Location: Dallas, Texas, USA
Well this is is the finish of our brilliant road trip. The weather has been really gorgeous and every day brought something new and fascinating but all good things must come to an end and now we are looking forward to coming home.
We have had two very fine days in Dallas and Fort Worth so finished on a high note.
Thanks for joining us on our travels and we look forward to seeing you all on our return.
Location: Tulsa, Oklahoma, USA
We had a very enjoyable day in Tulsa. At one time Tulsa was the oil capital of the world and therefore generated wealthy oil barons. Some of them such as Philips and Gilcrease were philanthropists and returned a lot of their wealth to public institutions such as schools, museums and so on. One such institution, the Gilcrease Museum of Art, we visited today. It was superb with probably the best display of Western Art we have seen in our travels. As a bonus currently there is a special exhibition of 138 of Ansel Adams photographs. If you havent heard of Adams then just go to a good book shop and you are bound to find calendars or engagement diaries featuring Ansel Adams photos always in black and white and all superb. We thoroughly enjoyed our visit and also a walk outside around the gardens in pleasant sunshine. We could have spent all day in the museum as there was much to see but decided to miss out on the early movie history section of the museum in favour of having a look round downtown Tulsa. There is some remarkable art deco skyscraper architecture but the surprising thing was that downtown was virtually deserted. The streets were empty - no vehicles and no pedestrians. A wedding party were the only people apart from ourselves and they were standing in the middle of the main street taking pictures of each other. Clearly the action was elsewhere and we did find a lively shopping precinct at Utica Square just out of the city centre. There we ate at Wild Fork restaurant which was quite good and particularly pleasant eating outside in a garden patio with a good glass of Californian Cabernet. We are getting very spoiled on this trip and it will be a bit of an anticlimax returning home to the usual British weather.
Location: Tulsa, Oklahoma, USA
In the last two days we have driven from Colorado Springs to Tulsa in Oklahoma, a distance of some 750 miles. I have not taken a single picture in those two days which is a reflection of the country we have been crossing. Frankly it is rather featureless but what impresses is the vast scale of these plains. To the pioneers on the Santa Fe trail they must have seemed endless. We stopped last night in Kansas at Dodge City of Wyatt Earp and Boothill fame. This is cattle country and every few miles we saw massive stock yards, feeding stations, with thousands of cattle milling about in fenced corrals.
Inevitably with the straight highways stretching into the distance my patience with 65 mph wore thin and of course eventually I was apprehended by the law. A young and very polite State Trooper pulled us over, took all my details and fed them into their data base and then very kindly let us off with a warning. He seemed to be more interested in discussing where we had been and if we been to the Grand Canyon and Moab than giving us a lecture about speeding so once again we were lucky. Since then we have been following the speed limits carefully even though all manner of trucks and agricultural vehicles have been hammering past. Frustrating when you have hundreds of miles to travel.
Tomorrow we are spending the day in Tulsa which looks an interesting city. The weather has turned warm again in the high 70s which is a real pleasure after the cold we experienced in Colorado.
Location: Colorado Springs, USA
Today at Colorado Springs the weather picked up again - sunny but cold, not as cold as Leadville because we are 3000 feet lower. Colorado Springs lies at the foot of Pikes Peak a 14,110 ft giant with. a road to the top. That is the way they do things in America. There is a very marked transition from the huge mountains in the west to the east where flat plains stretch into infinity. This is the end of the fantastic landscapes of the west and we can expect less dramatic scenery for the remainder of our trip.
Yesterday we had a fairly uneventful drive from Leadville through the Rocky mountains finally emerging into the urban complex of Colorado Springs. We had originally intended a more interesting route with several more remote mountain passes but the roads at Leadville were icy so we opted for the sensible and safe way.
Last night we ate at the Outback Steakhouse which is an Australian venture. Excellent steaks and very pleasant and obliging staff and of course plenty of Aussie wines and beers.
Today we visited the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, fed the giraffes and admired the Rocky Mountain cougars, bears and moose and were entertained by a performing porcupine. Esmeralda she was called and a lovely creature, contrary to expectations. Her favourite foods were bananas and rose petals. Further into the zoo we saw another porcupine snoozing on a branch in a lodgepole pine - probably the male one. As zoos go this was nicely laid out on the mountain side with trees and rocks giving a very natural environment for the animals.
After lunch we wandered about the historic Old Colorado City which was the first capitol of the Colorado territory in 1861 before being annexed to Colorado Springs in 1917. The saloons and brothels from the early period are now boutiques, galleries and antique stores. We were nearly tempted into buying a Remington bronze, a replica of course, but after a bit of research discovered that there is a glut of these copies made in India so we decided not to bother.
Location: Leadville, Colorado, USA
We have arrived at Leadville which is even higher at 10,200 feet and it is cold. The altitude is very evident if you attempt anything slightly energetic like walking up stairs. Sleeping is also affected - it just takes a few days to acclimatise. The drive here was very scenic travelling over several sub ranges of the Rocky Mountains with wonderful autumn colours although further north and higher most of the trees have already lost their leaves and it is winter with lots of snow around. We had an excellent meal tonight at Rosies Brew Pub which runs its own micro brewery and we had a sampler of the six beers they have on draft - five of them brewed there. They were all excellent, ranging from a wheat beer to a Guinness like stout. For dinner we had an Irish shepherds pie made from ground buffalo which was very tasty. Food in America is very variable but this was one of the better ones.
The hotel we are staying at in Leadville is an historic Victorian period establishment which means lots of character and atmosphere but short on amenities and convenience.
Location: Ouray, Colorado, USA
We are now in Ouray (pronounced You Ray) Colorado which is high in the mountains at about 7,500 feet. When we arrived yesterday it rained heavily and snow fell higher up. This morning it was icy cold and although sunny again there was a keen wind blowing from the north. So it was time to discard shorts and to put on warm trousers, fleeces, anoraks, woolly hats and gloves. Within a few hours we have gone from desert heat in the 80 s to below freezing. Ouray is a pretty little resort with attractive timbered houses and nice trees which are at their fall best. Mule deer wander through town grazing in gardens particularly where there are fruit trees and are very tame. It is the hunting season but apparently no shooting is allowed in towns quite rightly and the deer seem to be aware of this. There are also black bears but we didnt see any of these.
Today we were content to wander about town and browse round the shops and galleries. We had an interesting chat with the Swiss proprietor of a Swiss Gallery. She came from Zurich where we had lived for many years so we were able to go over old times there. Interestingly she had won a residence permit for USA via the green card lottery which is run each year to award a limited number of places to potential immigrants. The other interesting fact was that she had chosen Ouray which is probably the closest thing to Switzerland in the whole of US. In fact locally it is called Americas Switzerland.
Ouray is a major centre in Winter of ice climbing. They manufacture artificial walls of ice in a local canyon on the outskirts of the town as soon as the winter temperature drops to an appropriate level. Rather like the way ski resorts spray man made snow on the pistes in a poor snow season they spray water under pressure on to the canyon walls where it freezes into hard compact ice walls perfect for climbing practice at all grades. It is famous throughout the climbing world and they have competitive events and ice festivals each winter season.
Location: Moab, Utah, USA
We changed our minds today about not doing any more dirt road trips because we particularly wanted to see the archaic rock art in Horseshoe Canyon. Unfortunately the only access to Horseshoe Canyon is via a 34 mile unpaved road. However this one was well maintained and presented no major problems on the day. One section of soft sand with the car wallowing through deep soft ruts was the only difficult passage. Of course all other users of this road were sensibly in 4WD vehicles and were looking a bit bemused as a Cadillac trundled past.
This is a remote part of the Canyonlands National Park and is a long way from civilisation so it does not attract too many visitors. The big attraction in the canyon is the rock art. Horseshoe Canyon contains some of the most significant Barrier Canyon style paintings in North America. They are believed to date from the Late Archaic period from 2000 BC which is about the same time that Stonehenge was built.
The hike down to the canyon is straightforward but once down to the canyon floor the trail follows a dry wash which is mainly composed of soft sand which is quite tiring after a few miles. Also a swirling wind had sprung up and was picking up the sand which came blasting down the canyon like a dust storm. As Carol said we wont bother with a beach holiday as we have seen enough sand on this trip to last for a while.
The Great Gallery is the most spectacular of the Horseshoe Canyon panels. The art work which is painted with various mineral pigments is remarkably well preserved considering that it is up to 4,000 years old - probably due to the very dry conditions which exist in these parts. Before we reached the Great Gallery we were surprised to see a Dalai Llama figure striding along in bare feet and obviously getting in tune with the spirits of the ancients.
The paintings were very mysterious and an impressive demonstration of early recorded art. Amazing and one of the highlights of our trip.
Location: Moab, Utah, USA
We are now in Moab which seems like civilisation compared with the primitive places we have been staying at in the last ten days. Moab is a thriving centre for all types of outdoor activities - mountain biking, hiking, rock climbing, canyoneering, water rafting, horse riding, jeep tours and so on. It is a Mecca for fit healthy looking individuals. Gives you an inferiority complex to see all these fit characters striding about. A couple of days ago at Calf Creek we were talking to one of these types , a guy probably in his late forties who works for Mars and therefore visits Slough and Melton Mowbray occasionally. Anyway he was describing a recent visit to Moab where he was mountain biking on the slickrock trail which he described as very challenging even though he is a very experienced biker. Traversing across steeply angled rock with huge drop offs below takes some nerve but the friction on this kind of sandstone is amazing. He was saying that he watched a jeep tour where they came over the crest and started down an incredibly steep rock slope and the passengers were just screaming. He decided at that point to avoid jeep tours in the future. He is planning to do the Pennine Way next year when he visits the UK.
After the bad weather on Saturday everything is back to normal beautiful sunshine again except that it is a little colder but still very warm by mid day. Snow fell at about 9000 ft so the mountains are snow clad now.
Today we had an excellent walk up Negro Bills Canyon, so called because in the 1880s a black rancher grazed his cattle here. It was a beautiful trail following a small clear creek through cottonwood and willow trees enclosed by towering sandstone cliffs. The trail culminates in a natural rock bridge - Morning Glory Bridge - with a span of 240 ft.
Location: Escalante, Utah, USA
Today amazingly after 3 weeks of sunshine it is raining. So we can have a rest day and catch up on a few things. I am still having problems with internet access so will probably have to wait until we reach Moab on Monday before I can upload some pictures - a pity because we have lots of great shots.
I have had my fill of dirt roads on this trip. Yesterday we did a 30 mile drive down Hole-in-the-Rock Road which up to half way is washboarded baked rock hard clay and then a series of soft sand rutted sections followed by large potholes and wash channels. We had just worked up to a 40 mph cruise across the washboards with every item vibrating harshly making a terrible racket when we plunged over the crest of a hill down into a series of huge potholes. The poor old car crashed into this with suspension bottoming out making a hideous noise so after that it was back to 20 mph just hoping that the sump was still intact. Further on only half the road existed which meant driving with the left hand wheels down a kind of ditch and the right hand up on top so that the car leant over at an unwelcome angle. Of course the concentration levels needed for this kind of driving are intense and you end up at the destination like a limp rag thinking about how you are going to get out of this mess. My advice for anyone contemplating a trip to this region which is absolutely worth it then rent a high clearance 4WD vehicle right from the start.
The objective of this journey was to visit some slot canyons of the Dry Fork Coyote Gulch but by the time we traversed the rough road we only had time to have a quick look before it was time to go back while it was light.
Earlier in the day we had an excellent hike from high up on the Hogsback highway down a steep slick rock trail to the Upper Falls of Calf Creek. The falls plunge 100 feet into a deep pool surrounded by green trees and shrubs. But the special treat are the glorious clear pools just upstream of the falls. They are deep and formed like basins in the sandstone rock. Very inviting but did not pluck up the courage to take a dip. A couple of young women we met as we climbed back out said that they were planning to plunge off the rock shelf into the largest pool so we were feeling a bit envious especially as it was baking hot in the sun. Actually one of the pleasures of these hikes are the encounters with fellow hikers who are mainly American and without exception very nice people who are delighted to stop and to have a chat about the hike and things to see and life in general. Naturally you always meet the odd person who wants to bend your ear about every trail and natural spectacle in the whole of the USA and one hour later you manage to find some excuse to leave but this is well meaning over enthusiasm.