia in the 1880s. In fact, several notable ancestors were abolitionists and his father once stopped a lynching. Ty himself played often with black players during exhibitions and was a supporter of Jackie Robinson’s entry to the game, in fact had suggested integration of the game years before the realization. I recommend this to anyone interested in a well-researched alternative to the “narrative” that has so long existed about Cobb.

It was particularly interesting to me to get a feel for what the game was like in those years of 1905 to the late 20s. Early in his career, none of the current major league ballparks were in existence. He played at places like Bennett Park (named after a Tigers catcher), South Side Park III, Hilltop Park and the Huntington Avenue Baseball Grounds. He had to contend with: spitballs and scuff balls and balls that might be in play for innings at a time without replacement; games with only 1 umpire and games called on account of darkness; fields with no outfield fences with fans standing on the field (and fans with little compunction about hurling bottles or other items at the fielders).  The pace of the game was so much faster. There was a game played at the end of a season with non-contending teams. The score was 9-5 and was played in an hour and 6 minutes. As another example, the average game time of all complete major league games played on April 21, 1915 was 1 hour and 51 minutes. The gloves were tiny, the field conditions were often terrible and the players were treated as indentured servants by the owners. But Ty Cobb prospered. He died a multi millionaire in 1961, thanks to early investments in GM and Coca-Cola.

Just now starting:

Means of Ascent Audiobook

I really enjoyed  visiting the LBJ Presidential Library a couple of years ago. Such a legendary politician and larger than life character. Looking forward to this. I also just started a video class from The Great Courses on the history of the Supreme Court

History of the Supreme Court