Tucson to Steamboat – 2017 – Part III – Cortez and Fruita

This is Part III of our return trip to Steamboat Springs, CO., from our winter in Tucson, AZ., and our visits to Cortez and Fruita, CO.  Part I and Part II can be read on these links.

Cortez, CO – again

Entrance to the Anasazi Heritage Center, a fabulous Indian artifacts museum that also has special rotating exhibits that change every year. There is so much to see here that it needs to be visited more than once to see it all. There is even a replica pit house to show how the “Anasazi” built and lived in semi-permanent dwellings as they transitioned from hunter-gatherer societies to agricultural based living.

When we left Gallup, NM., we headed to Cortez.  Although we were just in Cortez in the fall and stayed in the same Mesa Verde RV Park, right across the highway from the entrance to Mesa Verde National Park, we never went into the national park this time.  I wanted to go back to the Anasazi Heritage Center we had visited in the fall.  They had a fabulous Navajo basket special exhibit that I wanted to revisit.  And, now that Canyons of the Ancients National Monument  might be on the Trump chopping block, along with several of other newer national parks, it seemed even more urgent.

Anasazi Heritage Center – Dolores, CO

As it turns out, the basket exhibit was gone, having changed to an exhibit on the Wetherhill family that discovered Cliff Palace in Mesa Verde in 1888.  Richard Wetherill and Charlie Mason, cowboys from Mancos, Colorado, came upon the abandoned ruins of this iconic Anasazi pueblo while exploring the area.  Richard Wetherill is also responsible for the term Anasazi, which means ancient enemy in Navajo.  The Wetherill family extensively explored the area and the ruins to learn more about these ancient people. They would even camp out in Cliff Palace.

Special exhibits at the Anasazi Heritage Center change in February and run for a year.  We didn’t know that.  Although I was disappointed to not get another chance with the basket exhibit, I learned so much at the Wetherill exhibit.  Once you have seen whatever special exhibit is running, you could easily spend another two or three hours viewing the rest of the center.

Fruita, CO

Our last stop before Steamboat Springs (home), was four days in Fruita, CO, at James Robb State Park (Fruita section) over Easter weekend.  Our friends, Sandy and Ron  Stuck from Desert Trails RV Park (Tucson), are camp hosts at Highline State Park and hosted an Easter BBQ that included Gail and Dave Hanley, from Steamboat and also from Desert Trails.  It is amazing how Desert Trails “campers” are EVERYWHERE and we run into them wherever we are.  It was really fun to get together with them all, share a meal, and revisit Highline.

Camping at Highline Lake – This campground has huge trees that provide lots of shade during the hot months and is situated on Highline Lake. Biking is a huge draw in this area, as well as fishing. There are no hook-ups at this park, but, for a few days of boondocking, it really is a nice park.

We have stayed at Highline before and love the big trees (especially when it is hot, which it wasn’t), but wanted to try James Robb.  The park was built recently (at least by rv park standards) and was very well thought out for newer, larger rvs.  All sites are pull-throughs with a covered picnic table which is great during the hot Grand Junction summers.  It was really pretty sweet!

This is a picture of a typical site at James Robb State Park (Fruita section), showing the pull-through site, the covered picnic table, and the fire pit provided. It would be wonderful if all campgrounds were this well thought-out to accommodate the newer, longer, wider rigs. Sometimes it is hard (impossible) to fit our trailer with opposing slides into some of the older sites.

Soon after we were set up in our campsite, a toy-hauler pulled in to the site right next to us.  The truck had WZ plates – the way you can identify a Steamboat local from back in the day.  It doesn’t work anymore, but Steamboat license plates back in the 70’s and maybe beyond, started with WZ.  Back then you had to renew your license plate every year and people stood in line to get WZ 1.  Those people that got the last WZ1 license plates STILL have those plates.  Cooper’s truck has WZ 3400.  From WZ, it went to XA plates.  My Mountaineer has XA plates.  I came later.  Now there is no rhyme or reason to the plates.  I guess the state knows what they are doing, but you can no longer know where people are from just by seeing the license plate. The WZ plates even came in a paper sleeve that listed all the counties and what the starting plate letters were.  Colorado was much friendlier then.

(Once, when we were living in California and before we moved to Steamboat, I pulled up behind a yellow truck that had WZ license plates.  We were stopped for a construction delay, so I got out and went up to talk to the guy in the truck – Bones Vanatta -, saying I recognized the WZ as being from Routt County. It turns out Cooper knew the guy, and he and Cooper became best friends when we moved to Steamboat for good.)

Back to the people next door….  Jim and Elise Hinton were parked next door with WZ plates.  We have known Elise (Lisie) since she was young, the daughter of friends from back-in-the-day.  I know Jim from Main Street days when he was a construction manager for either Alpenglow or Howelsen Place construction in downtown Steamboat.  (I think it was Alpenglow .)  They invited us over for coffee in the morning after we arrived and we got all caught up.  We later learned that we have the same wedding anniversary date (May 3) – us, 42 years, them, 10 years.

RV Adventures/ Mishaps

When we were traveling from Cortez to James Robb, we lost a stabilizer arm to our hitch system.  It was so weird.  When we bought the new trailer last year, they installed a new hitch and stabilizer arms.  The new arms are inserted and there are “buttons” that hold the arm in place.  The old system (an improvement that wasn’t necessary) had a better lock-in system where you could actually see that the arms were secure.  (I digress.)  Well, when I attached the arm in Cortez, it stuck but didn’t attach.  When we got to James Robb, there was NO STABILIZER ARM.  Cooper even watched me secure the arm.  Somewhere along the line, the arm came off and there was no arm when we were setting up in James Robb. When we went to unhitch, I just stared at the place where the arm should have been.  We must have lost it back in Cortez and traveled the whole day without it.  Not good.  Thank goodness for Bob Scott RV in Grand Junction.  Cooper went to the dealership, ordered the part, and we had it the next day.  As it turns out, from now on, COOPERwill attach the arm to be sure it is secure.  Apparently I am not strong enough to secure that arm.  The one on the old hitch was easy to secure.  The new “improved” hitch is not so improved.  Grrrr…..

Back in Steamboat

After a short three weeks on the road ( a trip that took us two months on the way to Tucson), we were back to parking on our driveway in Steamboat.  We so love our little “cabin” that we just stay in it when we are home.  All of our stuff is there, our routine is there, and our bed is there.  Brady (our daughter), Paul and Mariam are now living in the house and it has definitely become theirs.  While we still need to use the bathroom inside the house because our tanks won’t hold enough waste, and the idea of encountering a bear on that “middle of the night” run is scary, for the most part, it works really well.

We settled right back into Steamboat routines and it seemed like we had never left.    I met people in the grocery store that just commented they hadn’t seen me in a while.  Seven months on the road IS a while.  But it can be like that in Steamboat.  People can actually move away for years, but when you see them in the grocery store when they come back, its like they never left.

The only drawback to being back in Steamboat in late April and early May was the weather.  It snowed, rained and “snained” for 10 days straight.  We were freezing.  Cooper insisted on wearing his shorts, no matter what, but I was bundled up in long pants, socks, down vest and a sweater the entire time. So glad I didn’t get rid of all those winter clothes!

Let another adventure begin

Now we are on the road again, after three weeks, and headed to Whitefish, Montana, for our first workamping experience.  I LOVE this lifestyle.