Nineteen hundred miles in one long weekend was a lot of miles even for Storm and me, but that’s what it takes to make it from Albuquerque to Nicole and David’s wedding in Teton Village and back to Albuquerque by Monday. On an ordinary day the ride north is stunning, but we experience a special treat this time as the aspens and other hardwoods are decked out in their most colorful autumn finery.
I do not get many pictures (darn it) because Storm was on a “tight schedule” that did not include “stopping at every overlook” to take a decent picture :-). While Storm has mastered shooting from a moving car, my blurred photos shot from the car window are always disappointing to me so I made the following video (also shot from a car window and possibly also blurry) to give you a chance to virtually enjoy the winding vibrant ride back down the Million Dollar highway to Durango. Please note – we are only traveling about 25 miles an hour. I sped the video up (4 times faster) so that you could see more of the ride in less time. And having told you that, I still think that the truck driver at the beginning of the video is awesome at handling the curves and the white car – NOT!
We arrive in Jackson Hole Saturday morning with some time to kill before the wedding at 4:30. We visit the downtown plaza and the street fair in progress there then grab some sandwiches for a picnic at the Elk Refuge. It is too early in the season for the elk to have descended from the mountains, but the view across the plains is still picturesque.
A wedding view
It takes a village to get Storm and me to a wedding and that is certainly true as we blunder our way through Teton Village looking for the tram that is to carry us 3000′ up to join the wedding party. Confused by the directions we receive at the hotel – “just a 5 minute walk, you can’t miss it” – we are turned away from the first tram we find by a lady who runs toward us from the tram entrance shouting “this is not the wedding tram!” Wait – there is more than one tram? As we wander the village in our dress clothes studying the many signs with arrows pointing to trams, a few patio diners take pity on us and shout directions from restaurants hoping to guide us to the right tram (the one we could not miss). We find it and as we board our car, are handed a delicious fruity beverage to consume as we float up the mountain. The ceremony, vista, and food at the wedding are dignified, magnificent and heavenly. We so enjoyed meeting the many warm and thoughtful people in attendance. Thanks Nicole and David for sharing your special day with us! Congratulations and best wishes for a joyful life together.
Leaving Jackson headed south
The next day, after a tasty and filling brunch with the wedding party we strike out headed back to Albuquerque and our RV which is still parked at the Balloon Fiesta lot. Storm reluctantly agrees to route us along the scenic and multiple photo op Hwy 191 through Flaming Gorge. He even concedes to a few stops along the reservoir so that I can ask questions of the rangers and take pictures. For you Dam Tour Enthusiasts, the rangers offer a free tour of the Flaming Gorge Dam that includes a view from the top, a walk through the power plant and a fish feeding stop at the bottom. No time for us to take the tour on this trip, but good to know for next time.
Here are a few more pics from the trip.
Storm took this from the car heading north on Hwy 550 toward Ouray
View from the tram ride up to the wedding
Flaming Gorge Reservoir
Flaming Gorge Dam
Flaming Gorge Dam
South on Hwy 191 – view from the last of the 10 curves leaving Flaming Gorge
I am still trying to catch up with chores after our 1900 mile trip to Jackson Hole last weekend. More on that adventure in later posts, but for now I just wanted to share some of the unusual things we saw on our trip.
Damsels in distress – we ran across this lovely collection of ladies while we were hunting Munzees in Rawlins, WY
Sign in Jackson Hole Public toilet – I studied it for a few minutes and decided that I have never been limber enough to break this law!
Statue at entrance to Jackson Hole Wildlife Art Museum
As the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta hastens toward us, like silent wingman an increasing number of balloons escort the rising sun as it climbs toward its zenith each day. Meanwhile Storm and I are not wasting the dazzling daylight we enjoy each day here and are working hard to fulfill our volunteer requirements for the Fiesta.
When men do “doo”
Our RV site includes water and electric hookup, but no sewer hookup so Storm helps man the “pump team” twice weekly snaking behind the honey wagon to unload tanks. Storm also doubles as a roofer replacing torn and exhausted shingles on several small buildings scattered about the Fiesta grounds. So far I have had it super easy merely helping to make festival reminder phone calls occasionally and stuffing “goodie” bags to be given away at the Fiesta.
Storm broadens his aviation horizon at Ballooning Class
Sunday, Storm and I attend a Fiesta sponsored class called Ballooning 202 where we learn about becoming a balloon chaser. Attempting to follow roads while stalking a wind blown hot air balloon in hopes of rejoining it to assist in its landing and repacking sounds like adrenaline pumping fun to me. Probably easier to master though if Storm and I were from Albuquerque and actually understood where the roads are headed. With our limited knowledge of area cartography, we sometimes have a hard time consistently finding the local grocery store and unlike a hot air balloon the grocery store is not usually floating gently away from us on an autumn breeze.
After the class, we board the RailRunner Express train from the nearby Sandia Pueblo station to spend our afternoon in Santo Fe. We are too exhausted from our morning educational activities to really enjoy walking the town plaza and window shopping. We do get a much appreciated train induced nap on the ride home which we desperately needed. Here are a few pics from Santa Fe, our chaser class.
With so many attractions beckoning us in and around Albuquerque, we can hardly decide where to visit next. Because we want to see as many National Parks as we can this year, we select the Petroglyph National Monument for an afternoon foray. We are surprised to learn that there are no Petroglyphs at the National Monument Visitor Center. Instead the rangers there provide us with a map and driving instructions to the 3 nearby sites.
We choose the site that appears closest to our RV and when we arrive at the parking lot learn that the trail is practically in people’s backyards and is right behind an automotive express oil change franchise. Although this is the most oddly located National Monument we have visited so far, we still ranked it pretty highly because it is the only park that we know of where there is a Sonic Drive In directly across the street from the trail. After a brutal, scorching walk of almost 200 yards, we are able to revive ourselves with happy hour drinks and ice cream for a total cost of $6 at the Sonic.
We can see the Balloon Fiesta Park from I-25 as we come into Albuquerque and it is clear that we will be racing a thunderstorm to our camping spot. We had a mercifully uneventful and crisply clear ride down from Mesa Verde so what is the deal with the rain? I take this as a sign that I am seriously out of practice as Weather Goddess and flex my sunny muscles in order to drive away the approaching tropical storm predicted to dump a ton of rain on the canyon. I am delighted to report that I have not lost my touch and the storm alters it course to avoid us on its journey northeast. I hope this is a good omen for the Balloon Fiesta weather. I intend to stay in practice just in case.
I will report on our progress as Balloon Fiesta volunteers in a later post because we have been busy sightseeing and I want to share with you. Storm checked out the car show on the Balloon Festival field below our campsite while I attended a Fiesta sponsored CPR class this morning. Our afternoon in Old Town (downtown Albuquerque) was so colorful and fun that I am dying to share our pictures so without further ado here they are:
Storm visits a car show – Shelby Cobra Engine
Storm visits a car show
Storm visits a car show
Storm visits a car show
This young girl has her eyelids closed – awesome face painting!
Three days of cliff dwelling tours and self-guided hikes leave our wobbly limbs begging for rest.Back at the campground while Storm naps, I strategically locate my lounger near the purple thistles beside our RV and keep one eye open hoping to snap a photo of hummingbirds dining there.Matt and Sherry who we met on our tour to Balcony House soon stroll by and as RVers will do, we share fun places to see, cheap places to overnight and RV horror (aka repair) stories. The subject of electrical possibilities arises and Matt (an electrical genius) helps Storm correctly program the generator auto start portion of our power inverter . Programmed properly (as long as we have more than 1/4 tank of diesel fuel), the inverter will automatically turn on the generator when the batteries reach the 56% charge level, recharge the batteries, and turn off the generator when they are at 90%. With Matt’s help we are now able to take a side trip and leave the RV alone for a few days and our system will insure that the batteries remain charged. Thank you Matt!
Can you believe this is the Campground Laundry??
This campground stay was monumental for us in another way – for 5 days we have been without power, water, sewer, cell, TV, or Internet at our extremely affordable campsite ($15 per night if you have a Golden Age pass). Five days sets a new benchmark for us in the water conservation arena. I imagined that we would have to drain our tanks and fill our water at least once while here, but we meter our usage without becoming too smelly and avoid the extra trip to the dump station. Under the restriction of waste tank use, no chance of washing clothes in the RV so off we go to the camp laundry.This facility is huge, affordable, winner of the “best laundry so far award” and in a National Park no less – I LOVE this park. They even have desk-like stations around the machines so campers can latch onto the strong internet signal at this spot while monitoring their laundry.
Five days of tranquil bliss, end abruptly Tuesday morning when a cacophony of pea size hail batters our RV roof just as the sun peeks around the menacing cloud over us. Of course the prediction for rain this morning is 0% so we left lots of stuff outside last night all of which is now getting drenched. In spite of the soggy start, we leave Mesa Verde feeling positive about this stop.We learned a lot, got a great deal on fuel, met a whole bunch of interesting people and even made a dent in our “things to fix on the RV” list.