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Peter and Carol's 2008 road trip through USA.

We are doing a similar trip to last year but this time flying from Manchester to Dallas and then westwards by road to New Mexico, Arizona and Utah before looping back through Colorado, Kansas and Oklahoma to Texas again.

Diary Entries

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

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.

Saturday, 18 October 2008

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 haven’t 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.

Friday, 17 October 2008

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.

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

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.

Monday, 13 October 2008

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 Rosie’s 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 shepherd’s 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.

Sunday, 12 October 2008

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 didn’t 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 America’s 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.

Thursday, 09 October 2008

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.

Tuesday, 07 October 2008

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 Bill’s 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.

Saturday, 04 October 2008

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.

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Recent Messages

From doug
Still following your tour with great interest - didn't realise you would be experiencing such changes in temperature. Don't know how you will settle back in Yorkshire after all this! Sounds like Alex has made a good start at school - pleased about that. All OK in Newcastle apart from the football and Jonny Wilkinson's bad luck. Enjoy the rest of the hol.
Response: Yes it is remarkable. This morning in Leadville the temp was 23 deg F - two days ago in Moab it was 85 deg F.
From Anne Hoogen
Hallo Carol und Peter,
vielen Dank für eure Postkarte! Ich beneide euch ja sehr, dass ihr so eine tolle Reise machen könnt. Das werde ich hoffentlich auch irgendwann machen. Bei uns ist die Schule wieder losgegangen und ich bin jetzt Rektorin einer kleinen Grundschule.
Ich wünsche euch noch eine schöne Zeit auf eurer Reise!
Alles Liebe Anne
PS: Viele Grüße an Alex. Habe gelesen, dass sie jetzt auch Lehrerin ist! Das ist ein toller Beruf!
Response: Dear Anne, Thank you for your kind greetings. It is nice to hear from you and we are glad that you are still enjoying teaching.
What is a Rektorin? A Head Teacher perhaps?
Greetings to your Mother and family. Love Carol and Peter
Hi Mum and Dad,
I am at home most of the day for PPA so if you would like to give me a call that would be great. If you do call please call a few times as I never make it to the phone in time. I just checked the anglia ruskin website (have been nearly every day!) and have got the result of my 2nd big assignment (one where I had to interview the staff and carry out research for leadership). Please call me so I can tell you the result. Would rather tell you over phone. Love Alex xxxx
Response: Will do.
Love Mum and Dad
From Jane & Walti
Hello you two your blogg is great jjust like a american adventure film. Peter ithink you are having your second springtime enjoy it We love reading your bloggs. Keep up the good work,dont forget there is life in the old dog yet. love Jane and Walti.
Response: Thanks. I am not so sure about life in the old dog. We already had one of our sons stating that we are too old for this sort of thing.
Love Carol and Peter
From Matthew
Hi Mum & Dad,

great to get your call today, just read your entire blog & piccies. Good stuff :)

Hope you can get your pc working a bit quicker, slow pc's get right on my nerves, hence why we've splashed out on a new one.

Look forward to reading & seeing more of your blog.

Take care xx
Response: Yes. I made two mistakes when buying my laptop - 1. Not enough memory and slow processor 2. Installed Vista
The result is poor performance but it was a cost factor.
Love Mum and Dad
From Gay
How lovely to get your tel call on my birthday, how very kind, loved the card Carol!! So happy you are having a fantastic time, have been reading your interesting news all sounds amazing and your certainly derserve a break.

Terrible monsoon like weather here, makes a change.

Continue to have a great time,

Much love, Gay xx
Response: Thanks for your kind message. Still having a wonderful trip bar the odd mishap.
Love Carol and Peter
From Barbara Corney
Hi Both,
The trip sounds ace! Maybe you could sell Peter to the Navajo's - serves him right for picking up their pottery!
Elisabeth told the staff the other day " You know that very lovely blonde lady that comes in (No, we haven't had a golden labrador in ) well, we go dancing together and I've saved her some porridge". How sweet! Better than your filets mignons ! xxx
Response: We had some porridge this morning for breakfast except they call it hot oatmeal - not bad even if they do not use salt whch as you know is the proper way to make porridge. At least you get some compliments in the course of your duties - more than we ever got.
Love looking at the photos. I am very jealous. It looks fantastic. I attended an NQT seminar today where I attended three workships: PSHE and Citizenship in KS1, solution focused approaches to behaviour and parent teacher consultations. It was really useful. Have got the morning for PPA and then teaching in afternoon. Yay it's a short week. The children in my class are lovely. I am really starting to get to know them more now. They loved singing the days of the week to the adams family tune (or was it just me!). Maybe I am having far too much fun!!!. Hope to hear from you soon. Love Alex
Response: Just got back to our Victorian Charm Inn after watching a free movie in a barn. We are at Kanab which used to be a centre for western movies.
Love Mum and Dad
From Alex
Hi Mum and Dad,
It's great hearing about your trip. It look like you are having a nice time. Well I am looking forward to the weekend - I feel exhausted. The children are funny. One boy in my class said 'You are too old to have parents'!!!!It made me chuckle. They think I am about 40. A girl in my class said she wants to be a teacher when she is older and then she can give me a day off teaching - quite amusing. Can't believe I will have been teaching for 3 weeks! It has gone quickly. I went out for an Indian meal in Littleport with my work colleagues last night and have arranged to go out in Ely tomorrow with Fiona and Sam (2 new girls). Am doing more planning tonight Aaaah. Anyway hope to hear from you soon. Alex xx
Response: Knowing that you are enjoying your new career means that we can enjoy our holiday even more.
Love Mum and Dad
From Doug
Following your news with interest and pleased that you are having such a good time. Trust you stay well ahead of the hurricanes. No significant news from here apart from increasing turmoil at St James' Park! I boycotted the last game rather than turning up with banners. I am recovering steadily so should be OK for the start of the semester.
All the best. Doug
Response: Glad you are making good progress. Keep in touch.
Love from Carol and me.
From Alex
Looks like you're having a lovely time! I had a nice day at school. Starting to feel more settled. Hope this feeling stays. The children are lovely (most of the time) but parents are not so nice! I had one parent say they will not be dictated to and that they will decide what their child has to drink!!! I did a lot of planning on sunday so not doing much work tonight which makes a nice change. Going to relax, have a bath and then go to bed. Keep in touch. Love Alex xxx
Response: Sounds like you are doing well. You are bound to get some awkward parents. It goes with the territory.
Love Mum and Dad
From Barbara
Hiya ! The photos are brill! Glad Ike didn't get you! That one looked really scary. Sounds as if you are having a super time, not that I'm jealous or anything. Bring some crickets back: we can stir fry them as a Royd Hill speciality. They would go well with an unassuming red that bursts cheekily upon the unsuspecting palate. Elizabeth is her usual self; we haven't been dancing lately but wait till the next tea dance at the Village Hall and we'll be there! Bet it is hard for Peter to go at 55mph! Tell arol not to go too far near the edge of any canyons as it will be difficult to get a rope that long!
Love Barbara
Response: Thanks Barbara. We do appreciate all you and your team are doing for Mum. And thanks for your comments. We did fancy that cheeky red. May ask for a bottle tonight at dinner.
Love Carol and Peter
From Jane & Walti
Hallo Peter and Carol great pictures, your blogg is really good looking forward to followin your journey. papers arrive safely, thank-you. Have a wonderful time. love Jane and Walti.
Response: Thanks. Yes while we are away the lady in the Post Office is kindly sending your Sunday Post as usual.
Love Carol and Peter
From Alex
It's a shame some people think it's boring. Guess they are pretty boring themelves!!!! I was really interested to hear about your trip so far and hope you will keep writing! Hope you have a fantastic time in America. You're so lucky to be there for 6 weeks!!!
Response: Thanks. Barbara was just joking because when she looked at the blog there was nothing there to read or see. I am sure once she sees a few pictures etc. she will be absolutely enthralled.
Love from Mum and Dad.
From Barbara
It sounds pretty boring so far!!!!
Response: Give us a chance to put something in to our blog. So far we have been trying to escape north from the impending hurricane Ike. Will put some pictures in asap.