Fire Cloud...
An irregular marking on the exterior of Native American pottery: usually resulting from burning fuel coming in direct contact with the vessel during firing

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

The Flatlands

John Martin State Park, Colorado

We're heading east on US 50. The highway and terrain have been fairly flat for the last 100 miles since leaving Colorado Springs. The terrain looks more like Kansas than Colorado.

In 1965, I was flying my last mission as a navigator trainee out of Colorado Springs. We had to wait on the runway for the air to cool so that our T-39 had enough lift to be able to takeoff. It was my last training Mission and my first of 40 eight-hour training flights without a navigator instructor. We flew south for 30 minutes and I told the pilot to turn east in the morning toward California. I was checking my maps frantically, looking for the Rockies and seeing only flatlands and the early morning sun dead ahead. The pilot kept asking me if I had any extra maps because the morning sun was in his eyes and he wanted to use them to cover his window. Eventually, the other student navigator whispered to me that we were heading toward Florida so I told the pilot to do a 180.

I regret very much telling Mrs. Phred this story. Whenever we argue about directions and I point out that I am a very highly trained Air Force navigator and scored a 99th percentile on my Navigator's aptitude test...she snorts, "Right, Wrong-Way!"

We stopped early at an almost empty State park on a reservoir. We lay back reading some great new novels by Michael Connelly and Vince Flynn. I offer to make Phred's Rockfish Royal for dinner and Mrs. Phred says what about we just bread and fry it?

"You turn down Mr. Phred's Rockfish Royal?", Mr Phred asks. "Mr. Phred is not offended". he says,...if one prefers to ruin the fine Oregon Rockfish with grease and breadcrumbs, what is it to Mr. Phred?", he fumes..."Mr. Phred does not care how the fish is cooked", he says to her and crosses his arms and looks skyward...

Mrs Phred decides, after some thought, that she prefers Rockfish Royale (1)

We spent the last two days in Colorado Springs. We drove up Pike's Peak to an altitude of 14,110 feet. We ran over two snow leopards and a yeti on the last mile.

The next day viewed Seven Falls and we spent $18 for the privilege of viewing those puny nothing falls. They are nothing to write home about. In Ithaca, New York, one can view gorges with mighty falls cutting strange falls for miles for nothing and get a great workout climbing up and down the canyons. What a rip.

It looks like we might be looking at water park in Dodge City, a night in Wichita, another lake in a Kansas State Park and then cooking fish dinner for an online friend named Hypatia in Missouri. After that two or three weeks in Arkansas...maybe I'll find a home there...

(1) Rockfish Royale

1 cup dry white wine
2 tsp. salt
1 lb. rockfish fillets
¼ cup fine dry bread crumbs
½ cup each sour cream & mayonnaise
¼ cup minced green onions

Combine wine and salt; pour over Rockfish. Marinate in refrigerator at least 1 hour. Drain Rockfish on paper towels; dip both sides in breadcrumbs. Place Rockfish in shallow buttered baking dish. Combine sour cream, mayonnaise and green onions; spread over Rockfish. Sprinkle with paprika. Bake at 400°F for 10 minutes per inch of thickness, measured at the thickest part, or until Rockfish flakes when tested with a fork.

Sunday, 16 August 2009

The Royal Gorge

Canon City, Colorado

We decide to stay an extra day to check out some of the sights. We drive up on a narrow, high ridge called Skyline Drive. There are some exposed, inverted dinosaur footprints. Some big animals stepped on a muddy riverbank here about 102 million years ago. They were rhinoceros sized lizards that were a little uglier than tricerotops.

The suspension bridge over Royal Gorge was built in 1929 in seven months when things were booming. It cost $250,000 and spans a quarter of a mile over a 1,200 foot deep gorge. They claim it's the highest suspension bridge in the world. Those old guys knew how to "get 'er done!" I get very uneasy walking over it. It's the same feeling I always had on top of the World Trade Center, as it swayed in the wind. I give the camera to Mrs. Phred and walk quickly to the other side with my eyes averted from the Arkansas River far below.

The Royal Gorge Park has a lot of touristy things to see. There's a little red helicopter that runs tourists though the gorge at about 150 MPH with 50 feet of clearance on each side about 35 feet over the river...what a hot dogger.

They have a rare white buffalo.

One summer a long time ago, the seven sacred council fires of the Lakota Sioux came together and camped. The sun was strong and the people were starving for there was no game. Two young men went out to hunt. Along the way, the two men met a beautiful young woman dressed in white who floated as she walked. One man had bad desires for the woman and tried to touch her, but was consumed by a cloud and turned into a pile of bones.

The woman spoke to the second young man and said, "Return to your people and tell them I am coming." This holy woman brought a wrapped bundle to the people. She unwrapped the bundle giving to the people a sacred pipe and teaching them how to use it to pray. "With this holy pipe, you will walk like a living prayer," she said. The holy woman told the Sioux about the value of the buffalo, the women and the children. "You are from Mother Earth," she told the women, "What you are doing is as great as the warriors do."
Before she left, she told the people she would return. As she walked away, she rolled over four times, turning into a white female buffalo calf. It is said after that day the Lakota honored their pipe, and buffalo were plentiful.

Another view of the suspension bridge.

The admission ticket includes a spectacular bungee ride. They run you out over the 1,200 foot gorge. You are expected to scream at the apogee. I ask Mrs. Phred to take my picture.

They have a tram that drops 1,200 feet at a 45 degree angle. It was finished in 1997 and takes you to the gorge bottom in six minutes.

Mrs. Phred always wants me to take her picture in front of the carousel...Avignon. name it...but she won't ride...they have a rock band doing a great rendition of "Ride, Sally, Ride" as we leave the park.....

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Raft and Train in Royal Gorge

Cañon City, Colorado

We finally got our raft trip today. Our guide was an affable Colorado college student named Cody. He is studying real estate. At the end of the trip I gave him two tips. One was wet currency. The other was to change his major to accounting.

We had lots of opportunities to get wet. Cody let me jump out and swim for awhile. Apparently a floating body proceeds at at slower pace than a raft. I had to swim vigorously for five or six minutes while my raft-mates back-paddled to allow me to catch up.

There is a very tall suspension bridge over the Royal Gorge, perhaps the tallest in the world. It is hauntingly familiar. I wonder if Woody Harrell filmed a scene there to Leonard Cohen background music in "Natural Born Killers"? The tune might have been "Waiting for the Miracle"? I'll be shopping for new bungee cords in the morning. My old ones are frayed.

After the raft trip they give you lunch under a tent on the riverbank and provide a dressing room for a change into dry clothing. The Royal Gorge scenic train has an open car, but I went back into the air-conditioning and drifted off to sleep. The train loudspeaker plays a lot of cool train songs by Johnny Cash and others.
I bet there's rich folks eating in a fancy dining car
They're probably drinkin' coffee and smoking big cigars.
Of course you can't smoke big cigars or anything else on trains anymore thanks to the health Nazis...I dream of the days when every airline seat had an ashtray...the navigator's consoles on our C-124s had their own cute little ashtrays built-in...I don't care for the way things are going...before you know it they'll pass laws against spitting on the sidewalk and pull the spittoons out of drinking establishments.

We're planning to spend another day here, possibly hiking, then go look at Pike's Peak and Colorado Springs.

Friday, 14 August 2009

Black Canyon of the Gunnison

Montrose, Colorado

Whoa!...I'm dangerous. I figured out how to set the camera to take a picture in ten seconds so now I just set it on a rock and get Mrs. Phred to stand in front with me. Problem: she didn't like her hair so I just blew up my ugly face...I don't care.

The Gunnison river loses more elevation in 48 miles than the Mississippi loses in 1500. It used to slam though the canyon at the rate of 12,000 cubic feet a seconds in Spring with 3 million horsepower. This allowed the river to carve an extremely steep canyon though very hard rock at a depth of nearly 3,000 feet. The upper portions of the river now have three dams which created high mountain lakes stocked with many species of trout, Dolly Varden and salmon. The lake region is administered by the National Park Service and is called the Curecanti National Recreation Area.

We look down into the steep canyon and eat our lunch in on a picnic table provided by the National Park Service. In 1901 William Torrence and Abraham Lincoln Fellows took a rubber mattress for a raft, arranged to be supplied at various points from the rim, and were able to make their way through the canyon -- 33 miles in nine days. The river is much less wild now that dams have been built upriver. However, the river rapids are still rated class V to unnavigable..

This cliff is 2300 feet tall. The Empire State building would come halfway to the top. The igneous intrusions make a pretty picture. It's called the Painted Wall. The park is mostly a series of overlooks about 200 yards apart. Sometimes you walk 400-600 yards to look into the chasm. What did Nietzsche say?... "If you look long enough into the void the void begins to look back through you. "

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Déjà vu all over again

Grand Junction, Colorado

This is a picture of Mrs. Phred without her Indiana Jones exploration clothes. We were going downtown to re explore Grand Junction.

So here we are again in Grand Junction. Last year it was June 1st, 60 days into the tour and we were headed North to Steamboat Springs, the Badlands, the Great Lakes and New England.

This year we're 72 days into the trip and headed east to Canon City, Colorado for a raft trip. The "n" in Canon has one of those Mexican enchilada thingies over it so it is pronounced "Canyon".
Grand Junction lives and dies on oil and natural gas. It was booming last year. This year, oil is back to $70 a barrel and we see mixed signals. The parking lots at the Cinema 14 and Target are full in the afternoon. On the other hand, downtown has many shuttered stores and closed restaurants. A girl wanders the restaurants that are still open trying to sell flowers. A lonely Punch and Judy diorama performs to nobody on Main Street.
We play tennis both mornings. My best score is 6-3 (I'm the three). I'm really "on" the first two games and win each point of both games with brilliant serves and returns. After a while Mrs. Phred's superb physical condition begins to tell the tale...of the four sets we played, three were 6-love.
It's a neat little town with artsie statues every half block downtown on both sides of the street.
We stayed two nights in Grand Junction and moved on to Montrose, Colorado. We want to see the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. Last year, in April, all the overlooks and hiking trails were covered with snow and I was too cheap to spring for snowshoes.
We went to see "Public Enemy" with Johnny Depp and then out to dinner downtown. I thought that the Dillinger character was fairly faithful to Dillinger's history as a depression era folk hero. The bad guys were Baby Face Nelson and J. Edgar Hoover. Dillinger and Melvin Purvis were the good guys in the movie. I may have to write more about both of them.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Kill Something and Eat It

Dinosaur National Monument, Utah

We left the Grand Tetons Sunday morning. Saturday the temperature never got above 50 degrees and we had rain most of the day. We debated heading North to Cody and the Buffalo Bill State Park in Wyoming. In the end we flipped a coin and the Flaming Gorge and Dinosaur National Monument to the South won out.

A little town in Utah had this statue of a Mountain Man. They were having a small farmer's market so we bought some vegetables. I picked out three little tomatoes and was astounded to find the price was $6.75. I guess I should have looked at the $5 a pound price first.

The Flaming Gorge recreation area in Utah is a lake that is very popular for boating and fishing. We spend the better parts of two days and 600 miles grinding up and down steep mountain roads. I'm a little worried about the RV transmission. I've added two quarts of fluid and it's still almost a quart low. Sometimes it doesn't shift properly. It's less than a year old so that shouldn't be happening. The Toyota's brakes are gone, but that seems OK, considering that they have better than 120,000 miles of operation. We've driven it 60,000 and towed it about the same. When we gear down the RV on a steep descent or just hit the brakes, the gadget in the Toyota applies the brakes back there.

We spend a morning in the Dinosaur National National Monument, which is in NE Utah and NW Colorado. The rock formation here is called the Morrison layer. It was formed in the late Jurassic, about 150 million years ago. This particular spot has a rich deposit of bones from rotting dinosaurs which were apparently swept here in a jumble during a flood. We take a short hike of about a mile.

You could spend several days here camping, hiking and driving though canyons formed by the Yampa and Green rivers. The Flaming Gorge reservoir, 100 miles south, was formed by damming the Green River. Last year we took a very interesting raft trip on the Green River below the dam. Our guide wore a necktie. This is the vertebra of an Allosaurus. These were carnivores, about 36 feet long. Like us, they were on top of the food chain.

Notice the femur between us at about hip level.

The Dinosaur National monument was established by President Wilson in 1915. Originally it was 80 acres, but it has been expanded to cover 200,000 acres. The area has many petroglyphs. Most of these are not shown on maps because of trouble with vandals. As we travel south along the valleys formed by rivers, we see much evidence of oil drilling and natural gas extraction. We see several compression stations for natural gas and many pipelines being constructed.

We end the two days of travel in Grand Junction, Colorado. We're at the RV Park where we stayed last year. We'll spend a day playing tennis and maybe take in a movie. I want to see "Public Enemy" with Johnny Depp.

Friday, 7 August 2009

Hike to Death Canyon

Grand Tetons National Park

Yea, Though we walk though the Canyon of Death...we will fear no evil...for we are the meanest, nastiest hikers in the canyon... Well, almost no evil... A Twitter employee used the same user name and password at work as he used on numerous internet sites. All you need, like this poor snook, is one compromised site and a hacker is selling your employers secrets or raiding your bank accounts.

Note to self: clean up usernames and passwords and make each unique. It's going to be easier now that the laptop remembers them all and logs me in with a swipe of my index finger...then print them all out for Mrs. Phred and hide them in a boring paper file. Maybe my 2002 Income Tax file?

So how about that KGB? They shut down Twitter with a denial of service attack because they didn't like what one blogger was saying about the invasion of Georgia. If you're going to shut something down, that might be a mostly harmless target. KGB 1- Twitter 0.

The hike up to Death Canyon was about three miles round trip. It was a nice even upslope of about 1,000 foot gain from 6,200 to 7,200 feet. I dislike hikes where there is a lot of up and down in a climb. Even 100 feet of down adds 200 feet of up to the round trip. We had hail in the afternoon. It was bigger than green peas, but smaller than marbles.

We signed up for a fifth night here. We found the community tennis courts. This mornings scores were 6-0, 6-0 so the sets were short. Mrs. Phred broke out a new can of balls and I couldn't seem to do a thing with them. They all went sailing.

We're heading for the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park down in Colorado on Sunday morning. The last time we were there all the trails were closed because of the late April snow pack.

We'll try to time our arrival in Arkansas for Wednesday, August 26. The state park we want to stay in went to a first-come, first-serve basis after last year's ice storms. They had to refund all their reservations because they were unsure when they would reopen.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

The Grand Tetons

Jackson Hole, Wyoming

It's one of those wonderful places that grow exponentially. Winter sports for half a year and rafting, fishing and horseback riding the other half. It's kind of like Key West that way... not what it was 30 years ago (sleepy and rustic). The traffic is bad and everything is way too expensive... Still...we love it.

Nine million years ago the continental plate split here along a 40 mile line running north and south. The western edge was uplifted and formed the newest and most jagged mountains in the US. They run to about 13,000 feet. The eastern plate sank and formed Jackson Hole, elevation about 6,000 feet. The Jackson Hole valley has a number of large lakes that abut the mountains. The Snake river flows along the valley and there are numerous moraines where glaciers piled up rucks like conveyor belts. Another feature of the valley is kettles or potholes where blocks of ice slowly melted forming ponds.

We did a hike here in the Spring 31 years ago. We walked about a mile and a half around the back side of Jenny Lake and then did a steep climb up a canyon into a lovely meadow filled with wildflowers. Part of the hike was along a ledge about three feet wide with a 300 foot drop to the rocks below. We held tight to our son while traversing that. Tomorrow, we'll do the same hike but cut out three miles of hiking by taking the jetboat across Jenny Lake to the trail head.

The park is heavy on recreation, as it should be. There are numerous campgrounds, lodges, marinas, restaurants and dude ranches as well as many great hiking trails. You can rent canoes, kayaks, and motorboats for reasonable cost. The fishing is good.

The lighting conditions have not been optimal for photography, with continuous overcast, and smog seems to be everywhere in the west these days, dimming far vistas. It would be very cool to come out in January, when the Tetons are coated with snow and ice. You could get up on a clear day at dawn with no wind and see the mountains painted bright orange at sunrise and reflected in the lake. I can see it...yeah...

Maybe we'll rent a canoe one day....Yellowstone is just up the road...we may be here awhile.

Monday, 3 August 2009

Burgers in Atomic City

Arco, Idaho

We like this little Kampground of America (KOA) a lot. They let us wash the Toyota and RV, they have a happy hour where travelers get together to talk at 3:30 and they serve ice cream at eight. They have a pool, cable TV, Wi-Fi and big spaces. They're far enough off the little roads though town that there's no traffic noise. You can smell the rural cow and horse manure when it rains. We decide to spend an extra day to relax and read.

There are some really strange RVs in the US.

Arco is a very small town. I drove though it four times looking for a grocery store to buy wine, mayonnaise, sweet pickles and onions for a salmon salad. Finally I stopped at the place where they serve Atomic Burgers and got directions. This is the first city in the world to be powered by an atomic reactor.

We went to visit EBR-1. It was the world's first atomic reactor. It was an experimental breeder reactor that produced more fuel than it used. It came online in 1951. LBJ declared the reactor to be a National Monument in 1967 after it became hopelessly obsolete.

When they started EBR-1 up, a spike in the nuclear reaction in seconds registered as a dangerous hyperbolic curve. The engineer in charge shouted for a shutdown, but he used language that was misunderstood. After a few more seconds the reactor scrammed itself automatically.

They shipped 148 tons of radioactive waste from Three Mile Island out here to be buried. We read in the Monument that there are huge underground rivers flowing though here which emerge as springs that empty into the Snake River and flow into the Columbia. Hopefully the burial containers won't leak anytime soon. These light bulbs were illuminated in 1951 by U-235 fuel rods, turbines, liquid sodium and other high tech gadgets.

In 1949, when I was in the 1st grade, they gave us a newspaper called the Weekly Reader. At the time we were optimistic about nuclear power. We read about using atomic bombs to build canals, electrical power too cheap to meter and the coming revolution in fusion power. We could go to a shoe store in any small town and see green and white X-ray images of our tiny feet. Sometime they talked about "duck and cover".

These are prototypes of atomic aircraft engines. They are 25 feet tall and appear to weigh 200 tons each. One can only surmise that they intended to miniaturize them.