October 15, 2009

Driving Out West

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Photos from from Out West.

Betty with Her Brother Tom
Tom and Betty Cassady
Andy, Julianne and Hallie
Andy, Julianne and Hallie
At Arches National Park
 Arches National Park
$19,500 Navaho Weaving
 Navaho Weaving
The Grand Canyon
 The Grand Canyon
Hoover Dam
 Hoover Dam
Las Vegas Strip
 Las Vegas Strip
Bill with the Busch Family
 Las Vegas Strip
Back: Judy, Krista, Mary and Steve
Front: Tiny, Landon and Bill

This journey began the last day of September 2009. We knew it was the right day to leave, because we saw our first frost of autumn on the ground that morning We drove all day long with but a few stops. We crossed the cornfields of Minnesota. We stopped to rest a couple of hours in Sioux Falls. We drove south along the Missouri River in Iowa and crossed into Nebraska where we passed through Omaha and Lincoln. About 20 miles past Kearny, we drove south on US 183 and then southwest on Kansas State Highway 383. When we reached US 24 we headed west, finally stopping in Goodland, Kansas. It was too late to go looking for Betty's brother Tom, who lives about 20 miles northwest of Goodland, just over the Colorado border, but we called him and arranged to see him in the morning.

We spent the most of the next day, October first, with Tom Cassady. He drove into Goodland and picked us up at our cheap motel. We went out for breakfast at a restaurant at the local airport. The food was very good. I like to see restaurants at little airports like the one in Goodland. The funny thing is that there were no flyers in the restaurant, save me. We rarely see Tom, we talked a lot, catching up on our lives. In his pickup truck, he drove us west to see a defunct pig farm a few miles further west that he bought a few years back. He is salvaging material from the barns and rents its small acreage to a local farmer. From here he took us 15 more miles to his farm just across the border into Colorado. While he has 90 acres, he does not appear to be farming it. The house and the many buildings and grain storage bins on the farm are in good condition. We got a full tour and I liked his homestead. After that he showed us a bit of the local countryside. We returned to Goodland mid-afternoon for lunch. It was late afternoon before we left Goodland driving west toward Denver, where Tom's son lives.

Andy is Tom's son. He lives in the suburb of Louisville, just north of Denver. He lives with his partner of many years, Hallie. They share a passion for the textile arts. He is weaver and she is a knitter. They are raising Angora rabbits to harvest their hair for knitting. As all crafts artists in the USA, they do not derive much of an income from their art, so they need day-jobs. He repairs and rebuilds arcade games and she teaches school when she can find work. Due to the recession, his business is very slow and Hallie is out of work. Still they are very happy together, and they get to spend more time working their art.

We spent three nights in Louisville. The day after arriving, we all went out for breakfast and met Julianne, Tom's ex-wife and Andy's mom. The little restaurant was wonderful. After breakfast Andy and Hallie drove us to a park or retreat in Boulder, then they took us on a driving tour up into the mountains just west of Boulder. It is a truly beautiful area and we got to see a lot of it. By the time evening rolled around we were hungry and decided to eat some hardy Mexican food. Julianne again met up with the four of us and we had a wonderful meal together.

The next day Betty and I drove into Denver proper. I really liked what I saw, but we did not see a lot. We saw the Colorado State Capitol building. Then we spent a couple of hours in a history museum. I must say that this was a pretty good museum, and I should know - having visited dozens and dozens of these kinds of museums. We next decided to visit the Celestial Seasonings plant in Boulder. On our way back north, we stopped to pick-up Andy and Hallie - who also wanted to visit the facility. Celestial Seasonings was started by a bunch of hippies during the summer of love, that's 1969 to you youngsters. Today they are the largest purveyor of herbal teas in the world. After the tour, we drove the couple of miles to Julianne's home. It is right on the edge of the foothills to the mountains, where she can often be found hiking. The home was very lovely and we felt very much at home. We spent hours talking and eating pizza and drinking beer. It was a wonderful visit.

Sunday morning, October 4th, we started driving west on I-70 up and over the Rocky Mountains and only stopped once to rest along a raging river. It was mid-afternoon when we crossed into Utah. We were going to Arches National Park, just 30 miles south of I-70. There are a large number of natural stone arches in the park. Some are extraordinarily large with openings larger than 100 feet in height. We took a large number of photos that I have posted in a Flickr photo set. We could not find a reasonably priced hotel in the closest town of Moab, so we drove another 30 miles south to stay in Monticello, UT.

The next morning we head south on US 191 until we passed through Blanding. We headed west on Utah 95 to find the Natural Bridges National Monument. Here the bridges or arches were much fewer in number, but much larger some with openings of 270 feet or more. After taking a good look, we headed south on Utah 261. This road is a rural paved road that was in fairly good shape. The exception was a three-mile stretch that was gravel and had a 10% grade. When we got to this stretch of road we found ourselves on a high plateau and the winding road was all downhill. The view was spectacular. Check out Google maps to get a sense of the terrain by clicking here. After reaching the valley floor, we drove by the famous Mexican Hat, a rock formation that comes to a point on top of which sits another rock that resembles a Mexican hat. Continuing down US 163, US 160 and US 89, we were making our way toward the Grand Canyon. We stopped for gas and to check out a Navaho trading post just before we turned off to head into the park. It was a typical tourist trading post, but there was some fabulous Navaho art in the form of weavings. Some of the weaving were priced at more the $20,000 - that's right TWENTY THOUSAND DOLLARS. We were in Arizona now and we went west on Arizona 64 into the Grand Canyon Park. The views were stunning but not as stunning as when I flew above the canyon about five years ago. See my Flickr stream for aerial photos of the canyon area. We spent several hours looking out on the canyon from various places. It was nearly dark when we head south. It was about 50 miles to I-40. We found a reasonably priced motel in Segilman, AZ, and settled down for the evening.

The next morning, we drove past the Hoover Dam on our way to Las Vegas. They are building a huge bridge over the river canyon. You have to drive on top of the dam to cross the Colorado River. We were in Las Vegas in the early afternoon. My cousin Steve had arranged for us to use his condo at the Jockey Club, which is right next to the Bellagio. We did almost no gambling. We did see two shows. The first night we went to Bally's Jubilee, a wonderful burlesque show. It has great songs, dance and plenty of nudity. The next night we saw V, the Ultimate Variety Show, at the Planet Hollywood complex. This show was OK but not great. It's star, Fast Wally Eastwood, was extremely entertaining. To make it a reasonable value, try to find a two-for-one coupon for the shows, which you can find in most of the tourist info magazines or online. We spent two nights in Vegas and we won't be going back for a long time. It just is not a place we love all that much.

We drove the three hours to Victorville on Friday, October 9th. We came here to visit my Aunt Tiny and her grown children. Tiny is 81 years old and is the last living sibling of my mother. Steve lives with and cares for his mom. Several of Tiny's grandchildren live next door. On Saturday, Tiny's daughters, Mary and Judy drove up from San Diego to visit with us. They brought along Mary's daughter and grandson, Krista and Landon. It was a great visit. We enjoyed seeing everyone again.

On Sunday morning, we left Victorville heading for Palo Alto. Palo Alto is where Dain and Marleta are living now. After Marleta got laid off in January, they decided to move north from Santa Monica. My next entry will be about staying in Palo Alto.

Posted by bill at October 15, 2009 07:44 PM

Have a wonderful time out west. Though a little dry, it is gorgeous country.


Posted by: david at October 20, 2009 08:28 PM

I enjoyed following your trip from Minnesota westward. Loved those aerial shots from your plane of the Grand Canyon. Spectacular. And I agree with your thought on LV.

I have to make one correction: the summer of love - 1967.

Posted by: Mickie Turk at October 21, 2009 12:59 AM

These travel stories are wonderful! Stay cool Bill and Betty and take care.

Posted by: Margie Sanroman at October 21, 2009 08:11 AM