Wrench Ranch

Montana Bound

It was getting really hot in Cheyenne so we decided to go north. I knew that our friends Greg and Debbie had a good bus parking spot at their ranch so we took a couple of days to get to Laurel, Montana. Greg had assured us that the weather would be a respite from Cheyenne and for a couple of days it was. Then the heat started creeping in. Exactly how far north would we have to go to beat the heat? Alaska?

I met Greg and Debbie in June of 2011 when he organized an all-Oldsmobile tour over the Beartooth Pass in Montana. He offered to put me up in a hotel if I could get myself out there and do an article in the national magazine about the tour.  I immediately said “Yes Sir!” There were about a dozen Oldsmobiles from all over the country and we had several great days touring in the area, enjoying Happy Hours and dinners together. We tried the pass twice. The first day, it was snowing and the pass was still closed. The next day was the official opening and they had the snow and ice cleared. There were 12 foot walls of snow on the sides of the road. More pics here. I made several very good friends from that week-long trip. I love Montana and look for any chance to go back. Here is the issue of the magazine highlighting the tour. OCT-2011-RTR


Joyce and Ed let me tag along in their ’58

I called Greg when we got close and he was not home but said Debbie was. When we arrived, she didn’t even realize he wasn’t there. There are several outbuildings on the ranch and she said she doesn’t know where he is even if he’s home. She said, “He’s like a two-year-old! I never know where he is!”

Greg has other cars besides the 1950 Olds he drove on the tour. As it happened, the next day there was a big all original car show in Billings. He went in early in his 1969 Jaguar XKE to help with the show and we ended up there later in the afternoon. It was a really nice show with all different types of cars; all original.

We settled in for a few days, visiting the horses, Roundup the dog, who I met during the tour, two kitties; one with three legs and six horses. We had cocktails in the evenings and Debbie made some delicious dinners and snacks. Jim and I went for a ride with Greg in his 1951 Mercury and saw a lot of the surrounding countryside. There’s a good reason they call it Big Sky Country.

Charlie is Greg’s roping horse. He wins two heeler competitions often and brags that he is the oldest roper there. He ropes the calf from his horse, in just the correct manner, and his younger partner ties the two back heels together. Debbie trail rides with a group often. Greg contributes to the Oldsmobile magazine I put together. They were planning a two week trip in their 1959 Ford Fairlane. They have a lot going on but they are easy to talk and laugh with, generous with their time and company (and car). We enjoyed our time together and will definitely make it back there another time. Again, we are humbled and thankful for such generous and caring friends.

There is a lot to tend to around the ranch. Jim helped Greg with a couple of projects in the garage. We walked our kitties, went to the car show, talked to the horses, got some work done and met up in the evenings. At least driveway guests aren’t in your house all the time. Debbie paid us the ultimate compliment when she said we could stay as long as we wanted and that we were pretty easy to have around. Ha! Fooled them!

More pictures here.



Cheyenne is For Shopping!

I hate shopping. I am not the type to browse and check different stores for a better price. My method is blitzkreig-style; in and out as fast as possible. Get what is on the list and get outta there. This applies to grocery shopping as well as every other type. Thank the Lord for online shopping.

Having said that, Cheyenne was a different story. We holed up in the Greenway Trailer Park and Campground to wait for the solenoid that Jim ordered for the generator. Once he installs it, we are in for a couple of days of urban boondocking on the way to Billings and we will need the generator. Staying put for a few days made sense so we broke out the bikes and planned to explore Cheyenne.

But first, the trailer park. It was one of what we call “long term” parks where most of the trailers haven’t gone anywhere for a long time. Some are never going anywhere again. These parks are real eye-openers. If you want to get a good real-life picture of the working poor, this is the place to come. It is quiet because everybody works, but they are never going to get ahead. Many have lots of “good stuff” surrounding their trailer, from kid toys to motorcycle engines and old cars.

A few people have children and they pack the whole family into an old and often rundown unit. While taking Carmella out for a walk, I got to know the kids next door who were visiting their divorced father for a while. It looked like Dad’s main priority was beer drinking but the kids were cute and smart and personable. They have a big friendly kitty named Sebastian and Jordan posed for me with him. He was much friendlier than our neurotic cats.


Jordan and Sebastian

One morning I thought somebody was knocking on the bus door but it was Dad Next Door under his trailer banging away on his plumbing. Sure enough, his black tank valve was open – WRONG! He beat on it for a while, becoming obviously frustrated and then they left for a few days, probably to a motel. Maybe he hadn’t lived in a trailer very long but everybody knows that you only open the black tank valve when you are ready to dump or the liquid will run out creating a mountain of poop in your tank. I have heard it is not fun to clean out. Our neighbor across the way. He was friendly but obviously stuck in a bygone era.

Cheyenne is another town that is really easy to get around by bike. There are some dedicated bike lanes on the streets but you can always find a back route through neighborhoods to get where you’re going.

Downtown is unlike a lot of other towns we have passed through. The main street is bustling and shops are open and plentiful. Some of the sidestreets storefronts are empty but not like some places. We scoped out the Wyoming Rib and Chophouse and made a reservation for dinner. They rate highly on Yelp. We found a jewelry store that does repairs so Jim could get his fancy New Mexico pawnshop bolo restrung. We had lunch at El Charitto Mexican restaurant, and like all of our Mexican lunches, it was dinner too.

It is about 10 days until Frontier Days, the big annual rodeo, and we want to make sure we are out of town by the time that happens. I want to do that but not this year.

Around Cheyenne.


Cattleman’s Row


In the front yard


These were all over town. Like the KC Cows a few years back and the donkeys in Philly now


The railroad depot, trains still going through

Train yard selfie


The Wrangler


The Wrangler

The Wrangler, right on the main street. Many thousands of years ago, when my family went on our working ranch vacations in Montana, we always stopped here for cowboy boots, hats and jeans. The Western Ranchman Outfitter, which was katty-korner to it, is no longer there.


Western Art Show


Western Art Show

We stopped in to the Cheyenne Artist Guild’s Western Art Show. These remind me of my talented friend, Catherine Hall.


Railroad station




Alley mural downtown


Mural detail

cheyenne bench

Cheyenne Bench on the bike trail

Back to the shopping. You can see it is not a high priority. While we were walking around downtown, we passed a Consignment Shop. Jim said, “This looks like an interesting shop.” I thought WHAT? But he had bounded into the store and the next thing I knew I had bought two very cool western style jackets. I had the one picked out as soon as I saw it but the other one had So. Much. Fringe. I couldn’t resist. I also bought a blouse. I haven’t bought clothes in ages so making up for lost time. I wore the fringiest one to dinner at the Chop House.

The next day we were on the bike trail and passed a bike shop in an out of the way spot. I discovered in Denver that my bike shorts were a little threadbare. I don’t know why, I’ve only had them for around thirty five years. We went in and found a two for one sale. And the best thing? They weren’t all black! So I should be good for the next 35 years.

We stopped at the Lincolnway Super Pawn thinking they might have some Indian jewelry. When we went through the Southwest in Jim’s Falcon in 2000, we discovered the pawn shops were full of the good old heavy turquoise and silver jewelry. That’s where his bolo came from. We were in shopping mode so I thought what the heck?

Unfortunately Fortunately they only had one silver/turquoise watchband sans watch. We passed.

The generator part came and Jim installed it and working fine.

Time to hit the road.

ft. collins pano-1

Rocky Mountain High

We explored the bike trails in Denver, doing errands and just riding. Denver has a fantastic bike trail system; you can get almost anywhere riding the trails. The few places where you have to ride on the street have dedicated bike lanes that are well marked and separated from the right turn lanes.

We decided to stay at the Elks Lodge in Northglenn over the July Fourth holiday since we didn’t want to be on the road with holiday traffic. Traffic in Denver is bad enough! Our good friend Ronnie came up for dinner on a Friday and holiday weekend. It took him awhile to get there but we had a nice visit and meal.

Once the holiday was over, we set our sights on a Walmart in Laramie and had a short day before settling in. We did have some excitement on the way during our climb into Laramie. The engine shutoff went into effect when the temperature edged up toward 200. Jim had been able to keep it just shy but it must have been the altitude.We cooled it down and went on our way.

Once we got settled in, we finished off our extraordinary hamburgers that we made for the Fourth. We eat hamburgers about once a year or so and these are really good. Mix up your ground chuck with chopped onion and barbecue sauce for the best burger ever. We ate them for about three days. Good for another year.

The next morning when we went to fire up the generator, it would start but wouldn’t keep running. We managed to make some coffee and instead of continuing north, decided to head for Cheyenne and see about parts or repair. Of course, when we got to the diesel repair shop, it started up and ran just fine. Go figure! We found a long-termers park and plugged in. Jim ordered a solenoid and will fix it when the part comes in. We are right on the bike trail too!

Since we are here for several days, we rented a car and drove around seeing the sights. We ended up back in Ft. Collins, Bellevue and LaPorte where I lived about four thousand years ago when I went to college there. Up through the mountains with some 12% grades. Not recommended for buses. I found the houses I used to live in, well one for sure.
This is the basement apartment which was my very first independent home ever. I was 18 and put the deposit down before telling my dad. He about went through the roof but I lived there anyway. My bedroom was shared with the water heater but I didn’t care.

We drove through the Colorado State University campus but it was under heavy construction, Along with everything else, they are building a stadium right on campus.

I love that the trains still run right down College Avenue. It was on these tracks that I learned the importance of riding my bike at a right angle across the tracks.

The quad: The big old trees are still there!
The High Park fire in 2012 charred many acres above Bellevue as we climbed.
The skies were compellingly ever-changing.
Back in Cheyenne, we explored around town the next day. The skies are incredible here too.


Friends Who Are Friends

We have known LeRoy and Anne Willis for several years. We keep in touch but hadn’t gotten together since the big bus rally in Blytheville, Arkansas in 2013. It was time to catch up! We knew they were camp hosting in Divide, Colorado not far from Colorado Springs but they were on duty and we didn’t want to ride 30 miles 3000 feet up the mountain on our bikes. What to do?

We decided to book a night at their park and once we left Colorado Springs it didn’t take long to get there. It is small and very secluded in the hush of large evergreens and aspens. We got set up and they took us out for a delicious dinner at McGinty’s Irish Pub. The pizzas looked really good but we all settled on a pot pie dish of one kind or another. These were rich and delicious. And filling. It also served as dinner the next evening too. Sienna, the waitress was friendly and interested in the bus lifestyle.

The four of us had a wide-ranging conversation about everything under the sun. They are easy to talk to and curious. Just think about how many people you have met who never ask you anything about yourself. Those people are not LeRoy and Anne.

These guys are special, you can just tell. They are down-to-earth and have lots of energy and good will. We like them a lot. They full-time in Liberty, their Silver Eagle, splitting their time between Colorado, Arizona and Kansas where they have a building for the bus and hookups for visiting travelers. We have yet to make it there.

They are members of the Friends Church. Like all Friends I have met, they are happy, have a positive outlook, nothing but sincere speech and questioning minds. What’s not to like?

We toured the small but extensive park which has cabins, yurts and zip-lines as well as RV parking and tent camping. There were lots of boy scouts there.The next morning they came by and we visited for a while longer before it was time to head out. We had another easy conversation while Carmella busied herself with a nearby chipmunk.


Here they are the next day.


Group selfie


First place we have ever had a Welcome! sign. We switched sites.


Anne, LeRoy and Liberty

So glad we met up with Anne and LeRoy. Wouldn’t want to miss that good feeling. We finally broke it up so we could get on our way to Northglenn where there is an extensive bike trail system. We plan to spend several days exploring. We are at the Elks Lodge right near the trail. Again, what’s not to like?




Colorado Has A Lot Going For It

The main reason we were in Colorado Springs is because the annual convention of the National Antique Oldsmobile Club was held there. I am the Editor and designer of the national magazine and it is always a good chance to reconnect with friends, shoot lots of material for the magazine and attend 7:00 AM meetings. Well that part, not so much fun.

We reserved a boondocking spot for the bus. We would have no hookups but we were prepared and had plenty of everything. We were in the trailer lot behind the hotel so we were right by the show field and thick in the middle of the car and semi trailers.
This guy expertly backed his trailer to within inches of our awning. He left the next day and was quickly replaced with a small horse trailer. That was better. By the time we left, the lot looked like this:
We had some beautiful sunsets.

And the Oldsmobiles! A very small selection here. There were about 75 cars there. More in the September issue!

We ended up staying a extra day so we could spend a day touring with Theresa and Bruce. We had a long scenic day, starting with Garden of the Gods, then over Ute and Wilkerson Passes to South Park where Bruce and Theresa used to spend the summers. The view from the top:
And them in front of their old park model. Theresa said, “I miss it.”

Then on to Cañon City after lunch in Hartsell where the frenzied staff at the cafe seemed to never have served more than a few folks at a time. Lunch with dead animals.
On to Cañon City where we had these views from Hogback Ridge.
One of my sisters said I take too many pictures of the sky, but it is ever changing and stupendous much of the time. Can’t help myself.

Cañon City is like Astoria, Oregon. Deer are as prevalent as squirrels.
Such a memorable day with good friends!

Moving on to Golden Bell Camp in Divide to meet up with LeRoy and Anne Willis. They are bus conversion full timers too and we just seem to sync with them.

And they always dress alike. Really!



Cousins, Friends and Colorado

By the time we left Kansas City it was HOT! As in about 100 degrees. We were plugged in at the Elks Lodge in Grandview so we could run the AC, something we rarely do. Glad we had it. We figured it would be cooler in Colorado. Ha!

We parked at the Elks in Lamar, Colorado and were fortunate enough to be plugged in again. No problem. I took a walk around the golf course when it was about 96 degrees and it was smokin’ hot. Forecast for the next few days was 105 and over. We knew Colorado Springs, our destination, was higher in elevation but we also knew we would be boondocking there and relying on the generator to run the AC, if needed. Jim topped off all the diesel tanks and we set out for Colorado Springs on the hottest day yet, 105. Jim drove and he said the temperature gauge was just a cat hair shy of the danger zone of 200. We don’t let it get above that.

That made us a little slow but still in plenty of time to meet up with my third and fourth cousins.  I got to know Denise through another cousin and Facebook. Marilyn remembered my mom and my Aunt Olive very well and told some stories I had never heard. Denise, her daughter, is my age, loves horses and dogs and has both at her home in Maine. She is a talented stained glass artist and we saw photos of her recent and current projects.

We had dinner at the hotel and visited before they had to head back to Longmont since they were back to Maine the next day in their camper. What a great coincidence that she happened to be vacationing in Colorado! As my friend Pat Downs, who is also into geneology said, “I have researched and found over 600 Downses but never met even a third cousin.” So that was something I hadn’t done before. We all had a great time and Denise invited us and the bus to Maine anytime. That will definitely be a summertime trip.

Another thing I hadn’t done before was feed and pet an elephant!

Our Winter Texan friends Theresa and Bruce are house sitting here in Colorado Springs and they came over and knocked on the bus and we had fun catching up with them. They are fun, happy and thoughtful with the added bonus of having the correct political views. They invited us to their house for lunch so we all piled in the car. But not before Carmella decided she really liked Bruce and talked with him while headbutting.

On the way through town we spotted an elephant in the park with lots of people surrounding it. I immediately thought it was an Indian wedding where the groom arrives on an elephant. Theresa offered to stop so we could take pictures and we did. Good chance to practice on my new iPhone camera that I just got in Kansas City. It turned out to be a mini-Renaissance Festival and the elephant was accepting treats from the crowd. Her name was Peg and it was her 31st birthday.

I had never been up close to an elephant and it was especially interesting since I just finished reading Elephant Company: A Story of an Unlikely Hero and the Animals Who Helped Him Save Lives in World War II by Vicki Croke. It focused on how social and smart they are and the Englishman who changed the way working elephants evolved in Burma and India.

Then we went for lunch. Their house is in a lovely older neighborhood featuring small houses and big trees. We had fun while having a delicious meal; Theresa loves to laugh and Bruce is right there with his dry wit.


See my buddy Chip at the bottom?



Colorado sky

No elephants on the way back to the hotel.
And, oh yeah, there are Oldsmobiles here. Once the Olds show is over, we are going to take a mountain cruise with Bruce and Theresa before we leave.

And I guess we better figure out where we are going!



The Group W Bench

Remember The Group W Bench from Alice’s Restaurant? Fitting for our visit to Kansas City.

We had planned on seeing Jim’s dad on our way to Colorado Springs and it turned out he had a special ceremony planned so we wanted to be in town for that. When his Mom died, she was cremated and David bought an urn and a final resting place in the Lees Summit Cemetery. There were all kinds of problems, the first being that the urn was too big to fit in the allotted spot. They fixed that right away. The second was that when he went to visit her, there was no place to sit. This is a serious consideration when you are 93 years young.

So he designed and had a lovely bench made which is in a great location under a shady cedar tree and flanked by older graves graced with peonies. He wanted the family to be there to move her ashes from one spot to the bench and join him for dinner afterward.

We hit the Midwest in a serious heat wave, but the Elks Lodge in Grandview was a welcome and isolated place to walk the kitties, power up and cool off. The ceremony was a good chance to see the whole family and the shade helped since it was about 100 degrees that day.  Jim and his brother Bob engineered the ashes transfer, which was not without a few iffy moments. David said a few words to commemorate the occasion.We disbanded to Bob’s new house for a quick glass of his excellent homemade wine before heading to the prime rib dinner at David’s place. We were treated to a slide show of many family photos taken by David that I had never seen in our 25 years of marriage. Grandkids and great grandkids were all in attendance. The torch has passed.
Jim and his brothers and Dad met for breakfast one morning.

We got to see a few more friends in Kansas City but not nearly everybody we wanted to. We met Phil and Linda for a drink and Bob Donley came out to the bus to say hello; that was unexpected and very nice.

I even had the nerve to drive by our old house. It looked shady and cool and well cared for. Not nearly as heart wrenching as I thought it would be.

If we missed you in Kansas City, we will catch you on the return, maybe this fall. We did, however, get to see our old friends Jack Stack and Arthur Bryant.

What a cutie!

The Bird Whisperer and The Healer

From Marthasville, we moved on to our friends Marni and Eric’s place on the River Road and spent a week there visiting with friends, observing baby orioles, riding bikes and making progress on shingles recovery.

We have been here before and it seems every time Eric has rescued a small bird. Last time it was a hummingbird, this time a Baltimore Oriole. Our spot by their garden was a great place to watch the orioles coming to and from the nest feeding the young. The orange splashes of color swooped all over the yard and garden and we had a front row seat. On the last day we were there, Eric came down to the bus to report that the small orioles had left the nest. One was safely on a nearby tree trunk but one was on the ground. He brought it down to the bus for a visit before helping it back into the tree.

And less than a week later, Eric posted this picture of him on Facebook! Look how much he has grown! How lucky are we that we got to say hello to this cutie?
We rode the trail many miles while we were there. Always enjoyable to ride alongside The Big Muddy.


Out the arch to the trail. Right behind the bus.


Our spot.


The Joseph M. LaBarge was across the river due to high water.




Along the trail

Meanwhile, in between catching up with old friends, hanging out with Marni and Eric and eating lots of fresh garden asparagus, broccoli and blueberries, I thought I was making progress on the shingles front. Still not completely healed up but certainly not for the lack of treatments I attempted: Glyco-Thymoline, apple cider vinegar, lemon juice; all internally as well as externally. Garlic. Aloe vera gel. Castor oil. Hydrogen peroxide. Pastes of cayenne pepper and tumeric. Each morning Jim would say, “Your face looks better” but it still was taking way too long, in my opinion, to clear completely up. One evening we went to Cooper’s Landing to hear the Flood Brothers and the punched-in-the-face headache was back. Discouraging.

Marni noticed and took action. The next morning she mixed up a paste of goldenseal powder and aloe vera gel and I slobbed it on my face. She also got me some carrot juice, Oregon Grape Root, parsley and Chapparal to battle it from the inside out. I immediately ordered my own goldenseal powder so I could continue once we left. The difference in just the two days before we left was amazing! The blisters started to completely dry up and the swollen, paralyzed feeling started to recede.  What a relief!

The day after we left I was able to send her a picture of my healed up face and she followed up with a phone call to confirm that things were working. So grateful for her healing touch.


Jim and Eric


Marni hates having her picture taken so this is the best I could do of them together. Ha!


Cyber on his sunporch


Eric found this finely crafted, very thin arrowhead. Look how perfect it is!

What a lovely week. We always enjoy our time with these guys. Smart, funny, down-to-earth and genuine folks; they are generous with everything they have; their time and knowledge, concern, insight and understanding along with the food from their garden and the deliciousness of Marni’s kitchen. Our gratitude knows no end.


Back on the Katy Trail

I consider the Katy Trail my “home” trail. It runs across the entire state of Missouri. When we lived in Kansas City I rode the entire length and back a couple of times by myself and had a fabulous time riding the 500 miles. They have added a couple of sections since then so we will have to hit those sometime.

We headed for Marthasville, Missouri where Jim found us a great parking spot in the city park right on the trail. The softball fields were busy the first few evenings but as the holiday weekend approached there was no evening activity and lots of kitty walking. And bike riding.

It has been a while since we rode so Jim was airing up the bikes and not one, but two tubes blew! We had patch kits but it turned out that the bike store in the next town delivered! We didn’t have to break down the bus to go get new tubes. $25 delivery charge was a bargain and Blaise fixed our flats for us too!  Thanks Blaise!

We ended up extending our stay a few days to lay over the holiday weekend and Jim’s birthday. The sky rewarded us with a spectacular sunset on his birthday.

We pedaled through the towns of Marthasville, Treloar, Peers, Dutzow and Augusta. Some scenes along the trail.

And I got to meet up with my good friend from the Falcon Club, Janice Branson. She and her husband, Don were some of the first people I met in the FCA and we have remained in touch. Don passed away last year but it was good to see Janice and catch up. She’s doing very well and it was so nice to visit with her.
After we left Marthasville, we cruised along scenic Hwy. 94 through the river bottoms and along the trail until we had to turn back due to water over the road. We found the detour, hit the grocery store and headed to Marni and Eric’s where they always welcome us at their garden spot on the trail near Wilton.

I put my hummingbird feeder up and had a hummer in minutes. Then he flew into the bus! Astrid was sitting on the step though and he flew right back out. Whew.

More trail riding and kitty walking to come. This is a great spot for the cats to go out.
And rabbits!


Land Between the Lakes

We always wanted to take a houseboat on Land Between the Lakes since we first went there in 2002 in Jim’s Falcon.

From Atlanta we headed there in the bus for a several night stay on Kentucky Lake. No houseboat this time. I continued to rest and baby my eye but did take a few pictures. It is beautiful there.