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The Anasazi Wonders of Mesa Verde

Get there early!

sunny 76 °F

Still Room 314, Best Western, Cortez, CO

Although we've been coming to the USA since 1981, we've never learned so much as we have in the past few days about the history and current situation of Native Americans (= "Red Injuns": Arthur).

Mesa Verde is a National Park which means that, these days, tourists flock from round the world (but mostly the US) to see the wonders contained therein. In the old days when we used to come 'out of season' we would have these parks almost to ourselves. No longer.

By going early this morning (we were at the entrance by 7.30), dodging the guided walks and beating bus parties, we were still able to have many of these sights to ourselves today.

I have just browsed the pictures we took this morning and I can see in even more detail what we could see this morning. Just incredible.

The Anasazi lived around here from 500BC to 1400AD. The amazing village structures we saw yesterday and yet more of today were built by the Anasazi under the rim of the canyon walls to protect themselves from the weather and from their enemies.

Take a look at this canyon:


Along the exposed rock near the top there are overhangs, and under those, this is what you will find:-
These are not models! These are villages perched under the overhang and occupied by communities of Anasazi around 11-1400AD. The ladders shown in the last picture allow tour parties to clamber all over these wonderful places, now a World Heritage site.

They do have to be accompanied by rangers, but we feel that, in order to preserve these wonders, visitors like Mr America here:-
and his companions, should not be allowed to swarm all over them. Off soap box.

Here is what it used to look like (taken with early Box Brownie):-

And this guy is a bit upset at all these visitors too!

Obviously I cannot provide all the history of this charmed place. But you can find more here if you wish.

Thanks for your comments Paul and Brien & Jan. All much appreciated and replied to here.

Last night we ate at Denny's retro "Classic Diner". A good value and enjoyable meal. Especially as John finally swallowed his pride and ordered a "Seniors" meal. Cheaper and more manageable portions. It was their shrimp skewer, very good. While Bob had a delicious grilled chicken dinner.
Arthur says ***** coz it's Denny's.

We had a stroll down Cortez's Main Street this afternoon and wandered into the local museum. Very interesting and full of old ladies acting as volunteers but not being able to operate the till.


See you all soon. Off to Ouray, Colorado, in the still snowy Rockies, we hope, tomorrow.

Posted by Johnash 14:30 Archived in USA Tagged family_travel Comments (3)

Hooray for Ouray

and the backroads thereof

all seasons in one day 21 °F

Room 115, Best Western Twin Peaks Lodge, Ouray, Colorado

To see where we are, click on this and select satellite view if not already selected.

You should see we are surrounded by high peaks. They call it the Switzerland of America and, apart from the local accent, they could be right. It is not as snowy as we'd expected and hoped for. They had an early Spring and rain in March and much of the snow went then. When we were in Colorado at this time in 1999, many of the highroads and backroads were still closed by snow. Never mind, the peaks are still snowy and the streams and waterfalls are in full magnificent flow.

Yesterday, when we drove here from Cortez, CO, was not the best of days. We got to Telluride, a nice restored Victorian town with very upmarket shops and lots of skiing in the Winter. Not our cup of tea really. Then we tried a backroad, given that we do have a 4xwheel drive vehicle. Half a mile down the track and we were in the middle of a thunderstorm with heavy hail so we turned back.

It was grey and spitting with rain for most of the journey and Bob had a bad stomach from the previous night's fajitas ("Serves him right for eating Foreign Muck", say Arthur). We got a bit agitated with each other and, last straw, the Internet did not work properly in the motel room.

The Drive up the Dolores River to Telluride

Today, the sun was shining, the skies were blue, the snow was white (mostly) and prospects were good for an early start.

We'd been recommended a drive "Owl Creek Pass". This was magnificent and we saw one other vehicle, a guy who'd been fishing in Silver Jack Reservoir. Most of the road was graded mud and quite an easy drive for the most part. There were wet muddy ruts in places so it felt safer in a 4xwd.

Owl Creek drive

Next we drove back towards Telluride to tackle the drive we'd started yesterday, but from the other end: "Last Dollar Pass". Easy to start with but, when Stan saw a sheer cliff ahead, he nearly had kittens. Taken slowly, this steep descent back down to the main road was not a problem. Again, mostly a graded mud road with rocky sections at the end.

Lost Dollar Road over the Dallas Divide

Then we took a drive recommended in a local leaflet. "An easy hour's drive there and back, up to Camp Bird Mine. Can be tackled in a regular vehicle but sportscars not recommended." You're not kidding! Again an easy start but then very stony and rough with sheer drops and steep grades with overhanging cliffs. There is no way I would do this drive in a car. In places I was in 1st gear, 4xWD engaged, and foot on brake. It was hair-raising. But the views and the sounds of falling water were magnificent.

The vertigo inducing drive up to Camp Bird Mine

Finally we paid $3 to go and view Box Canyon, just down the road from the Motel.

At first we weren't going to bother after all the free and magnificent spectacles we'd experienced. But this was something else. We clambered along and down steel walkways and stairways, fixed, somehow, to the narrow canyons walls. Nightmarish, but even John persisted and descended the wet and slippery staircases, gripping both hand rails, just to experience this incredible sight. Tons of water being forced through the canyon's narrow walls. Amazing.

We noticed that Arthur was nowhere to be seen here!

What a day. And the nice young black guy in reception, Duane, has just fixed the Internet for John. Such a nice man.

Ouray, by the way, is, again, a restored Victorian mining town with a few pretentious shops but much friendlier, more down-to-earth and on a much smaller scale than Telluride which, incidentally, is extending its airport. We think it is going to be big enough to take jets, so Telluride will become even more "Not our cup of tea" we think.

A typical Victorian building in Ouray and the falls to be seen at the end of Main Street

Off to wash a very muddy car (carefully avoiding duct-tape repairs) then dinner somewhere. Not much choice in this little town. No Denny's here ("mumble, mumble, dump, mumble" from Arthur). And off to Durango, CO tomorrow.

Night night.
Who remembers True Grit (John Wayne)? It was filmed round here and this meadow, up Owl Creek, was where the final scene was shot, where J. Wayne and the baddies ride towards each other.

Posted by Johnash 17:25 Archived in USA Tagged family_travel Comments (1)

True Grit

For Western Fans Only

20 °F
View USA 2009 on Johnash's travel map.

Room 338, Doubletree Hotel, Durango, CO

OK Western Fans. I've found it. Here is the scene from True Grit mentioned. It's the very field and the very view of Chimney Rock behind, up Owl Creek Pass.

Who'd have thought his real name was Marion (also the stage name he used when working at the Gilded Cage on Sunset Blvd apparently. When times were hard, Ms Wayne had to earn some extra money when he wasn't working on True Gert. Apparently he did a passable "Diamonds Are A Girls Best Friend"!).


Another one related to the location

So last night we ate at the True Grit Cafe in Ridgway, just down the road from Ouray. Apart from the location for True Grit, Dennis Weaver lived nearby for many years. Hence the feature behind Bob.


This morning, we had a great drive from Ouray. We set out early in the sunshine but slowly moved into greyer weather. Over one of the passes, it was snowing a little.


On the way down into Silverton, we were waved down by a motorbike couple. (In their 60s as most of them are). The woman had gone over on the gravel in the turn out (layby) and they could not lift the Harley back up on their own. So they were waiting for a couple of butch guys to pass to help them. They had to make do with us. Between us we managed to get the monster bike upright. No damage done.

As we were about to leave, they waved to us again. They'd spotted a couple of moose (mooses, mice?) down by the river. We managed to catch a glimpse of them. It was our first moose; after all this time visiting USA we had not yet seen a moose (mouse).

Silverton looks a nice little town. It's the other end of the railroad trip we are doing tomorrow (Durango-Silverton, return). We didn't want to explore too much as we'll have a couple of hours there tomorrow before the train returns to Durango.

But we did find a traditional bar/cafe for breakfast. And who waved us into it? The Harley couple we'd help up the road. We thought we'd get a free breakfast but it emerged they were from Ohio and had retired from their jobs with General Motors where they'd both worked most of their working lives.

Before this trip, they'd learned that, with GM going into administration, they had lost their GM pensions. Great eh? Bet the CEOs and Vice-Presidents don't lose THEIR pensions. How angry it made us! These poor guys, already enjoying their retirement and, suddenly, everything is taken away from them. Now they have to find jobs and sign on for social security.


We arrived in Durango expecting a sleepy, Colorado mountain town and BANG, we were hit by traffic jams, malls, new roads being built, giant bridges to nowhere being constructed (literally, apparently, as they have not yet bought the land either side of these bridges!). We were not happy with our choice for two nights until we went into the historic downtown, which looks very good, to collect our railroad tickets, and checked into our hotel, which is beautiful and just a block from the old downtown (albeit across the new 98 lane highway they're building. "Goodness knows why": quote from several locals we've spoken to)... So now feeling happier about it.

Our room overlooks the Animas river with whitewater rafters whisking past looking white-faced and still. (Maybe should be whiteknuckle rafting?).


Today's drive would be a great one for anyone thinking of coming over and renting a couple of Harley's (Eric & Sue!). If you don't leave it too long, you'll be amongst the youngest out on the road.


Everyone talks to you here and they are so polite, even.... especially the kids! It's a joy to be walking around; be it in the street, down a box canyon, or in the hotel corridor, and someone will say "Hi! How are you?"

Posted by Johnash 15:20 Archived in USA Tagged family_travel Comments (1)

Durango to Silverton..

... and back!

semi-overcast 66 °F
View USA 2009 on Johnash's travel map.

Still in room 338, Doubletree, Durango

OK. We now like Durango. Despite the traffic and the new roads and the fact they only give you 19 seconds on the pedestrian phase to cross an 8 lane highway (to get from the hotel to "historic downtown").

Downtown is neat (you see, we're learning the lingo). Lots of shops, bars, cafes, cantinas and restaurants; all firmly aimed at the tourist market. But no tat at all.

The historic Strater Hotel has been beautifully restored and has a bar with a Western singer, and last night had quite a sprinkling of cowboys (Tallente-Ann to note!).

The singer was good. The cowboys were smart and we noticed one who looked like a cross between Freddy Mercury and Dan Blocker (Hoss Cartwright), imagine!. Well, he had a "Hoss" hat. John went to the restroom (lingo) and on the way back could hear a strange noise coming from the bar. At that moment, the hotel manager came out of his office, holding his head and muttering "Gaaad, I hate yodellin'". Yep, Hoss Cartwright had got up to do his party act of Western yodellin'. We are sure he was very good, but we tend to agree with the hotel manager's viewpoint on yodellin'.

You will be delighted to know that I could not upload video I had of the yodelin'. But don't think you've got away that lightly, I'll try again from Las Vegas.

Today we took the train to Silverton. It's all on the web page. We had splurged out and paid for seats in the club car and very good it was too with free soft drinks/coffee and free gifts galore


The trip was one not to be missed. In fact a trip of a lifetime, really. Put it on the list. Lots of bikers, Eric & Sue, on a day off.

We'd paid for returns, coming back in the Silver Vista observation car. This we would not recommend. The option is to take the bus back and this is what we would do with hindsight. It's a long way (3.5 hours each way, with a 2.25 hours stop in wonderful Silverton for lunch). The excitement comes on the way up. On the way back, well, it begins to pall a bit. Another gorge. Another ricekty bridge. And it started to get cold in the open-sided car.

(Blame Eric if your'e fed up with pictures of bikes).

But a fabulous day, thank you. Again. We are so lucky.

Tomorrow. Off to Las Vegas (After returning damaged car. We fly from little Durango airport to Phoenix on a prop aircraft then regular jet into Las Vegas.


Posted by Johnash 22:31 Archived in USA Tagged family_travel Comments (3)

Viva Las Vegas

View of the Strip

semi-overcast 84 °F
View USA 2009 on Johnash's travel map.

Room 19115 (ie 19th Floor), Golden Nugett, Las Vegas, Nevada

You either hate it or love it. We love it!

Good trip here though the flight on the turbo-prop from Durango to Phoenix (which is ENORMous) was quite turbulent and quease-inducing at times. Then a short, comfortable, Airbussed hop to Las Vegas. Another Ford Explorer waiting for us at the car rental facility at McCarren Airport (all rental companies share the same huge building away from the terminal meaning there is only one shuttle bus line going back and forth. Much better.) Hertz#1 Gold Card (if you don't ask, you don't get) means you don't even have to go to the counter to get your car. Your name is up on a giant electronic board telling you which bay your car is in. You just go to the car and drive off. They check you out at the barriered exit. All extremely efficient.

Far less traffic than last time (it can be a nightmare) when all the bikers were here. So a gentle drive up the Strip to the Golden Nugget where our car was valet-parked; our bags were taken out of the car by the Bellboys then we checked in in the luxury VIP lounge ($15 for VIP checkin saves about 40 minutes at the regular checkin line and you can use the VIP lounge any time). Our bags were delivered to our room (with view of The Strip, yippee) within a couple of minutes. One thing you do get here is service.

Oh, how we love cruising the Strip. We felt Harvey looking down with great approval as we drove, past Bellagio and The Mirage and on to Caesars Palace and the MGM Grand.....

The energy in the place is enormous but, boy, don't you get some weird people here. And that on top of all the weirdos that already live here. One thing you can be sure of; no one will ever laugh at you, whatever you are wearing.

No big wins yet. We are checking out the roulette tables to place bets for those that have requested them (Harvey included: what number Harve??)

Tonight it's our big dinner at The Steakhouse on the top floor of Binions; one of the old-established Casinos Downtown and immediately opposite the Nugget.

Now here's the promised yodeller - "enjoy".

There's more like this to come.. video would not upload. Watch this space for more yodelin'.

More on Las Vegas later. (Never, never call it "Vegas"!).

(Technical note. Video inserted on these pages has been taken on our Canon "still camera" as it is not possible to transfer stuff from the actual videocam whilst away.

Posted by Johnash 18:01 Archived in USA Tagged family_travel Comments (3)

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