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  1. #21

    Default Parks and Sparks - July 7

    We started our day in Gunnison under partly cloudy skies with occasional blue and cool temperatures, but by the time we got to the long climb up to Monarch Pass the sky was completely overcast and we were soon in fog.

    Not very 'scenic' today - But it is probably a great ride and view

    The summit, at 11,312 feet, had limited visibility. It was enough to see that there is a nice ski area up there, but also a separate ski lift from the parking area to the actual summit of the mountain. I imagine the view from the top it very striking on a clear day.. There is even a gift shop adjacent to the parking area.

    We descended to the town of Salida and soon afterwards were in yet another canyon, Big Horn Sheep Canyon, formed by the Arkansas River. It was raining steadily by this time, but that didn't stop the hundreds of people white water rafting on the Arkansas River. It has some great rapids. (Unlike the state, the 's' at the end of Arkansas is not pronounced like a 'w' and the accent is on the second syllable, more like "Are Kansas") The canyon was about twenty miles long, but it never stopped raining so I really couldn't get good pictures.

    Fog followed us all the way to Colorado Springs, and then we drove in a haze to Limon, where we stopped for lunch. Shortly after leaving Limon on I-70 the sun came out, just in time for us to see the flat and featureless plains of western Kansas.

    The Arkansas River is a challenge for rafters

    I was quite disappointed and cross about the missed opportunity to record our trip across the Rockies today, but Judy reminded me that we've been extremely fortunate on our trips in that weather has almost always been in our favor. I have to agree with her, we have indeed been blessed with plenty of sunshine on this trip.

    One of the activities we planned for on the return trip involved going to Dismals Canyon in Alabama. Dismalites are a type of worm that exhibit phosphorescence, the ability to glow in the dark. That was the 'sparks' in the title of the trip. However, it must be completely dark in the canyon to be able to see the phenomenon. We were unable to get a tour on a Thursday night, so I was out of sorts about that, too. I even changed our itinerary and rebooked some hotels to skip Alabama altogether.

    The 'sparks' remains in the title because yours truly caused dissent when he couldn't get his way, and had a little hissy fit over it. I must confess that I had to apologize to my dear wife for my unseemly behavior.

    We arrived in Hays, Kansas at dinner time and I made the necessary itinerary and hotel changes to give us a direct and quicker route home.

    Since there was little sight seeing today and changes in itinerary and hotels was necessary, this is a good time to provide a tip as to how we save lots of money on our road trips. We stay in hotels every night, because neither of us is willing to give up that comfort for the camping experience. It might be less expensive to camp, but I have used a different way to cut costs.

    I joined two hotel rewards programs many years ago. Each one has about a dozen hotel brands in their family ranging in quality from high end to low. I have rarely used any hotel in the chain below the fourth level. Consequently, I have not been disappointed with my stay except on rare occasions.

    One of the perks of staying at the better hotels is that they all provide a complimentary hot breakfast. That in itself saves us about $10 per day in meal expense. Another perk is that every second stay gives me bonus points, so that I really rack up points fast on a trip. And a third benefit is that I can redeem points for reward nights, either using points alone or a combination of points and a small amount of money. I can stay a "free" night, or pay as little as $30 for a first class hotel. And that free breakfast still comes with the room. If I change my mind after reserving, I can cancel just like any reservation and get my points back.

    I'm not adverse to using supplies from the hotel breakfast buffet once in a while to make a PB&J sandwich, which I take away with me for my lunch later in the day. Otherwise, when I stop at McDonalds for my first coffee break, we buy two of their parfaits, which are always frozen when bought. By lunchtime they thaw out perfectly and make a nice lunch treat for less than $3. The only full meal we have on the road is dinner, so that is a savings of $20-per-day including breakfast and lunch.

    Over the years, I've saved thousands of dollars in hotel and meal costs using the rewards points and staying with a limited number of choices in lodging. On this trip I saved about $700 using the rewards program. That's not bad for a 14-day roadtrip.

    Mileage - 475 Total - 5105

  2. #22

    Default Parks and Sparks - July 8

    Today we had no specific sightseeing scheduled, so we put on lots of miles from Hays, Kansas to Mount Vernon, Illinois. While driving across Kansas, we went past a legendary wind farm that stretched all the way from Hays to Russell, nearly forty miles. From there, it was post rock country past Wilson and Lincoln. Then there was a long stretch of the Flint Hills from Junction City eastward. In fact, central and eastern Kansas has a very interesting landscape, and if you have time, there are some scenic byways.

    If you don't know what post rock is, you've never been to central Kansas

    Kansans even make sunflowers out of post rock

    By the time we got to Kansas City, there was heavy rain, and from there all the way to St. Louis we went through some of the worst rain I've ever encountered. It was a steady downpour, and the sky looked as dark as night at 4 o'clock in the afternoon.

    This was taken at 4 in the afternoon near St Louis

    While we were crossing Missouri we saw many of those traffic alert signs. They alternated two messages: "If wipers are on, turn headlights on. It's the law" and "Turn off cruise control." Both are driving tips that I have published in my weekly column.

    When we crossed the Mississippi River into Illinois, the rain quit, and we had dry pavement all the way to Mount Vernon, where we spent the night. Our long and slow drive through the rain cost us at least an hour, so we didn't get to the hotel until after 6 o'clock, an eleven hour, nerve wracking trip.

    Mileage - 615 Total 5720

  3. #23

    Default Parks and Sparks - July 9

    The last day was over familiar roads, but it was also a bad day for the GPS. It kept trying to take us on a routing that we knew was wrong. It was a good thing we know the road. We really took our time and made a ten hour drive into a twelve hour ordeal. I hate to have to admit it, but it felt good to be home.

    Flooding near Paducah, Kentucky from the rains

    I hope you enjoyed the trip as much as we did. I had to download and caption over a thousand digital photos, and got it down to 528 plus several panoramic pictures. We were on the road for fourteen days, visited six national parks, and used some roads that we've never been over before just to get a change in scenery. Up until the rains came it was a great trip, but one positive is that I have some destinations for future trips that are not too far away. Maybe we'll do the Alabama trek as a day trip. (Which we did!)

    Mileage - 575 Total - 6295

  4. #24
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default Most enjoyable.

    Thanks Harry and Yes, I really enjoyed the report. You certainly packed in some miles and interesting places on this trip.


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