Next stop Grand Junction, Colorado. Not only do our good friends Ted and Ramona, live there, world-class bike trails are everywhere. Good long ones!
It was an easy drive from Steineker Lake to their personal RV spot in their driveway. Before we knew it, we were plugged in, hooked up, set up and enjoying a glass of wine together. We had lots of catching up to do, new plans and projects to hear about, and several wineries to visit.
Let me just say that they have a great place to live on a small courtyard with good neighbors. Everybody has keys to each others’ houses. They borrow cups of milk and eggs back and forth. They have a small flower garden and backyard chicken coop tucked away behind the garage. Their home is comfortable and welcoming with an indoor/outdoor atmosphere due to the small screened-in patio right off the kitchen/dining room. We traipsed around like we owned the place, at their insistence. Sheila and Gracie, the two resident kitties were much better about meeting strangers than ours are. We actually got to pet them! Plus the weather was perfect all week long. We celebrated our anniversaries and Ted’s birthday together.
Ted has a garage, several actually, that most guys would commit crimes for. He also has a vast upstairs enclave, Man Land, where he displays his many firefighting and law enforcement memorabilia and keeps himself busy with several small businesses, including penny stamping and book writing. He is a prolific writer with the technical knowledge to back it up. And, oh yeah, he is retired. Ha!
Ramona is a large dynamo in a small package. She still works at a busy orthopedic practice. We have had some experience with orthopedics lately. She will be retiring in July and they will continue to pursue their many local interests as well as travel in their newly acquired travel trailer. They moved to Colorado from California and tend to gravitate toward Oregon and Northern California so we will likely meet up sometime, somewhere. Ramona is one of those great cooks who makes everything look effortless and we enjoyed several memorable meals with good company. This, after making it clear that they did not have to entertain the transients.
We took a few field trips around the area, where we had practiced bus driving after we picked up the bus. The Colorado National Monument is five minutes from their house and a haven for hikers, bikers and photographers.
The small town of Palisade is a fertile agricultural valley beneath the imposing Bookcliff Mountains, the only mountain range in the northern hemisphere that runs east and west instead of north and south. They grow all types of fruit, apples, peaches, grapes for wine and lavender. Did I mention there are several wineries there? We even visited a little alpaca farm where Mike, the gracious alpaca farmer spent some time telling us about the operation. Too bad they didn’t have any sweaters, I definitely would have bought one!
We have said it before, but one of the best unanticipated things about traveling is having locals show us around the area. Not only do we get to see the best local attractions, we are chauffeured about by friends, chatting up a storm all the way, soaking up the area history. Ted and Ramona have lived in Grand Junction for about 12 years and have carved out a great life there. Their observations and explanations of the things we saw and visited were invaluable and a much appreciated introduction to the area.
And the bike trails! The Colorado River trail is less than a mile from their house and goes for miles in both directions. All the streets have dedicated bike lanes too. I should have moved to the west 40 years ago. Jim is still not riding his bike so I headed out on a couple of gorgeous fall days to explore this tremendous resource.
I met Nancy, an en plein air painter the first day on the trail. She is the one who told me about the four prehistoric types of fish that are threatened, of course. They normally live in the backwaters of the Colorado River where their habitat is being destroyed by scheduled dam releases that dry up the habitat. I saw a sign later that said they were addressing that by controlling the releases so the backwaters are healthy. The pikeminnow can be six feet long and weigh 60+ pounds. She said she had seen them.
This is an example of a large and healthy backwater I saw the second day on the trail. The air was crisp, the wind was blowing and a man I saw on a bridge said “Winter is coming!” He was right. So much color on the river.
The trail itself is fabulous, a smooth concrete surface that has just enough twists and turns to make every vista interesting. Clean benches and places to stop. I hope the people of Grand Junction realize what a tremendous asset this is. To everyone I met I exulted, “This is a great trail!” They probably thought I was a lunatic. Yeah, Duh.
Finally it was time to say our bittersweet goodbyes. Ramona tried her pouty best to get us to stay longer but we can feel the cold moving in. On to Denver. But not before taking some photos reminiscing about our time together then and now and how far the bus and our friendship has come. Both good for a million miles. Lots more miles to go.
October 20, 2015
May 28, 2010
Leaving Grand Junction, we drove the exact route we did our first day alone in the bus in 2010, east on Highway 70 through Vail Pass and the Eisenhower/Johnson Tunnel at 11,000 feet. Thank goodness it wasn’t snowing that first day! We had stopped early the night before our final ascent so we could watch the Royals in the ALCS and that worked out fine except for a couple of things.
1) They lost.
2) The next morning the rain turned into snow and the highway was closed.
We waited a few hours, got the word that the way was open (Thank Al Gore for the internet!), fueled up and headed up the hill. Jim drove both times and he said it was actually better this time, even with the snow and the foggy visibility. We also have jake brakes now which we did not in 2010. And more miles under our belt, all with Captain Ted talking in our ears. In a good way.
And, thanks to Ted and Ramona, we also have the best of friends, the kind you just pick right back up with and say, “OK, where were we?”
More photos on Flickr.