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“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.” ~Dale Carnegie   Len and I were up at 6:30am in order to leave by 7:30 to be in Blanding by 8am to be there when the repair shop (Montella’s) opened. They had a backlog and said that it would be at least an hour before they could get to it so we went in search of coffee and breakfast and found the Center Street Cafe, a hometown breakfast-and-lunch only diner run by a family. The grandmother was the cranky-but-frank short-order cook, the daughter was the sympathetic waitress, with help from her son who looked to be 12 or 13. They knew everyone who came in—except us, of course. Len ordered a short stack that turned out to be fairly tall and I ordered an egg over-easy with one biscuit and gravy—a weakness of mine ever since I worked the kitchen in the Skyline Manor Nursing Home (my first real job at 16) and Buela the cook got me hooked on biscuits with sausage gravy. After breakfast, we went back to Montella’s and Len spent ages troubleshooting with the mechanics while I wrote out some postcards and made notes for the day’s blog post. Randy and Martha came into town and picked me up at the garage then we drove to The Dinosaur Museum, where I was in paleoheaven. Remember the picture I posted of that small amonite that I bought at the Argo Mine? Well, the Dinosaur Museum had a six-foot diameter amonite just inside their front door! Woah. That’s one big stone cephalopod. I toured the museum and enjoyed learning about the tracks of dinosaurs, the change to many more of them believed to be feathered and some debate now as to whether or not birds are descended from dinosaurs or whether they developed on parallel tracks. Also, it turns out that every state has a state fossil? Do you know yours?     There were pop culture displays, too, including an original diorama from a stop-motion animated T-Rex film.  The first image shows the setup, the second shows how it looks through the viewfinder. Aside from the museum, it was mostly another day of troubleshooting. Looking forward to that being behind us. Tomorrow, though, is a five-and-a-half hour drive day in order to get us back on track. Since we were waylaid by three days, we do have some cancellations. Gone from the schedule now are Moab and Dinosaur Butte. Randy and Martha left Blanding to head...

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Our temporary traveling companions (Randy and Martha) arrived yesterday amidst the brutal heat, in the 100s, and the sun and wind continued to sap our already limited reserves. By the end of the day, we all kept saying, “I’m exhausted and I didn’t even do anything!” Except we did. At 6am, Len was up helping the local tow-truck woman put our trailer onto a flatbed to have it serviced in Blanding on Monday. We’d heard some troubling squeals in The Valley of the Gods that a couple of motorcycle riders assured us was the sound of a bad bearing (our worry, too). So we limped out of the Valley of the Gods and back to Bluff (at 20mph) and called to arrange transport since the wheel was sizzling hot to the touch. (Spoiler alert: As it turned out, it wasn’t a bearing but a brake adjustment/brake controller interface issue–somewhat better news, really, and now we knew what was causing the noise and heat. The combination of the brake controller–initially set high as we were having trouble getting it calibrated per the instructions–and the brake adjustment setting caused the brakes to intermittently be applied all the time, resulting in squealing and a very hot hub.  As you will recall, our hometown experts didn’t find an issue, the experts in Cortez didn’t find one, and the Blanding mechanics (RV and 4wd experts) didn’t figure it out for a long time–Len had to keep explaining what we’d experienced as well as driving up and down route 191 to test different combinations and try and heat it up so they could troubleshoot.) The good news in all of that was that once we uncoupled (not the Chris Martin uncoupling) we had the Jeep, unfettered, to explore the area with Randy and Martha, so we drove the whole loop of The Valley of the Gods and showed them our campsite from the night before. That tiny blue dot beneath the rock formation is Martha, by way of comparison. After that, we drove up … and up … and up … wait for it … The Moki Dugway. If you don’t know what that is, google it … provided you have a strong stomach. The Moki Dugway is a narrow gravel road with sharp switchbacks and an 11% grade carved into the side of a 1,200 foot mesa. It is (apparently) one of the ten most dangerous roads in the US (we didn’t know this before we tackled it–or maybe Len did, but he wasn’t telling). There’s no guardrail, no side edge of any kind, really, and no runaway truck ramps, either. I made a...

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“Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught.” ~Oscar Wilde   Words seem inadequate in the face of Nature’s wild grandeur. I’ll let her do the talking today.    

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“The problem is not that there are problems, the problem is expecting otherwise and thinking that having problems is a problem.” ~Theodore Rubin We checked out of the lovely and gracious accommodations of Recapture Lodge at 10:30 am and headed into The Valley of the Gods–finally! This destination was one of the ones that we’ve been looking forward to ever since we started planning this trip 15 months ago. Unfortunately, Utah is having an unusually hot spell of weather and the upcoming days are all expected to be in the 100s. So, intrepid travelers that we are, we took a ton of water and bravely set out. As soon as we entered the area controlled by the Bureau of Land Management we were awed. The setting is wild and beautiful and harsh and picturesque. Red sand hills, giant rocks perched precariously at great heights. It was majestic and moving and soul-expanding. It really does feel like a special, spiritual place. I’m probably going to have a lot more pictures than text for the next few days. I will say that as beautiful as it was, it was beastly hot. I think we hit 98 air temp, which doesn’t take into account the radiant heat from hot rocks, the hot wind that never ceased (as long as the sun was up), or the greenhouse effect inside the trailer, and no shade unless we made it ourselves. There really was no place to escape it. We were drinking water constantly and yet the air was so dry we couldn’t even feel ourselves sweat. We struggled to set up the awnings in the wind and ended up using lots of rocks around the base of the poles to help keep everything in place. It was a little hard to stake them, but we did that, too. The substrate was either rocks or sand and neither one is great for driving in or retaining stakes. With the super high temperatures, we were also having trouble keeping the fridge/freezer going without draining the deep-cycle battery. Len kept moving the extra, portable solar panel to catch the best sun angle for maximum capture. We decided to remove the freezer compartment and just make the whole thing a fridge to keep from sucking so much energy. That also meant that our freezer stuff would start to thaw, so we did a quick assessment about what we could stand to lose if they thawed and wouldn’t keep until we ate them. So we pulled out the four bacon-wrapped filets so they wouldn’t go bad. As the sun went down (yes, finally, thank the valley gods–site-appropriate term) we...

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The most astonishing thing happened in the Alamosa campsite bathroom: I encountered a completely naked woman standing in front of the mirrors brushing her hair. Okay, not completely naked—she had on shower shoes—but as I entered she turned my way and calmly said, “Good morning.” I responded in kind, as if it were an everyday occurrence for me to see a stark naked stranger on my way to the shower. But the most astonishing thing about this naked stranger was that she must have been seventy, at least—she was no spring chicken, in other words—and yet her body was the body of a twenty-five-year-old swimsuit model. I could have looked at it all day. I could have made a sculpture of it in marble. In fact, her skin was so smooth and milky white it looked like marble. But her face? Her face showed every one of her years—and they weren’t easy years—and her hair was coarse and bleached by sun, but that body! As she kept brushing her hair, I unpacked my shower bag, determinedly not looking, even though I wanted to look because I couldn’t get over the strange wonderfulness of it all. Then I started to think that if I were 75 and had the body of a 25-year-old, I’d probably stand naked in the most (legally) public places I could find, too. I mean, why not? Use what you’ve got, right? Share your gifts. And the more I thought about this, the more I got inspired. Not inspired to stand naked in a public bathroom—that’s not really my thing—but inspired to be more confident in whatever my thing IS and wear it (or bare it) proudly. She of the fearless, shameless, clothesless body kind of made my day. So, thank you, Anonymous Naked Lady of Alamosa. You rock. And who knows, I just may carve you in marble one day. We ate a quick breakfast at McDonald’s (pickings were slim, but the coffee wasn’t bad and I’m a sucker for anything on a biscuit). Len had to submit a time sheet, so I was writing in my notebook (about the Naked Lady of Alamosa) when a woman one table over asked me, “Are you a writer?” I considered showing her what I was writing and letting her decide, but the question caught me off guard, mostly because she seemed so sure I was a writer before I confirmed her suspicions. We talked a bit about writing. She said her father had been a writer and had written about his experience in Burma. I told her I had an uncle who had flown the hump and...

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We were sad to leave Mueller State Park. The campsite was wonderful, the park was quiet and beautiful in high-alpine woods with 44(!) hiking trails and great privacy at each site. Most of the time it felt like no one else was around. I’m sure it gets busier on the weekends, but weekdays appear to be the perfect time to visit. The road splits in each camping area, which gives more space between campsites and makes turning trailers and campers around so much easier. The whole state park seemed to have a very careful design and thoughtful layout with the ease of campers in mind. For breakfast we had yogurt and granola (and coffee) and hit the road for Great Sand Dunes National Park knowing it would be a long drive. We could see the sand dunes from at least fifty miles away—the highest dunes can reach 14,000 feet—such an amazing land feature. But it takes forever to drive there and the last twenty miles is basically nothing but state roads. We passed through the San Isabel National Forest which was beautiful and stopped at an Ace Hardware to purchase a longer propane hose (so we can cook on the table and not just on the pull-out shelf), and a rubber mallet in preparation for staking the awnings in The Valley of the Gods. Then we drove into the Pike National Forest land for about 30 miles. The panoramic views and wide-open spaces, high plains, valleys, the photos we took just don’t do it justice. So we are trying hard to soak it all in and just enjoy it in the moment. And it is glorious. About three miles before we hit Great Sand Dunes National park, we were approaching a cattle gate (for those who may not know, it’s the metal pipes in the road that freak out cows so badly they refuse to cross them). So we slow from 55mph down to 50mph, and at the same time a rickety 1980s RV hits the cattle gate from the other side. When the RV’s front driver-side wheel hits the cattle gate, the hubcap shoots off and heads straight for us. Now, I’m pretty sure he was also going at least 50mph, which gave the hubcap a combined impact speed of 100mph. With only seconds to react, I did my usual helpful thing (gasped and grabbed the dashboard) and Len managed to swerve just enough—but not too much, given that he’s towing a trailer and still has to get it and us between two fence posts and over a cattle gate. There was a pretty loud clunk (almost as...

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