Thursday, July 30, 2015

Squeak's Independence

It's been eight years since Squeak was adopted from a pet store shelf. Since that time, she's often traveled with me as a proxy for friends that would like to come along but situations prevented it. Her first picture was taken in Monument Valley. The dark clouds should have been a warning.

She's been on every overnight canoe or kayak trip since she joined the family. She's been to Alaska and all over the western US.

She seems to have an affinity for canyons and rivers, like this spot overlooking Soda Springs Canyon on the lower Green River.

Oft times, she stays in the tent,

or else she wants to ride in the bow of the boat like this trip through the Grand Canyon.

She doesn't seem to mind getting wet since it means she'll get a tight squeeze.

For a while she's been living in a nest in the trailer, but the nest got taken down when she wasn't looking.

After all those years together, it seemed like she deserved a chance to see places that I'll never go. I got her an ID, and found her a warm and dry place to stay -- at least until the next person comes along that's willing to take her for a ride. I must admit, the first place I selected didn't work out - I'd misread the logs. Seems it had been just over a year since the last visit. Not a good spot to hitch a ride.

She should be safe - her temporary home is warm, dry, and safe from field mice. It also has a pretty good view of Mesa Verde National Park.

If you want to see if she's moved yet, just check her logs.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Ghost Road

Thanks to a series of geocaches that I started when we were in the area with Spencer a couple weeks ago, I started doing more and more research on the Rio Grande Southern. It was perhaps best known for its creation and use of the Galloping Goose fleet. They were built in the early 1930's and used until the railroad was abandoned in 1951.

My cartographer friend asked if I was going to see the water tank that wasn't very far from where I was boondocking this trip. I'd not seen any info about it, the access from the highway was gated, and the property sported a huge "For Sale" sign.

A study of Google Maps satellite imagery still clearly showed the famous S turn descent to the river and the roadbed climbing away on the other side, even though the rails and ties have been gone for years. A bit of study showed a couple possible approaches, although review of a topo map showed my approach ran at right angles to the contour lines!

The route wasn't as obvious at the start. The scrub oak did a great job of obscuring my intended line, but there had been some cows through it at some time in the past couple years so I persevered.

The first view shows the tank structure still standing, but with a pronounced lean. Some sort of structure had been cobbled on where the filler spout used to be.

The counterweight guides for the fill spout were still apparent, but showing their age. The railroad started in the early 1890s and I assume that this structure was built at that time.

The tank had a few metal patches on it and the staves of the tank were clearly rotting away.

The footings for the tank showed some real skill and craftsmanship.

Just downhill from the tank were the remains of two very old rail cars. This one still shows the curve of the roof. The other one was a pile of sun bleached lumber, recognizable only because one of the steel roof arches was on top of the pile. Research after I returned suggests this car was last used to house railroad workers here.

I hadn't done any research about the structure before the trip. I was just excited to see some possible remnants of the railroad. Turns out Yoder Ranch was a predecessor to Mancos River Ranch and they really don't like visitors. I only saw this one sign and I was already on my way out when I took this photo.

By the way, the most famous remnant of the railroad is the steam engine at Knott's Berry Farm.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Getting Nowhere Fast

After church and our habitual Sunday breakfast at the Cozy Corner, I pulled the trailer out, filled the water tanks, and headed for cooler climates.  With an afternoon start, there was a chance that I'd end up with some monsoon rain, but it was a chance worth taking.

There were occasional rain showers off in one direction or another,

but eventually, there was a rain shower right where I was. Most of them were of short duration, but I did go through a pretty good "gully washer" near Woods Canyon Lake.

As I headed out of Payson, it was obvious that I was headed the right direction. Lots of people headed back to the valley from the high country. It wasn't unusual to see lines of 20+ at the traffic lights.

Not everyone was having a good day. This beautiful Mobile Suites 5th wheel was parked on the highway with the tug nowhere in sight. There was a line of traffic cones, and a State Trooper with lights on, tucked in behind. I wonder how long he sat there before they got that rig off the road.

Camp for the night was on one of the numerous Forest Service roads on the rim. Close enough for a bit of road noise, but for an overnight it wasn'to worth searching further from the road. A great spot except for no usable cell coverage.

I would have been much further down the road, but I did some unnecessary backtracking, eating up daylight.

Monday was a big sky day, watching the clouds as they would gather and disepate. I took a different route through New Mexico, using Highway 371 north from Thoreau. Beautiful country, but sections of that road has some pretty major heaves that would be good practice for the Alcan Highway.

Home for the week was one of the many boondock sites at Madden Peak Road. It's a nice private alcove with a gap in the trees to get enough solar to keep me happy. With the windows open, there's just a little background noise from the pump station 1/4 mile away on the other side of FR316.

I'd hoped to snag the lower view site, but it looks like it's reserved for Airstreams. It's actually pretty busy - I counted 8 rigs within 1/2 mile, but none in sight of my camp. 4 bars of Verizon or AT&T.

I pulled these off of Weather Underground. The upper graph is for Mancos, Colorado, just a handful of miles down the hill from my campsite. The lower graph is from a weather reporting station within a block of the house in Mesa. The graphs look similar, but my highs are just about the same as the overnight lows in Mesa. 'Nuf said.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Shine a Light on It

It doesn't happen often, but on our last trip, BJ mentioned she'd like to have a light in the storage area in the loft, and one over the sink in the bathroom. I could have installed more strip light in the storage area, but instead we headed to the big blue box store to see what they recommended. We quickly honed in on the Striberg lights complete with switch and sensor. I was going to use the Dioder set, but they didn't look as clean.

The light that I installed under the communications shelf a couple years ago was in the right place but not the right light. As long as I was installing two, I might as well install three, even if it did mean I had to take the shelf down first. I'm making my 12 volt connection behind the original light.

The 14" long Striberg lights (the shortest version) have five LEDs housed in an aluminum housing. The light assembly uses 12 volt DC making the included transformer unnecessary - it makes for an easy installation. I practiced with the one mounting to the bottom of the shelf with the wiring running up through holes in the top and bottom of the hollow shelf to tie into the stock light.

Looks pretty clean - even better than the previous battery operated light. In this installation we'll use the manual switch, bypassing the sensor that is designed to tell when a closet door opens.

It's hard to get pictures showing how bright the light is since the phone I was using for photos was adjusting for the lighting conditions. This light works very well, reflecting off the bathroom door. It will really help to see in the coat closet, and more importantly, provide a better light for shaving, but that's a different story.

For the upper storage area, the light replaces the little battery operated light puck. Once again, with the phone it was hard to get a picture of how dark the cupboard was, but I was too lazy to go in the house to get the "real" camera.

In this installation, the light is set to come on automatically when the cabinet door opens. It seems to work very well, and just barely fits on inside upper rail of the face frame.

It's time to test. BJ says she's camped enough this summer, so I'm off chilling in Colorado and testing the latest improvement.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Shake, Rattle, & Roll

With a convergence of serendipity, we headed for the Salt River again. This time there was a water-proof camera along to supplement my "used-to-be waterproof" camera that now lives in a Ziploc because of the cracked LED. A big thanks to Candice for some of these pictures, including one of the strange weather that we faced prior to launching.

In keeping with the unwritten rule of plastic boats, all five in this group were different colors. Willy is hiding his teal colored Scupper Pro just beyond the yellow one.

I'd discovered that there were a couple caches along the river that were most easily accessible by boat, so I brought the GPS along to see what we could find.

The first was only about 1/4 mile below  our launch point. It's been in place for over 10 years with only 40 recorded visits (before ours...). Seems like a lonely cache deserves a visit. Ended up being a super easy find so we took a picture of the motley crew to add to the log.

BJ paddled one of her small Aloha sit-on-tops. This is the boat she'll always pick for day trips, especially on moving water. It's short (8' 7",) lightweight, and very responsive.

Candice borrowed our original kayak. We were using fingers and toes to figure out how many years we've had this boat in our fleet. I think we decided it was 17 years old.

Kathy paddled BJ's yellow "loaner" Scupper Pro that we've stored at Kathy's house for the past two years. The Scupper Pro is 14' 9" long and is BJ's go-to boat for overnight trips since it will haul LOTS of gear. I kidded Kathy about not bringing her wood boat but she noted I didn't have a wood boat on this trip either - the river gets pretty shallow in places.

Willy was paddling his own Scupper Pro. It wasn't until he bought this one that I realized there were two different molds for the boat. His is the original version and is slightly narrower than the more current version.

My boat of choice for the lower Salt River when it's less than 1000 cfs is my ancient Dagger Outlaw. It's 7' 8" long, very responsive, and can be rolled nicely if you don't have that formerly waterproof camera in your PFD pocket. The weather and the water were warm enough that rolling felt like a really good idea!
We stopped near where the next cache was supposed to be located. This one is a new cache and only had two other signatures in the logbook. It was an excellent "hide" and took us close to 30 minutes to spot it, even though I'd be searching within 2' of it from several different angles.

As we headed back to where we'd parked the boats, Kathy yelped and moved quickly away from the bow of her boat. When asked what the problem was, she just had one word, "snake!" If you look close, you'll spot it at the bottom margin of the picture.

Of course, I wanted a closer picture, but the formerly waterproof camera only has a 3x zoom. BJ thought I was too close, but at this point, the snake still seemed pretty comfortable with the situation. If the snake was there (and I assume it was) when we landed, I'd walked by it, about 12" away, carrying my boat up onto the rocky slope.

As we nearly the end of the trip, we found another group of horse standing around, this time in the middle of the river.

All told, a great trip. A bit of shaking as we thought about how close we'd come to the rattle snake, but no rolls today.

See what you missed, Helen?

Monday, July 20, 2015

More Good Eats in Gilbert

We ended up in downtown Gilbert the other day for lunch. When I was working, I would be in downtown Gilbert on a regular basis, but it had been nearly a year since I'd last been there. Once considered the "Hay Capital of the World" it's now a slice of suburbia with a small downtown area that oozes history.

Gilbert has a number of great casual sit-down restaurants, including one that was featured on Diners, Drive-ins, & Dives. In the past year, Heritage Square opened bring several more choices to town. BJ suggested chicken & waffles.

Lo-Lo's Chicken & Waffles anchors one end of the new Heritage Square building. Heritage Square did a great job constructing a building that fits very nicely with the feel of the town.

Next door to Lo-Lo's is Peterson's Ice Cream & Cafe. I would have taken one for the team by testing the ice cream options after lunch, but the sign on the window says they were training staff and hoped to be open for business by the weekend.

Zinburger brought their wine & hamburger menu from the east coast to Phoenix and Gilbert.

And of course, a pizza place that is going to try and give the crowd waiting to get into Oregano's another option. I'm curious what may end up on the second floor of Heritage Square - maybe it's not built out - hard to say.

Next door was yet another new eatery, this time specializing in Mexican fare. Four or five places, new in the last 3-4 months.

These join places like Oregano's, Joe's Barbecue, Liberty Market, Farmhouse, etc. The town does have a good parking situation one block west of Gilbert Road, but it's not a place that could be considered RV friendly. Bring the tug or toad, but leave the house in camp.

In addition to all the eats, another draw to Gilbert is the Hale Centre Theater. It's an intimate theater-in-the-round facility known for its excellent productions. They're just a block or two from the plethora of restaurants.

Just to show how out of touch, as we left the area I was surprised to see that Saint Xavier University (of Chicago) was building a new building. Their Gilbert campus opens for classes this fall. The Hay Capital has really grown up - and you'd be hard pressed to find a hay field anywhere.

Gilbert is worth a visit. Come hungry.