Sunday, July 27, 2008

Catching Up and Making Lemonade

So, just to back up for a moment. . . We left Springfield, MO on Thursday, July 24 and traveled to Dodge City, KS. On the road, we saw that crazy art that Gene posted photos of below. It was strange, to say the least, especially since there wasn't a soul around. We let the dogs run down the dirt road and around the perimeter of a farm at the end of the road, as we drove alongside them. Here is the video of them tearing it up.

The idea behind running them this way was to calm them down before we checked in to the bed and breakfast in Dodge City. The B & B was doing us a favor by accomodating our dogs, and so we wanted them tired and on their best behavior. Unfortunately, Frampton tore off the large pad on the bottom of his left paw, which left him feeling pretty bad. When we got to Dodge City, we cleaned up the wound and bandaged it up. Framp was a good patient.

We arrived in Dodge City around dinner time on July 24, and we stayed one night at the Boot Hill B & B. It was a lovely place, and the proprietors were soooo nice. Apparently they have a home in Spain as well, which we hope to visit someday. You can see video and photos of the B & B here.

Dodge City was cute, and we had fun. Gene pretty much described it all in his post. The museum was very well done, and had lots of interesting information about the history of the area. There are photos and video here.

We left Dodge City on Friday, July 25, and traveled to La Veta, CO. On the way, we visited Bent's Fort, a really neat place that used to be the largest structure of its kind between the Mississippi River and the Pacific Ocean. Back when the west was being settled, Bent's Fort was the only mid-way stopping point on the Santa Fe trial, and so it attracted lots of different sorts of people who were passing through. More information on Bent's Fort at, photos here.

Late on the 25th, we pulled into La Veta, CO, a teeny tiny town in the southern part of the state. We stayed at an old timey "cabin," which is where Gene published his last post. The cabin was more dormitory style than cabin, but it suited our purposes (although I did wear my flip flops in the shower. . . it was pretty scary). We also could not walk our dogs after dark because of bears. Gene wanted to sleep with the windows open, but I didn't want to wake up snuggling with a bear. There is video of the place here.

We left LaVeta early the morning of the 26th. The plan was to visit the Great Sand Dunes National Park, then the hot springs of Pagosa Springs, then settle into a cabin by a lake just north of Durango. On the 27th, we were to visit Mesa Verde and the Canyonlands of the Ancient, then settle into another cabin in Moab, Utah. On the 28th we were going to spend the day at Arches National Park, then go on to Salt Lake City on the 29th. I was really excited about it, as this was supposed to be the portion of the trip that was less driving and more vacation.

Unfortunately, things don't always turn out as we planned. We arrived at the Sand Dunes National Park the morning of the 26th. It was amazing. . . huge sand dunes in the middle of a mountain valley.

We took video and several photos, which you can view here. Also, more information about this awesome park here. Frampton's paw was bandaged but he was getting around just fine. About 2/3 up the way to the peak, we pooped out and went back down to the bottom.

On the way out of the park, we decided to visit Zapata Falls. We turned off the main road, and began to follow a dirt road up to the falls. It wasn't steep, and we took it slow. All of a sudden, the temperature gauge shot up to red and the light came on, indicating that the car overheated. We immediately pulled over, and discovered that we were out of coolant. This surprised me and frustrated me since I had the car serviced before we left and specifically requested that all fluids be topped off. (Ironically, during the service, they discovered that the temperature gauge was broken, and replaced it. So while I was mad at those folks about the coolant, I also recognized that had the temperature gauge not been fixed, we probably would have blown the engine.)

Over the next couple of hours, we would allow the car to cool down, fill up the reservoir with water, then try to start the car up, but would only be able to drive a couple of miles before it overheated again. We managed to make it back to the main road leading into the park, but were still in the middle of nowhere. We called AAA to come out with coolant, but they would only tow us. We called the park service, and they sent a ranger with a few gallons of water. We were hoping that the ranger would get there before AAA, and that we could just add some more water and be on our way. That isn't what happened.

While pouring in the water the ranger brought, we discovered that it was leaking (actually, more like gushing) out from under the car. For those of you who aren't familiar with cars, this could mean a couple of different things. First, it could indiate that a hose is busted, which is a simple and cheap repair that would put us on our way to the comfy cabin in Durango. Alternatively, it could mean that the radiator is cracked, or even worse, which is a complicated, expensive, and time consuming repair that would put us in the small and not lovely closest town of Alamosa.

Let me remind you here that we are in the middle of nowhere, on a Saturday afternoon.

We prayed for the best. About 3-4 hours after the car broke down, AAA came and towed us to Alamosa, where one garage was open. They looked at the car, and determined that while it wasn't a cracked radiator, it also wasn't a buisted hose. The problem is the reservoir: it has a 6 inch crack in it. The part must be ordered, the car cannot be driven, and we are stuck in Alamosa, CO, indefinitely. On Monday, which is tomorrow, we will find out where the part can be obtained, which will determine when we can get out of here. For those of you who have been to Alamosa, I'm sorry. For those of you who haven't, you aren't missing anything.

It could have been worse, though. We were able to get into a hotel, or more like motel, here only because they had a cancellation. Apparently, there were several different events here this weekend and every place was booked. So we are lucky to have a roof over our heads, and they allow dogs as well, even thought the place is really weird. It was obviously built in the late 70's or early 80's, and has this strange elevator music piped in. You can see some video of it here. Think grandma's retirement home, circa 1980, but with a lot of kids running around and random indoor pools everywhere. There is also a small "waterpark" inside the hotel. Don't ask. . . it is really bizarre. I'm going to try to take some video of it tomorrow. There is a restaurant here, so we don't need a car to get food. The bed is comfy, the room roomy, and we are making the best of it. I tried to get a rental car so we could at least visit some of the sights around here (there is an alien viewing platform north of town, just to give you an idea about the nature of our location), but all three of the car rental places were closed for the weekend.

Today, Sunday, July 27th, we were supposed to be visiting a couple parks on our way from Durango, CO to Moab, UT. Instead, we walked 6 miles across Alamosa to get a cell phone charger from Walmart (we had been charging our phones in the car, and sans car, they were dead), and I bathed the dogs and did some laundy. Tomorrow, we were supposed to visit Arches National Park, which was the portion of the trip about which I was most excited. Instead, we will have to check out of our hotel with the hope that we can leave here late Monday night (if the part is within a few hours of here, someone from the shop can drive to it then drive back). I don't know what we are going to do with all of our luggage, everything else that was in the car, and our two dogs while we wait to find out about the car, but I suppose we will figure out something.

While I'm upset about all this, I'm thankful that it wasn't worse. The car problem could have been something that could have caused an accident. We could have hurt ourselves or someone else. We were able to find a place to sleep. The tow truck driver said we probably wouldn't, but we did. There is food here, and our dogs are welcome. And while it happened in the middle of nowhere, at least we were in a valley and not up in a mountain pass. We were headed to one when this all happened. And while we may be stuck here for awhile, at least we aren't using up vacation days, or leaving folks at our jobs in a lurch.

We still hope to arrive in Portland on the 31st. Hopefully, we will be outta here tomorrow or Tuesday. We will keep you posted as best as we can. Oh, and you can find video of the whole breakdown here. Be forewarned though, after a couple hours hiking the dunes, then four hours in the sun with a broken down car, we got sort of delirious.

Ok, I'm exhausted and off to bed.

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