June 2019 - On The Road At Last

Ralph's Blog

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The Best Laid Plans

You know the whole thing about the best laid plans? Robert Burns, way back in 1785 wrote all about it his poem To a Mouse. "The best laid schemes o mice an men gang aft agley." That's old-time Scots for 'Mr Murphy is at it again!'

Judy has had an underactive thyroid for quite some time; not a big deal these days - pop a pill each morning and everything's hunky-dory. Because of this she has routine bloodwork and things started coming back a little weird, pointing to a problem with her parathyroid. This little bugger of a gland can screw up the calcium in your blood which screws up lots of other things, so the doctor told her it had to go. Not a big problem, you have four of them so losing one isn't so bad. The surgery is fairly straightforward and simple. (If you're a surgeon, I wouldn't want to try this at home.) Recovery is only a day or two.

The problem was the next available surgery date was after we intended to leave for the summer. So OK, we re-arranged things, the doctor did his thing and we canceled the first couple of weeks of our trip.

With Judy feeling better, we left in late June and headed for the aptly named Whistle Stop RV park in Abilene, as we were just going to be there overnight before trying to catch up to our reservations at the Grand Canyon East Rim.

Enter Mr Murphy.

On our way we were talking on the cell phone to daughter Jessica when we blew a tire on the RV. Not a big deal, we've done that before, and there was a convenient gravel lot just a little bit ahead. After spending two hours changing a tire when leaving Kerrville in May, I invested in an electric jack for the truck. Boy did it pay off! Slide it under, push the Up button. Change the tire and push the Down button. Half an hour and done, even if I'm getting too old to lift those dang tires back into the pickup.

Off we went and about an hour our of Amarillo the spare tire blew. Off the side of the road, up with the jack and something whacked me on the head. Within seconds, we were in the middle of a massive hailstorm. The temperature went for just under 100 to 60 in about ten minutes and there was an inch and a half of hail on the road.

You can see the hail even accumulated hail on the tire. Our poor truck is now polka-dotted with hail dents on the roof and hood, and it even broke a couple of marker lights.

So I disconnected the trailer, heaved the second tire into the bed and backtracked twenty-five miles to the closest place to get the tires fixed. We paid through the nose for a motel room that would let us have the dog, left the cats in the pickup, and - worst of all! - the only place open to eat was McDonalds.

I just want to know why Mr Murphy was working overtime on a Sunday night.

But the bugger was still on the job Monday. When we opened up at the Whistle Stop we found the shower filled with shards of plastic. The hail had smashed the skylight over the shower, but at least the water went down the drain when the ice melted. It had also smashed two of the covers on the roof vents. A bunch of duct tape and a bottle of spray foam insulation sealed the skylight until we could stop long enough to get it repaired, but really! I was getting tired of living through crap that would make for interesting stories sometime in the future.

With all of the delays, we got to spend precisely one night at the Grand Canyon East Rim. By the way, the Grand Canyon doesn't really have an east rim, but it sounds better than 'another artificial lake on the river.' The lake and the dam are picturesque, though. I always find it fascinating to look down at the bottom of a dam from up above.

We did squeeze in a lot of sightseeing, though. We also got to Horseshoe Bend, which is a pretty impressive bend in the Colorado river. As you can see from the pictures, it's also a popular place for the tourists.

Zion National Park

With a lot of driving we were now back on our intended schedule and headed for Zion National Park. Zion is sort of squeezed into a long river valley with some very impressive cliffs.

Since there is only one road and limited space, you travel by park bus to see the place, a convenience we certainly appreciated. The driver regaled us with stories of how the river occasionally goes wild and takes out the road - in 1995 the people at the hotel had to wait over a week to be rescued before the road could be repaired after a landslide that dammed the river and washed out the road.

Grand Canyon North Rim

Many years ago I read a novel that involved a chase through the North Rim of the Grand canyon. I've always wanted to see that side of the park, but since it is an all day drive from the south side we never got there. Zion is much closer in driving miles, so we headed South to see what there was to be seen.

On the way out of Zion we passed through a long tunnel - one with many warnings not to take your RV through there without an escort, with a fee for said escort, of course. The tunnel was built long before humongous RVs were common and there are places where the curves would not let two vehicles pass.

There are even windows in places to let you look out if you have the nerve to stop your vehicle long enough to do some rubbernecking. I didn't have the nerve so I contented myself with a couple of quick looks. Once out of the tunnel it was great scenery, lots of big rocks all over the place.

Since the North rim is a thousand feet higher than the South rim, I did notice the lower air pressure as I have only one working lung. The scenery is much the same on either side of the canyon, however.

The lodge there is quite nice, but didn't live up to my expectations. Somehow I was expecting something in the log cabin style of the CCC, which is just how I think of rustic lodges. The lodge is quite nice, however, just in a more modern architectural style. If we didn't live in an RV I wouldn't mind spending a few days there at all. The food in the restaurant was pretty good, too.

If you look closely at the burro, you'll see he has a shiny nose a la Rudolph. The legend is that if you rub his snout you'll have good luck. I gave him a good rubbing after our travails on the way out of Austin.

Back to Zion

We weren't quite up to the more ambitious hikes, wading through streams and climbing big heights, but we did take a nice little walk to a waterfall.

We also met a friendly squirrel who kindly posed for pictures.

Bryce Canyon

Both Bryce and Zion were much smaller than I expected. The national parks we have been to so far were large tracts of land, but they pack a lot of scenery into a small space. Bryce is only a short drive from Zion, but the scenery is markedly different. Bryce is full of wind-sculpted sandstone in fantastic shapes.

While it's not part of Bryce Canyon, the Red Rocks is on the drive, not to mention a spectacular sunset as seen from our campground.

I'll end with a question - just why do the call it Great Basin National Park when it's located atop the middle of the Rocky Mountains? You'll have to wait for the next blog to find out.

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