Sunday, December 30, 2007

In training for Mancos Mush V

Scooby-Doo digs in as she pulls us down the driveway and back up to the house. Perhaps she's in training for the 2009 Mancos Mush! She's certainly not complaining about the crunchy snow in 16-degree high altitude sunshine ... but then, she's lived in "da UP." TV

Phantoms of the Panhandle

Ghostlike in the dawn, these windmills silently sliced the air northwest of the buildings in the picture below. TV

Saturday, December 29, 2007

West Texas - winter dawn

Dawn silhouettes this plant near Adrian, Texas, Friday. COLD, COLD, COLD!

Home again

After 4,917 miles through 13 states in 24 days, it's nice to be home! It's a sometimes-sunny day, with the high-altitude warmth that the sun brings when it's out. Scooby-Doo (Sandy's dachshund, who hitched a ride with us) has discovered the joy of lying, sprawled-out, on the tile floor in the sunlight. 

Yesterday was a long day, but we made it into Mancos before dark. Today we're washing clothes, washing Fifi the cat, walking the dog, eating healthy, walking the dog, cleaning house, walking the dog, sorting through the Christmas mail, walking the dog ... yes, life is back to normal, a new normal.

Had a flock of turkeys migrate through the yard mid-day. This happens every couple of years. Got the feeder stocked again, so winter birds are outside the living room windows. TV

Friday, December 28, 2007

'Twas a dark and stormy night ...

This tree, covered with thin ice, was typical of the roadside vegetation as we neared Amarillo on I-40 yesterday afternoon. The road conditions really were not bad, but driving for 150 miles in fog, with a visibility of 1/4-mile (less at times), gets to be a strain. As we entered the east outskirts of Amarillo, it began to snow and blow hard; a major accident occurred a block or two further west on I-40 just after we turned off to get to the motel. 

Much of the day, of course, was spent listening on satellite radio to discussions of Benazir Bhutto's assassination. Ron Paul makes some sense when he challenges our involvement ... and investment ... in client states. More than nine billion dollars, without accountability, to support a "friendly" dictator who seems mainly interested in staying in power and doesn't seem to be very interested in wiping out the Al Qaeda leadership, now based in his own country. At home, we can't find the money to fix our own infrastructure, lower health care costs, etc. Some folks in the Oklahoma City area are STILL out of power after the ice storm three weeks ago! And that's a relatively minor weather disaster compared to Katrina. Yeah, I know ... Tom woke up in a bad mood. Seeing mountains will help. tv

Thursday, December 27, 2007

BRRR! It's a cold night in Amarillo!

We drove into Amarillo through a cold fog and a Texas welcome of light blowing snow. . .  far  from
the warmth of the Corpus Christi Bay where I had photographed my fine feathered friend  sunning himself (or herself, I don't know how you tell with pelicans :)   ) under blue cloudless skies.  Tom and I and Scooby-Doo , my notorious Doxie, settled into a lovely Comfort Inn  in the early evening tonight and are anticipating clear skies for the final leg of our December journey.We are real optimists, aren't we!  We left Mancos on December 5th and have been within a few miles of the Canadian border and as far south as the Gulf coast, so it has been quite a trip and full of great memories.   It was so good to see so many old friends and family in our travels.   Thank you to those of you that welcomed us with your good company, good food and/or a stay in your guest room.  It's been quite a trip!  So what, my Christmas Cards haven't been mailed yet. . . you have heard of New Years Cards haven't you. . . . or Valentine's Day is soon. . but guess the Santas  on the cards wouldn't work for that ...oh,well, I'll be home soon  and figure it out. . . Best wishes to all. . SF

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Boxing Day

Just a quick note from Chandler, OK, in the midst of fairly heavy snow.

Sandy and I had a night out last night, and went to a movie. So did everyone else in Shawnee and surrounding areas! Cabin fever must have been real strong.

Anyway, we saw "The Great Debaters" and loved it! It's not a cotton candy and warm syrup movie ... it's about a time and a place (and an activity) that was tense, but we thought it was really well done, and recommend it. tv

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to you all from Tom and Sandy! We watched Sandy's grandsons do the Christmas morning gift-demolition this morning ... lots of grins and oohs and aahs ... the teacup Chihuahua Philip got for Christmas snuggled under my arm (to avoid getting lost and walked on in the wrappings, I think). Shortly we'll do some more at Sandy's and do some more eating. Here's hoping all who read this are well and enjoying the day, too.

We plan to start back Thursday; may be able to post some more pics from the trip then. Right now, they're on the laptop and we haven't figured out easy transfer to Sandy's desktop. We will, though. Or network stuff after we get home.

Peace to all. tv

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Nasty weather!

Nice morning in Austin, with HEAVY dew (I'm not used to dew in Mancos). Temp in the 50s and 60 till we got up around the I-35W turn to go through Fort Worth. Could see a weather bank in the distance to the north and noticed the temp had gone down to 48 degrees and there was a strong cross-wind. Around Denton we hit the first snow and then it was dicey the rest of the way. At one point, there was a tanker rolled in the southbound lane and that side of the Interstate was backed up at least 10 miles. We missed any serious backups till we got just south of Norman. Taking OK-9 east worked for a while, till an accident and emergency crews blocked that road. Detours along other roads still got us into Chandler by 6, before it was really dark, but it was 25 degrees and blowing snow. We're both glad we knocked off several hours of the trip from CC yesterday. Nice to be hunkered down in a warm house and not have to get on the road again tomorrow.

I'm reading "The Shape Shifter," by Tony Hillerman, one I don't think I've read before (I occasionally find a title that looks interesting, get half-way through and realized I've read it before). Joe Leaphorn talks about waking up with a clogged head from motel room air conditioning. I know exactly what he's talking about!

I just finished "Escape," by Carolyn Jessop, telling how she took her eight children and fled the FLDS, and about her life in the polygamous community. Now I think I understand what Laurie Allen meant when she told me "It's all about sex" when she visited with me in Mancos after her video "Banking on Heaven" showed in Durango a couple of years ago.

I haven't traveled the route before, but it has seemed to me on the trip from central OK to the Gulf coast that there are both a lot of billboards and a lot of "empty" billboards ... containing only a variety of "this space for rent" messages. Overbuilt? Downturn in some aspect of the economy? Seasonal thing? TV

To Corpus Christi ... and now back

We've finally reached the Gulf beach at Corpus Christi, Texas, after detouring to the upper Midwest. We left Chandler Tuesday, stayed with a friend of long-standing in Austin that night (got a great night-time tour of the capitol ... above- and below-ground), went to New Braunfels and spent the night with Sandy's relatives (after a neat walking-tour of the downtown old town), on to CC Thursday to visit with more relatives and tour CC. We got out to the beach, where Sandy and her sister walked and walked and chased birds and found shells and other items washed up ... and I did the same and enjoyed little trails of tracks in the sand. 

One thing that surprised me, after hearing many years of discussion of the impact of offshore drilling rigs on Padre Island National Seashore, was to actually see them on the horizon! I had thought they were miles and miles away, out of sight.

We made it back to Austin last night, to cut down today's trek to Chandler. The temperature was in the 80s most of the day. Traffic was humongous! Everybody in CC seemed to be on the streets and highways, going in all directions, and there was heavy traffic most of the way on I-35 north from San Antonio. It might have been nice to get further, but the oncoming lights are not comfortable for these old eyes.

So, off to Chandler and, probably, a white Christmas with family and sparkling children's eyes and good smells and tastes. TV

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The little town of Tyron, OK, maybe 20 miles north of Chandler, was still out of power when we went through there Sunday, and ice was still coating the north sides of some buildings, even though it was more than 70 degrees outside. Power had been off about 10 days. The tree damage evident in the picture was widespread throughout the Chandler region, but not much outside. TV

Eskimo Joe T-shirts

Sandy led us to Eskimo Joe's, a famous restaurant in Stillwater, OK, on our way down Sunday. I liked the riot of color in the stacks of T-shirts. TV

Catching up on the pic-posting

Kansas, Kansas, Kansas in all directions. Our sunny (but cold) view as we left Emporia for Chandler on Sunday. TV

Monday, December 17, 2007

Made it!

We made it to Chandler mid-afternoon yesterday, after a beautiful, sunny drive from Emporia. The temperature not only got over 30 degrees, it got up to 46 at one point! We started looking for our swimming suits!

The effects of the ice storm east of Oklahoma City are unbelievable. Can't post pics right now (different computer, different operating system, dial-up connection, etc.) but will later. In Stillwater, there was very little ice damage. In Tryon, just north of Chandler, there was still ice sheeting down the north sides of buildings from the ice more than a week ago. Folks there were STILL running on generators, living in their camper trailers, etc.

It varies by species, but some yards are devastated, with limbs and broken trunks everywhere. Fortunately there appears to have been little loss of life, and there are surprisingly few instances of damage to structures. Lots of fence fixin' to do, though!

Nice to be at Sandy's home, to be with family and to be off the road. Later. TV

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Favorite Moments

"Seize the Moment"  is never truer than when you are traveling. . A few of my favorites from the last few days. . . A shot of great color presented in a surprise sunset after a day of blah skies. . The beauty of the bluest of blue from above reflected in a cold, snow-lined river. . and every woman's dream! A lunch spot not only with wonderful eats but every inch of available space covered with treasures available for purchase.  Shopping opportunities even abound in the tastefully decorated "potties"!   What a fun place. . SF

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Stormin' along

Only made about 450 miles today, decided to call it quits after about 10 hours of snowstorm. This was almost-sunshine on I-35 south of Albert Lea, MN. 

The picture we didn't have time to get was a little later, near milepost 99, when a northbound van flew into the center median, rolled onto the driver's side and kept on coming like a speeding snowplow, finally coming to rest in the left southbound lane ... just as we were going by in the right lane. All of us missed the van, but several of us drivers in the right line did some fast praying and some fancy braking and steering ... and if I'd been passing and been in the left lane, I'd probably no longer be part of this blog! We felt the after-effects for quite a few miles down the road. Sandy immediately called 911 and we saw emergency vehicles headed north very shortly thereafter.

This was really the worst day of weather we've had on the trip; we've been very fortunate! Most days have been grey, and for 10 days the temperature hasn't been higher than in the 20s, but today was the worst road conditions. Even so, we saw lots more vehicles off the road when we were coming across Nebraska and Iowa on I-80 9-10 days ago.

By the way, Sandy just noticed that comment was restricted to those with Google accounts; we changed that to open commentation. Pile on! TV

Friday, December 14, 2007


As I've come back to northern Wisconsin over the decades, patterns have gradually become clear. One is that my home county, Lincoln, and its neighboring counties to the east and west are kind of a dividing line. I first realized it when I was in grad school, driving from Carbondale, IL, the length of Illinois and at least half of Wisconsin. It was reinforced these last few days, coming into northern Wisconsin from the UP. 

The northern part of the county (including Rock Falls Township, where I grew up) is forested, uphill and down, potholes and ridges and cedar swamps. The farms are few and far between, tend to have small, scattered fields and are relatively small-scale. It's a little sad to drive around where there were productive, well-tended farms in the 1950s and now see fields gone fallow, buildings decrepit, falling down or gone. In lots of places, there appeared to be large numbers of little conifers scattered through deciduous woodlots. Maybe that's the natural evolution of this area ... to return to pine forest (and subdivisions).

The southern part of the county, and down into Marathon county, still has ridges and rocks and potholes and swamps, but the fields are big, the land tends to be more rolling and the scale of the farming operations is much larger ... one silo in the north, three or four in the south.

There's not much change in the social landscape in 50 years, either, at least not to this casual observer. In the crowded restaurant where we ate breakfast yesterday morning, the only people of color were the Hispanic busboy and the Hispanic cook. The menu offerings have changed a little ... burritos and taco salads are more common, and there are Oriental restaurants in evidence way more than in the 50s. TV

We found it!

We did, at last, find a motorcycle made in the Tomahawk region, after being turned away from the Harley plant! This one was sitting by the side of US 51 on the north of Irma, WI, the nearest "town" when I was growing up. Note the trailer wheel half-buried in snow, giving you a clue that this monster is about six feet high! 

Note also that Sandy has captured evidence of that elusive northern Wisconsin atmospheric condition known as sunshine, and blue sky, and it stayed with us all the way to Albert Lea, MN, where we are tonight. (With the temperature in single digits outside!)

By the way, if you're hungry when traveling west on Highway 29 in west-central Wisconsin, try the Thorpedo restaurant in Thorp, WI. It's nonsmoking, with a big menu. Sandy and I ordered off the senior menu and had all we could eat, for less than $13 (bowl of soup, choice of potatoes, main event, vegetable, bun, coffee and ice cream for dessert). Service was not fast (we hit lunch-time exactly) but the lady was very pleasant and helpful. I had liver and onions (comfort food for this old badger) and the piece of liver filled the platter and was tender and tasty, with lots of onions. All on the senior menu! TV

It sure is!

Sandy saw this irony of this sign north of Tomahawk. TV

New library in Merrill

Whoa! What's this! That was my reaction when, while driving east on Main St., I pointed out the T.B. Scott Free Library that I spent so much time in as a boy. The historic Carnegie library is still there, which was added onto a few decades ago, but rising behind it along the river is a bright, spacious three-story structure that is a joy to be in. We understand it was built about six years ago, allegedly without a dime of taxpayer money. The old building is still there, warm and inviting and historically accurate ... I felt like I was walking in the front door again and looked over to see if Edna Kraft, the librarian, was still standing there to greet me. It was a bright spot in an altogether gray day!

Sandy found this neat reading nook at the side of the stacks on the second floor ... quiet, inviting, with homey plants and a view outdoors. The sign overhead is an example of how the library has recognized major donors and designated use areas. This library will be a MUST to spend some time in when we come back for Tom's 50th high school class reunion in 2008. TV

Black and white day

Yesterday was a black-and-white day along the Wisconsin River in northern Wisconsin. We visited some of Tom's old haunts, the power plants where his dad worked, saw relatives (too few, too fast a trip) and ended the day with a pleasant evening looking at cousin Helen's quilts and cousin Laurel's photos and telling family stories. TV

Thursday, December 13, 2007

For our Harley-ridin' friends

There are two Harley Davidson plants in the Tomahawk area (a great boon to this northwoods economy!) and this is one of them yesterday afternoon. We tried to get a tour, or at least a view of what they do inside ... no luck. Two uniformed security folks at a very high-tech entrance desk made sure we weren't going any further .. or seeing anything. One said the other plant, a mile or two away, gives tours in summer. This is definitely not summer! TV

A sunny day, at last!

Look, look! Sunshine! We left Newberry in snow, which increased to the point evident in the picture of the sign at Germfask, but cleared up about the time we got down to US 2 and then it was really beautiful the rest of the way into Tomahawk. Bright and sunny ... and cold! The temperature kept dropping; when we tucked it in last night it was down to 14 degrees.

Some high spots of the day: The Swedish Pantry, in downtown Escanaba. Good food, good service and nonsmoking. The owner said she took a lot of flak, including nasty phone calls when she decided to ban smoking, but her restaurant was full for lunch. Bambino's, an old restaurant downtown in Tomahawk, was hardly full for supper, but it was also a nonsmoking oasis. The Bambino's name is fairly new, but I've eaten in this family restaurant at various times over 40 years. TV

Germfask, MI ... a link with Mancos

While in Newberry, MI, I realized that Germfask was just off our path into northern Wisconsin. Had to find it, because Germfask figures prominently in the Mancos story of Civilian Public Service Camp 111.

Camp 111 was based at the earlier CCC camp near Jackson Gulch Dam. In both instances, the men assigned there worked on site preparation, under Bureau of Reclamation supervision, for the dam. The CCC program started in 1933 and was discontinued in 1942, when the young men were needed for the war effort. During WWII, young men had four choices: Active military duty, active duty as a noncombatant (medic, etc.), CPS (doing "work of national importance") or prison. Camp 111 was the first government-run CPS camp; prior to that, the camps were run by religious denominations (mostly the "peace churches" - Mennonites, Brethren, Quakers - but others, too). 

The Germfask camp, No. 135, was opened later, at Seney Wildlife Refuge. It became infamous as the "Alcatraz" of the CPS camps. Conscientious objectors who acted out (or got crosswise with camp management) in ways that didn't warrant being sent to prison were sent to Germfask. There were COs (also called "conchies") who did their assigned duties in the camps, but there were also absolutists who opposed war in any form and would not lend a hand in any way to the war effort, believing that to do so was to support the war. 

Corbett Bishop was an absolutist who was assigned to Mancos Camp 111. He was an anchor of the "Tobacco Road" barracks at the camp, a core of dissenters and, in the eyes of the administrators, malcontents. He was sent to Germfask, where he was part of another "Tobacco Road." Bishop "walked out" in 1944, and was sent to prison. (Interesting side-note ... prisons and the military at that time were segregated; the CCC and CPS were not.) He fasted and was force-fed for more than 400 days; his case finally went to the Supreme Court. He was finally released and, as I recall, became a bookseller in Chicago, where he died in a mugging in 1961.

The absolutists at Germfask apparently made malingering an art and were so much trouble for the administrators and the F&WS that it's not surprising that the sign shown gives total credit to the CCCs, even though the CCC no longer existed after FY 42. TV

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Retirees at play!

We found this country  inn  that is snuggled on the banks of a beautiful lake in the upper  peninsula of Michigan a great place to spend the night.  Chamberlin's Ole Forest Inn has long been a favorite of locals and visitors alike and we enjoyed the stay! SF  

Tahquamenon trek

After a nice lunch with friends of Sandy's, we drove north to Tahquamenon Falls, a scenic attraction of this part of the UP. Nice park facilities, though the brewery was closed. The trail to the overlooks was packed down and the 94 steps to the edge of the falls were cleared of snow. It is an impressive waterfall, with features of the cliff edge visible through the veil of water. There are rapids visible in the shallows of the dark, cold river above the falls. 

Equally beautiful are the ice cascade and frost formations on the side of the river, probably from the moisture created by the plunge. 

Tom found that 10-pound weights had attached themselves to each leg by the time he reached the 85th step on the way back! TV

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Grinning to go

Went back to Curtis this morning and caught these grinning reminders that this is snowmobile country! Snowmobiles everywhere and some tracks in the new snow, although Sandy learned that the official trails won't open till after muzzle-loader season closes. 

Lost in time

There actually was sunshine for a while in the UP yesterday afternoon! Some of it was catching the treetops and reflected in the calm waters of Portage Creek in this shot just outside the town of Curtis. Later we stayed at Chamberlin's Ole Forest Inn, which was a step back in time. TV

Mayhem in Michigan

The fallen Big Boy (Sandy's pic), with police tape around it, prompted us to ask the waitress at the Houghton Lakes restaurant about the "crime." She said a police officer came in after the statue fell and said there'd been a homicide in the parking lot, so she (the officer) put a police tape around the "crime scene." The "coroner's" report is that Big Boy died of natural causes, having held up that burger on that pedestal for more than 30 years. There were no "collateral damage" injuries or fatalities. 

Both of us are sensitive to smoke, and, while some places have had non-smoking areas, overall we miss Colorado and its ban on smoking in eating places. Six non-smoking tables in a room full of smokers is not very effective. TV

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Memories ...

Many years ago, settlers in the Trufant, Michigan, area cleared the trees from the land in order to plant and harvest their fields.  Stumps of the trees were turned upside down with the roots grotesquely reaching upward and forming  very effective "stump fences" around the fertile land.  And if you visit Trufant today you will see from the welcoming signage that the small town has proclaimed itself "The Stump Fence Capital." There are few of the original fences left and residents proudly display stumps (roots up, of course) in their yards, usually complemented by a flourish of colorful flowers in the summer.  I have explained this to Tom. I don't think he gets it. . his comment was . . "Everyplace has to have something," noting the "garlic capitol" and various other communities promoting their favorite oddity.  The stumps have always been an interesting creation  of nature's beauty  to me .  I really like them. . .  .But then Tom has only seen them in the bleak winter setting. . . . flowers help.  :) 

When all is said and done, life is about memories. Today was a day of beautiful memories, celebrating the 90th birthday of my late husband's mother, together with Tom and the family and friends that had been so much of my life for so many years.  Today was good ...well worth the drive, whatever the distance. SF

Can't resist adding a comment on the building the birthday celebration was held in, the Trufant Community Center. It was originally built to house the Danish Brotherhood Society, a part of the Danish Brotherhood of America. The Trufant lodge hearkens back to the early 1900s, when there was a heavy concentration of Danes in that area. One of Sandy's brother-in-laws recalled when they used to have ebleskiver parties there ... little Danish popovers that I remember from my childhood in northern Wisconsin. The lodge building is a wonderful, warm meeting-place with lots of character and heritage. It also reminded me of how strong those ethnic identities still were in my youth in northern Wisconsin ... there was the Swedish Lutheran Church, the Norwegian Lutheran Church, the Danish Lutheran Church ... I've even heard of an Estonian Lutheran Church near Gleason, WI, and a Finnish Lutheran Church south of Ashland, WI. All descendants, I guess, of the national churches in the countries the settlers came from. Rambling ... more memories ... a pleasant detour on our trip to Corpus Christi. tv (The pic should be with this paragraph, but this technically inept old goat can't figure out how to link the photo with the text. My apologies. tv)

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Michigan, My Michigan

There was actually some sunshine ... for a while ... this morning on the east shore of Lake Michigan. Sandy caught this scene in a pretty little park in St. Joseph. Tom caught the next one, looking up the shoreline. Both were COLD!
The caption for today's posting is the title of a book by one Tom's favorite nature author/illustrators, Gwen Frostic. Now deceased, Frostic produced beautifully printed and illustrated books and cards celebrated nature and natural processes. Probably won't get to her studio and shop at Benzonia this trip, but someday.

The gray gloom came back, but we saw more sun this afternoon as we arrived in the Greenville area. Got a nice room at the AmericInn in Greenville, then found our way out to Trufant, where the Feutz family gathering is being held. Trufant could be transplanted into Lincoln County, Wisconsin (where Tom grew up), with ease. TV

Friday, December 7, 2007

Well, this is the driver's view for half of yesterday and all of today, till we got into the Chicago area in late afternoon. I understand it rained hard in Mancos today, so maybe our scenery wasn't all that bad. Nonetheless, grey, grey winter days are all too prominent in my memory of northern Wisconsin and Sandy's memories of the UP. Anyway, we made it through the evening traffic south of Chicago and Gary without mishap and have holed up in Chesterton, IN. Tomorrow should be a short day into Greenville, MI, and then we can visit and relax for a day or so. Weather permitting, we'll try sneaking up I-94, along the east side of Lake Michigan. If the lake effect is too awful, we can sneak inland to Kalamazoo and north. The road across Iowa was dry, but the median and right and left right of ways were littered with cars and trucks, including a few semis, from the snowfall earlier. TV

Thursday, December 6, 2007

The High Lonesome

The early morning sunlight brings out the hayfield stubble ... in a huge field.
We stopped to take in the vastness of the high plains ... "the High Lonesome" ... along route 71 north of Limon around dawn. I was caught (not struck!) by the passing of two vehicles on that lonesome highway ... and then by the wiggles in the paint lines and blacktop surface.

As we transited into Nebraska on I-76, 601 miles from our starting point in Mancos, there was a gray bank of cloud lying along the north side of the river. Not long after, it enveloped us and most of Nebraska was encased in a gray-out.

We weren't IN much snow, but it snowed not long ahead of us, and by evening it was cold and slushy as we came through Omaha at rush hour, noting the flags at half-staff for yesterday's tragic shootings at a local mall. We tucked it in just a bit into Council Bluffs, ate at Ruby Tuesday (a first for both of us) and called it a day. Who knows what tomorrow's weather will be? TV

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Michigan or Bust!

 But we didn't make it out of Colorado!  We started on our trip to Michigan and parts beyond but found so many photo opportunities to slow us down along the way.  This small cattle drive had claimed  one lane of the highway in South Fork  which was much better than  the traffic jam in Colorado Springs where we found that commuters had claimed all lanes of the highway.  We are settled in for the night at the Comfort Inn in Limon, having soaked our tired bodies in the inviting hot tub. And we had ice cream for dinner!  (We're senior citizens now, so we can do that. . ) Stay tuned for the further adventures of Tom and Sandy. . . SF

Monday, December 3, 2007

Snow for Mancos Mush IV

The slow advent of the snow season has people wondering whether there'll be enough snow for the mushers to run on Feb. 9 and 10, the dates of Mancos Mush IV. We're here to say it sure looks good at this point! We went up beyond Transfer Campground this afternoon and there was solid snowpack on about 99 percent of the route we covered above the point where the races started in 2006. Most of the course is even higher than we were, it's still early in the winter and we feel very optimistic about good sledding. Doing snow dances still won't hurt, but it looks pretty good (and beautiful!) up there right now.

Sandy got this shot of the snow-packed course just above Transfer, and I captured the scene around the Aspen Guard Station higher up.

Sunday morning sparkle

On Sunday morning, reversing the route that we had driven through blinding snow just a few hours before was beautiful ... sparkling snow, bright blue sky and peaks playing peek-a-boo through the wispy clouds! Sitting in silence in meeting for worship, thinking back about the years in which I have felt driven by obligations and appointments, I'm so glad to have reached a different state of mind. I still have obligations and appointments, but I do take time to smell the roses. Or, to adjust to the season ... Delight in the sparkle!

Delight was definitely part of the experience in the afternoon, too, when Sandy and I caught the matinee performance of the Mancos Valley Chorus Christmas program. They do such a good job, and they have such fun! It was standing room only, as I imagine their other two performances will be, too. I was sad to hear that the Cortez Choralaires had folded after so many decades of singing together, but it was nice to see a few folks from that group had decided to pursue their love of community singing with the Mancos Valley Chorus, under the sparkly professional direction of Kriss Larsen.

May not post to this blog for a few days ... gotta get ready for the upcoming trip. Still got lots of people to see about sponsorships for the Mancos Mush, too. Saturday night's snow certainly boosted visions of dog sleds gliding over the snow! TV

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Midnight mini-blizzard

I've taken 3,000-mile winter trips and encountered the worst weather of the journey in the 10 miles between Mancos and Hesperus. That was true last night, too. 

Sandy arrived at the La Plata County airport east of Durango at 11 p.m. The weather there wasn't too bad (thank goodness, or she would probably have spent the night in Albuquerque!), but it got worse as we traveled west from Durango. 

By the time we reached Hesperus, the snow was blowing into the headlights so ferociously that we were creeping along at 20-25 miles an hour, just trying to stay in the roadway. Fortunately, the CDOT plows had already been both ways (bless those folks!), so there was a small line of piled snow at each edge of the highway to guide us. The lighted angel Christmas decoration at the Montoya ranch was certainly a welcome break in those miles of snow-in-the-face. 

The fury of the blizzard lessened slightly as we went through Thompson Park, but then it resumed full-force as we started up Mancos Hill. As we started around the curve to go down the west slope of Mancos Hill, the banshees must have taken control of the wind; it was blowing this way, that way, swirling ... a maelstrom of blowing snow. Though the accumulated snow gave pretty good traction, I crept down the slope, mindful of the many fatalities that have occurred there in the past.

'Twas well after midnight when we got home ... and darned glad to be there! It doesn't look like our total snowfall was very much ... just a couple of inches here at the house ... but it was wild while it lasted! TV

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Flickr Web pages

I just sent news of this blog to a buncha relatives and friends, then thought maybe I should include the URL for the Flickr site where we have posted pictures. So, have done so in the profile. To save time, it's TV

Mesa Verde in the mists

I drove into Mesa Verde yesterday afternoon. Cold, rainy, misty. It was a different place than in the sunshine we're so used to. The clouds were walking, and trees were silhouetted against the mist, canyons disappeared into fog, etc. Shivery, too. 

Rained practically all night, but didn't turn to snow at 7,200 feet. When it clears, though, I'll bet we'll see a welcome blanket of white on the La Platas! Tom

Navajo Canyon in the mists, Nov. 30, 2007

Friday, November 30, 2007


There's snow this morning. Not much here at the house, but it rings the valley a couple hundred feet above. The weather forecast is for more today and tomorrow.

That's good news for everyone here. All of our water in the Mancos Valley (with the exception of a very few wells and springs) comes from the La Plata Mountains that form the east edge of the valley ... plus the rain and snow that falls on the ground inside the valley. So, our snow pack this winter is, essentially, our water ration next summer!

Incidental to that (water for the town, the valley and Mesa Verde National Park is a much higher priority), we hope to have a good base of snow for Mancos Mush IV, which will take place Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 9 and 10. The Web site for the Mush is

If we have good snow, the races will start at 8,031 feet elevation and go up to 11,093, with both a 30-mile and a 40-mile course each day. There WILL be snow at higher elevations, no doubt about that. But lack of snow at lower elevations may require moving the starting point a little higher (this was done in 2006) and that both shortens the courses and makes it more difficult logistically.

I was out streetwalking yesterday to raise sponsorships for the Mush, and will go again today. The Mush is getting established as an annual event now, and it comes at a great time for Mancos (what else is happening around here in February?), so support is good.

We're getting some ancillary activities going to coincide with the Mush. The library is going to host an event then, raising money for our new library. Mancos artists Veryl Goodnight and Patsy Davis are planning a dog-themed art show, Wolves at Heart, with an exciting Junior Wolves at Heart art competition for students in Montezuma County. So, we're planning on a yippin' good time in the Rockies, regardless of the snow depth!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The rest of the story ...

We thoroughly enjoyed our visit with Drayton in Fort Collins, going into Old Town in the evening to window-look and dine, filling his house with turkey smells (and leftovers) on Thanksgiving and visiting with him. Saw him in a trivia competition with Katie, his housemates, etc., on Wednesday evening, and he's as good at it as ever!

On Black Friday, we took advantage of sales at big box stores in Ft. Collins and Loveland, then headed over the pass to Grand Junction. Kind of a ho-hum day weather-wise, but we needed to cover miles and we got into GJ before dark.

That gave us time to stroll the downtown pedestrian mall area ... about four blocks of shops of all sorts and an amazing amount of statuary! That really is an impressive way to bring art and life to a downtown area.

Saturday dawned bright and cold, with fresh snow in the hills to the south. So, we toured Olathe and Delta (with its Egyptian Theater) and Montrose and then climbed the mountains into Telluride. Did some streetwalking there, too, and then over Lizard Head Pass, detouring to visit Upper and Lower Ophir. Pics are of Telluride and Upper Ophir. Beautiful day, and great setting for picture-taking. Where else can you see such blue sky? Tom

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Following up

This is a new experience, this blogging stuff ... complicated by the fact that our high-speed interaction connection was down (something having to do with the water that the technician poured out of the router!).

Anyway, we'll pursue this for a while, let a few people know about it, and see where it leads.

Part of the inspiration (for Tom, at least) was the trip Sandy and I took over Thanksgiving to Fort Collins, where son Drayton lives.

We took two days each way, staying in Buena Vista on the way up and Grand Junction on the way back. Neat trip, with second days each way characterized by bright sunshine and fresh snow. We got lots of pictures!

On the first day out, we did side-trips both sides of Wolf Creek Pass, then wandered in the San Luis Valley. Took the road north of Del Norte to La Garita and Penitente Canyon. Never did reach the canyon, but really had a great experience in the La Garita area. There's an old Catholic church there, by the Carnero Creek Cemeterio ... fascinating place, with the San Luis Valley spread out to the east and south (picture of San Juan de Baptista above, from the cemetery).

We enjoyed supper in Buena Vista at Mother's Bistro ... a place that advertises "comfort food" can't be all bad! The menu is limited, but the meatloaf was good and the decor and service (by the owner) was great.

I wanted Sandy to experience breakfast at the old hotel in Fairplay, but they're not doing breakfast nowadays. So, just down the street is the Brown Burro Cafe and it was comfy, family-oriented and had good breakfasts (and the smallest restrooms we've ever seen!). Fairplay was beautiful in the fresh snow, bright sunshine and about 12-degree temperature.

'Nuff for now; more later ... maybe.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Good morning!

This is Sandy and Tom's first effort at a blog, to record and share our travels, etc.