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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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We packed up and left the Golden Gate State Park site, which was a perfectly acceptable campground site despite my meltdown. It was windy the whole time and all of the pine trees were shedding pollen and dust was flying, so most of our clothes and belongings (including this laptop) are now adorned with a fine golden powder. The campground area was called Reverend’s Ridge, and we thought of you, Reverend Leonard. We hit a Panera’s to make yesterday’s post and check email, then hurried on to meet our friends Frank and Carol Keeney in Lakewood, where we were treated to a marvelous (FRESH) lunch and great conversation and catching up. After lunch, we got gas, bought more ice, made some changes to our upcoming campsite plans and reservations, then drove to the new campground (Mueller State Park) which was so awesome. We were in the Revenuer’s Ridge campsite area, in site number 21, which is right near the showers (but not too near) and water, and some areas with a view. Plus we have a recessed area with picnic table that is out of the wind and more private. We had to level the trailer jsut a bit, but that’s more common than not. Dinner ensued fairly quickly, a one-pot meal of ground beef, scallions, and instant mashed potatoes which we doused liberally with Wegman’s hot sauce. We’ve had Wifi here the whole time (with the help of our private hotspot) and so I was able to upload a few more pictures and post to Instagram a few times. I used my selfie stick twice in one day (and Len tried it, too) and I’m starting to get the hang of it. The evening was wonderful and relaxing and we got a little bit caught up, although moving the campsite every day continues to be hectic and time-consuming. I’m looking forward to three days in The Valley of the...

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Preemptive PSA: The following post is not the normal recap post–that one is still to come–and, fair warning, this post is going to be ALL ABOUT ME. If you don’t like reading confessional posts about meltdowns, skip this one. You have been warned. And if you DO like reading confessional posts about meltdowns, what is WRONG with you?? Just kidding, make some popcorn and settle in. The turn for the worse started at midnight when a certain effluent urgency began to assert itself. We’ve been “keeping hydrated,” so Len was feeling a similar urge. Being a man, he quickly addressed the matter and climbed back into the trailer. And I have to say, at times like this, I am hit hard by the great injustice that exists between male and female plumbing when it comes to evacuation in the woods. There, I’ve said it. Use the word “envy” if you must, I’ll own it. All the rest of the time, mind you, dangly plumbing just seems awfully inconvenient and slightly dangerous–but in the woods, I envy it in the worst way. I should also say here that I consider myself somewhat of an expert at peeing in the woods. I’ve been doing it ever since I learned to walk, and probably even before that if I was ever carried into the woods, as a babe, which I surely was. (See what I did there?) But last night I just wasn’t feeling it. It was a wooded campground, but the moon was out and very bright and it was also quite cold and very late and the bathroom was 1/4 of a mile away. So I stepped out and Len assured me that I was nothing more than a dark smudge against the black trees. So I squatted and did what Nature would have me do–in a slightly more awkward and gymnastic position than is my usual, because I was trying to take full advantage of the tree’s shadow. Then I climbed back into the trailer … only to find that the left cuff of my flannel pajama pants was wet. Okay, soaked would be more accurate. Somehow, this was the straw that broke this twitchy camel’s back. Long days, rough days, blazing hot days, cold nights, near-constant dusty winds, a new site every night, a hinky cookstove, and altitude sickness all combined to push me over the edge. But I was in a very small, very quiet trailer, very close to my dear husband who has looked forward to this trip for so long that I really didn’t want to cry. Except I DID want to cry–in the worst...

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June 13: Happy birthday to my big brother. 🙂 Altitude sickness symptoms persisted, but eased once we dropped about 1,000 feet later in the day. Len got up early, but I slept in until seven (we’d crossed another timeline and gained an hour so it was really eight), had granola, coffee (Len had it ready when I got back from showering), and grapefruit juice. We sat in the sun, put the umbrella up for shade, and then, because we had WiFi, spent some time online. While we were working, someone at the campground began to play Taps on a bugle, then Reveille, then The Boogie-Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B, then Reveille again. I found it rather entertaining—both the music and Len’s irritation with the music. We checked out and cruised down into Central City, hit the Safeway for that sewing kit I’ve been wanting, as well as a few more incidentals–all entirely boring everyday stuff that most of us take for granted until we’re roughing it and suddenly soap becomes the most miraculous of luxuries. After re-icing the cooler, we took a tour of the ARGO Mine and Mill, a fascinating historical site from the industrial revolution. Our guide (Wyatt) was a young guy, knowledgeable and personable, and he didn’t shy away from any of our questions—and we had a ton. Most of the mine was still intact (although some of the larger cast-iron machinery had been taken and repurposed for the war effort during WWII.) We were the on ly ones on the tour and he took us through everything, including into part of the mine, through every level of the five-story mill building, and at the bottom we panned for gold. I had four gold flakes and Len had five (but who’s counting?). I also had a tiny grain of bright red garnet (Tomato!). In the gift shop I bought an ammonite fossil, 390 million years old. I’m such a nut for fossils and the natural world as it existed in a geologic time–as far removed from us today as the surface of Jupiter. It’s like staring into space and trying to fathom what we’re seeing (including light from stars that may already have died). Mind blowing. (And no, I have not been sampling the legal weeds of Colorado, merely getting by on much less oxygen than usual.)   Don’t tell Len, but I had a man named Boyd Crowder on my mind all day. Given all the mining stuff we saw (drills, dynamite, shakers, slurry, smelting, sledgehammers), I suppose that’s Justified. We had sandwiches on the road, Len went to a car wash after all...

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  First things first: Happy birthday, Mom! Hope it’s a good one. Last year at this time it surely was. 🙂 Yesterday we left the Lake Scott State Park campsite at about 6:30, happy to leave. Nothing really to recommend there unless you’re a fan of super close quarters with strangers, dust, and “amenities” that don’t amen. From there, we drove into Colby, Kansas and found a Starbucks where we could get some high-test covfefe and a bite to eat. Turns out that Wifi, whenever possible, is going to be essential as I am using up a ton of data already, in only four days. The posts without Wifi will need to have fewer pictures, I fear. Can’t afford a bazillion dollars in overage fees. At Starbucks, we also reconnoitered and changed our plans for the next night’s stay. With the fridge/battery issues and our general road-weariness from an excess of miles covered, we decided to go online and reserve a spot at a KOA campsite in Central City, Colorado. From Colby, we drove another incredibly flat stretch for ages. When we hit Denver, Len wanted to drive through the city. He used to live in Colorado and was excited to see how it had changed. The area around Colfax Avenue, though, had changed quite a bit in 35 years (surprise!) and he was sad to see how rundown the area had become. We found a grocery store and picked up a few items then went on a search for red wine that proved fruitless. The KOA, when we finally got there, was (just like the last campground) filled with giant RV’s, but this place was awesome. SO well kept, so organized, with amenities galore. Not a place we’d want to stay in for a week (just because we like wilderness and fewer neighbors) but for a night it was a perfect place to shower, wash clothes, cook an actual meal (salmon, couscous, and salad), and sit a bit and enjoy the scenery. The only campsite left to us was a “premium” campsite (high up on a hillside) that gave us water, electricity, a picnic table with umbrella, a stand-alone porch swing, a fire pit, and a heck of a view. It was very nice to relax and just wind down. (As into luxuriating as we were, we still couldn’t bring ourselves to soak in the clubhouse hot tub or order a fresh-made pizza that gets delivered by golf cart. Just, NO.) Overheard from an older white guy in Starbucks opining to a table of his friends: “They used to tell you to get your head out of the...

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(Destination: Lake Scott State Park, Kansas) We left the Mark Twain National Forest/Forrest Gump campsite early and drove into town to wash the dust off of everything and add another bag of ice to the cooler. We found a Panera’s and had coffee and oatmeal with a side of WiFi then hit the road. This was our last extra-long travel day and honestly it was pretty grueling. If we planned it again, I think we’d allow two days to cover 520 miles instead of one. We didn’t make the campsite until 9pm and my body does not care for long days of sitting. These Jeep seats start to lose their comfort factor after about six hours (like all seats, everywhere). I’ve been thinking a lot (flat, straight Kansas roads are good for that) about what this route we are taking means in an historical sense. So much of America’s westward expansion took place in roughly the same corridor that we are passing through. The Oregon Trail, the Santa Fe Trail, the California Trail, the Mormon Trail, the Bozeman Trail…and those are just the big ones. Lots of people died on these trails, searching for a better life, room to breathe, adventure, infamy, big money, or religious freedom. It’s a sobering thought. I’ve also been thinking about how little “respect” these areas of the country get: the flyover states. Just a place to skip over or pass through, but less often a destination. And I know that rankles Midwesterners, but it seems like that has always been the fate of places like Kansas—even back in the 1800s. Explore, experience, pass through, but try not to settle down. On a related note, I’ve been struck by the sheer number of “World’s Biggest” signs we’ve seen along the side of the road. The list of Kansas’s World’s Biggest attractions includes: the world’s biggest Czech egg, the world’s biggest ball of twine, world’s biggest rocking chair, wind chimes, easel, hand-dug well, prairie dog (??), and…wait for it…the world’s biggest hairball. (I don’t think I even want to know what that looks like. Except … given that I’m now coming up on three days without a decent shower and shampoo—hey, wait! It’s me, isn’t it? I’m the world’s biggest hairball! Dang it!) So what is this small town fascination with bigness? Is it a desire to be “on the map?” For something? Anything? And how big is BIG? Can you see it from space? As humankind expands our frontiers, will we soon see stipulations of The Universe’s Biggest Hairball? (Still me, I’m pretty sure.) Is this longing for bigness part and parcel of Trump’s...

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