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Sunday, October 13, 2019

Night at the Pueblo Airport

Today's goal is to reach an aircraft museum in Pueblo Colorado, but we need to cross back across the continental divide to get there.
Two hours after leaving Mesa Verde, we stopped in Pagosa Springs to fill up with gas. Looking across the street I noticed a car wash. Not just any car wash, but a Cowboy Car Wash. I'd heard rumors about wash bays with platforms for years and this is the first one we've ever seen.
After starting to believe Cowboy Car Washes were a myth, it was great to actually use one. The raised platforms make it easy to access the tall van with brushes and sprayers.
Pagosa Springs also had some cute craft shops.
Heading west with a clean van, it wasn't long before we were seeing snow in the mountains.
Warning signs were up for rocks on the road.
Climbing to over 10,000 feet, there was evidence that snow had recently covered the roadway.

We crossed the continental divide for the second time this month at Wolf Creek Pass where the elevation is 10,857 feet. We made and ate lunch while watching people stop to get photos of themselves and their dogs in the snow. We seemed to be the only folks there without canines.
Big overhead signs warn of the switchbacks and steep road grade for vehicles heading west.
Dropping down the east side of the mountains we encountered our first highway snow shed. I've seen these on railroads, but didn't know they were used on highways here in the US.
Tunnels help keep the grade reasonable.
Dropoffs to a mountain river reminded us of the Durango and Silverton.
Some of our references mentioned that South Fork has a tourist railroad.
The parking lot was empty, but we could wander around and look at their old equipment collection.
Eventually we found a note posted on a window stating "It is with a profound sense of sorrow that we announce the closure of the South Fork Depot and the end of operations on the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad." It went on to say that the railroad is for sale. If you are ready to buy a railroad, the phone number is (719) 873-2003.
In addition to the small tourist engines they have full size mainline engines equipped with snowplows.

This picture gives a perspective on why we give railroad crossings great respect. There is a significant difference in the mass of these two vehicles!
Just outside of Blanca, the sky turned dark.
By 1615 we reached the Pueblo Weisbrod Aircraft Museum.
An empty, but sealed, water bottle from lunch illustrates the air pressure difference between here (4,692') and Wolf Creek (10,857').
The weather caught up with us here with thunderstorms and even some hail. Luckily it didn't do any damage and moved through quickly.
The Air Museum is a Harvest Hosts site, so we were able to spend the night after touring the museum. Admission was $8 for age 60+, $10 for other adults.

If you are interested in joining Harvest Hosts, click this link for a 15% discount.

They have forty-six historic aircraft here along with an assortment of support vehicles and history displays.
Here's the radio set-up from a B-24 for our ham radio friends.
These kites were used to train soldiers in WWII to recognize enemy aircraft.
After the rain, the paint sparkled in the sunshine on this Lockheed SP-2H Neptune. These were one of the last variants of the P2 built for the Navy and are distinguished from earlier models by the added under-wing jet pods. They were used for submarine surveillance.
The beacon tower in the background was used in the era before radar to help planes navigate at night. A 5,000 candlepower light could be seen for ten miles. About 1500 beacons were constructed in the 1920's by the post office and commerce department to guide aircraft carrying air mail.

Viewed from behind, this twin tailed plane has a fuselage that looks like a boxcar with only a slight nod to aerodynamics. Officially a Fairchild C-119, we later learned that the nickname actually is the Flying Boxcar!

A beautifully preserved B-29 Superfortress, Peachy, is a highlight of the museum's collection.  Beth's dad piloted planes like this between the US and Australia in WWII.

We were able to peer into the bomb bay and see how tiny the passages were that allowed the crew to crawl from the cockpit to the gunnery positions. That little tube above Beth's head is the passage!

More modern fighter jets were also on display in the second of two large hangers.
We were able to get inside a few of the aircraft like this Coast Guard transport plane.
The Convair HC-141 was used by the Air Force and then transferred to the Coast Guard. Back in 1959, these were the first planes used to train astronauts in zero gravity earning them the nickname "vomit comets."
The last photo for today is of a 1941 Dodge truck made for the US Army. It's a little more basic than the Dodge Ram Van that brought us here, but probably simpler to maintain. 
Here is today's route in case you want to find the Aircraft Museum or a good spot to wash your van.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Snakes and Ladders

Morning in Mesa Verde was a bit chilly at 44 degrees, so we ran the propane heat to warm up. Cell service doesn't reach the campground, but we were pleasantly surprised to find free wi-fi.
By 1100 we made the short climb from the parking lot to Park Point, the highest point in the park at 8,572 feet. You can see it is a bit breezy.
There is a fire lookout here where someone scans the entire vista every fifteen minutes. Two dimensional photos don't really do justice to the awesome views.

Moving further into the park, we drove the Mesa Top loop. Frequent pull-outs allowed great views of Navajo and Cliff Canyons.
Before coming here, I thought of Mesa Verde having one or two cliff dwellings. Three are six-hundred cliff dwellings and nearly 5,000 archeological sites. It is an amazing glimpse into a world gone by.
Here's one of the larger cliff dwellings from the opposite side of the mesa.
We purchased tickets to tour Cliff Palace today, the largest dwelling in the park. Beth decided she was up for 8-10 foot ladders. We climbed down several ladders to descend 100 feet down from the top of the Mesa.
Here's a shot taken in the calm between tours.
Our ranger was very enthusiastic and answered all the questions posed by our group. He explained that current thinking is that Cliff Palace was a social and administrative site, with high ceremonial usage. We had about fifteen minutes of unstructured time to explore some of the 150 rooms and 23 kivas.
What Beth didn't expect were multiple ten foot ladders on the way out that really made for a thirty foot height. To really add to the excitement, the man in front of me said "there's a rattle snake, please pass word back down to the ranger." The one thing Beth likes less than heights is a snake. One gentleman found a stick and held the snake down in a hole while we all climbed past. No one was bitten and everyone had a story to bring home.
Safely back in the parking lot, I had to capture a photo of this vintage pick-up from Oregon.
Our next stop, Pit House, was on the Mesa Top and could be visited without any climbing.
Actually housed in a building with a roof to protect the excavation, Pit House had good signage and allowed us to get up close to Kivas.
By afternoon it it was 75 and sunny. My Silverton Hat and sunglasses provided great sun protection.

We drove around to a few more archeological exhibits before heading back to the campground. Mesa Verde is a dark sky park, so we are hoping the skies remain clear tonight.

Back at the campground we had some four legged visitors. While folks had told us that this campground almost always has spaces available, it was full on this Saturday night. We're glad we had the site reserved.

Two days was enough time to get a feel for the park, but we could easily have spent more time here. Wetherill Mesa is another third of the park we didn't visit.

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