health care, road trips, tech talk, occasional rant

post-parkganza

At the south end of Grand Tetons National Park is a new Visitor Center with cool exhibits and wifi!  The first connectivity I’ve had in 4 days.   Also has a giant traffic jam to watch a moose stand in a stream about a half mile away.

Jackson Wy is just so hippin’ happenin’ and busy that I don’t know how to deal with it.  I’ve driven through three times in the last few years and only stopped downtown once and that was only a five minute walk-by.  There is no place feasible for me to spend the night here, every restaurant looks like a fancy dining experience that I just don’t want, so it’s hard to relax.  The closest I’ve come is Gros Ventre Campground at the very southern end of Teton Park, about 20 miles north.

However, today that would mean going backwards and I want to go forwards, so I get dieseled up and groceried up (at the hippest Albertsons in the world), and off I go. For the first time ever I take a left at Hoback Junction instead of the right to head on down the beautiful Star Valley.  I follow the Hoback River down a beautiful steep canyon, and soon enough I come to Hoback Campground, just as advertised.

The 2-3 really nice spots along the river are taken, so I find the spot that will give me the most privacy, because I realized this afternoon that I really, really must wash my hair.  I’ve managed a cold water shave and a couple of pit washes so the body is OK, but I haven’t maintained the hair since the shower at Oxbow ten (eek!!) days ago, so it’s feeling pretty gummy.  I do accomplish this!  It wasn’t a pretty site, so I was happy that no campers came around the loop at the wrong time to catch me soaping and rinsing at the back of the van.

Thursday

Rain started around sunset, and continued pretty hard through most of the night.  Rain pattering on the van roof is a cozy sound.  If this was a month later it would be thick snow – eek!  In the morning I fill my water tank and head out into the fog.  It was not the scary I can’t see the road in front of me fog, but rather the exciting I can’t see the riverbank a quarter-mile away fog.  It lasted 10-15 miles, then I crested a little pass and poof! it’s gone and out of the mountains and into sunny cloudless boring Wyoming rolling prairie.

Wyoming is so sparsely populated that there will a town on the map and you get there and it’s population 110 (Bondurant, Wy).  Eventually Pinedale turned out to be big enough to have a diner, so breakfast was accomplished.  No wifi, but I did get good enough 3G bars to be able to identify the Rock Springs Library as my wifi spot.  It’s the next real town and it’s only 112 miles away!

This part of Wyoming is rolling scrubland.  At first the very rugged looking Wind River Range was on the left (east), with a covering of fresh snow from last night!  But then it petered out and then was …. nothing much.  Much wider vistas than even Nevada, because pretty much everywhere in Nevada there is a mountain range somewhere on the horizon in every direction.   Here this gently rolling vista of mesquite and sage goes on forever, to the horizon line.  There was this weird stripe of grass in the scrub that followed the road for like 30 miles that I finally figured was where a pipeline was buried.  After I figured that out I saw these pipeline stripes a lot.

Soon enough I was in Rock Springs.  I did the wifi thing, thence to the Ace Hardware to get my propane tank filled.  I really don’t have much interaction with the locals on these trips, usually one meal a day in a restaurant, and that’s about it.  But getting propane turns out to give me a whole other slice of the local life.  At the propane refill spot you get the backcountry folks whose houses run off those little tanks, and the farmers, and around here the miners and drillers.  And the dudes (and occasionally crusty dudettes) that hook up the tanks are usually a funny and talkative lot.

Wyoming, as you may know is all about exploiting its natural resources.  Seemed like every third vehicle was a big white pickup with Halliburton or Andarko on the side (co-perpetrators of the Gulf oil spill).

Part of my daily wifi lust is that I want to research where I will end up that night.  Today I find that there are three different routes that will get me to some kind of campground in 80 to 150 miles.  The preferred methodology is to find their little icons with my camping app on the iPad, and google them on the laptop for the full details.  I could do it all on either device alone, but the dual device approach maximizes the location services of the little guy (iPad) and I can easily switch multiple windows of the browser on the big guy (iMac), without losing my place on the iPad map.

Anyway, Bridge Hollow Campground came up the winner, about 80 miles away, just inside Utah.  The seventh item on the Google search for it said is was the 27th best campground in Utah, which definitely clinched the deal!

Back to the van I check this out on the real map, and oops! looks like the last 27 miles to this CG is gravel road.  Google Maps does not clue one in on this important fact.  bummer.  I head that way anyway, down the east side of Flaming Gorge Reservoir, with the idea that I’ll can continue on to the national forest 50 miles further if I don’t like it.  When I do get to the turnoff it looks like a pretty good road, so I go for it.  Wasn’t too bad it turns out – it became pavement for a few miles at the Utah state line, then back to gravel, but soon enough I was at the Green River, with a sign for the CG 1.5 miles to the right.  This last little bit of road was serious washboard, which I didn’t like.  The campsite is right across the river from the road, and the locals make a helluva racket bombing down it at 30 mph with their metal boats banging on their trailers.  I think there is something to the idea that if you go fast enough over the washboard you sort of glide over the bumps, but I don’t have the heart for that.  I take it slow and thus savor each bump.

This was a most excellent campground.  No one else here tonight, so I got the primo spot right on the river.  The only weirdness is these weeds which are taking over the place.  My theory is that clearing the native brush for campsites has given this invader perfect habitat.

Friday

Hung around for a couple of hours this morning, because my spot is just too awesome to leave.  But 11-ish I head on down that washboardy road.  In the morning I’m not all stressed and crazed as I tend to get at the end of the day when I don’t know where I’m spending the night,. I was Mr Mellow on the bumps on the way out.  Ten-ish miles later I leave this little corner of Utah and enter the great state of Colorado – great in this case because it paves this road that Utah and Wyoming chose not to pave.

I enjoyed the smoothness for about a minute, then there was a sign for a wildlife refuge (NWR) down, you guessed it, a gravel road.  Part of my road trip ethos is that if I pass up an NWR, then I am not managing that day properly.  So down the gravel I go.  The VisCen is closed, but lucky me, a extremely polite and helpful guy was there in his pickup truck to orient me.  Browns Park NWR is a habitat for migratory birds and winter grazing for elk.  Neither of these things is happening right now, but I took the auto tour and soaked up the really astonishing beauty of the Green River up here.  I think I heart the Green River.

Back to the pavement, then a pretty but monotonous drive through northwest Colorado to the town of Craig.  I went to the Village Inn because they serve breakfast all day, and wonderously, they had wifi.  I hung there for about two hours, thus missing the experience of what the Moffat County Public Library might be like.  While there I got a text from Martha that cheered me up a lot.  I was going to have to cramp my trip a lot to get home next Friday, because she was come for a hair appointment on Saturday. Nobody in California can do Martha’s exact blond like my friend Stasia can do blond :)) She got the app’t moced to the next Tuesday, giving me three wonderful extra nights to dawdle around Colo and Utah.  I’m very happy about this!

But now I need to rethink my plan a little bit – how will I spend these three extra days?  I will spend one dawdling somewhere quiet tomorrow (Saturday) night, so as to hit Orvis Hot Springs on Sunday night rather than Saturday.  The other two will allow me to take it a little slower through beautiful southern Utah and maybe take two days to get from Ely to Reno instead of that one day death march.  Thank you Martha!

The rest of today’s plan is to zig east through Steamboat Springs, then south to a campground called Dumont Lake.  Steamboat Springs looks like a pretty cool place – a little precious and spendy for me, but a nice place to hang out.  I did not hang out today, just motored on to the CG.

This is a very pretty place, looking out over a wide meadow.  I got breathless walking back to the registration station and was feeling pretty bad about my fitness.  But then the web page I’d saved says we are at 9,500′ elevation, so I think I’m entitled to get a little breathless.

Saturday

Central Colorado is an unending series of mountain passes and green valleys.  All very scenic but they kind of blur together.  I did a morning’s worth of these, through a constant gentle rain which made the grassy valleys an iridescent green. Getting from here to Marble requires some I-70.  I followed it for about 8 miles to the very prosperous town of Eagle where I had breakfast.

After Eagle I-70 winds its way though Glenwood Gorge,one of the more dramatic sections of interstate I’ve seen anywhere.  My direction (west) was 100 or so feet in the air, and the other direction was directly below, with the river rushing right next to it.  It seemed to be a big kayaking destination, also had a real nice looking bike path.

At the end of the gorge was Glenwood Springs, a very interesting looking town.  Glenwood Springs Resort is a big deal. It has a huge warm pool with water slides and everything.  I did not stop, but would like to someday.  There were funky little bars and restaurants along the river, and the old downtown looked quite inviting with its tree-lined streets and comfy houses.  Add this to the list of places where I would like to spend some time if I ever become rootless.

Here I leave exciting I-70 to turn south for Marble.  All the towns along here – Glenwood Springs, Carbondale, Redstone – all resonate in my memory from childhood.  My mom had friends here.  A couple she had known waaaay back in the postwar era when she and my dad lived in Long Beach … where I was born!  We would plan our every 2-3 westerly trip to visit them.  First in the Denver suburbs, then in Redstone, where they bought a little motel as a retirement plan.

I got off the road at Redstone, and sure enough, it is still there.  Redstone has become seriously yuppified, as has the motel.  ah memories….

Anyway, onward to Marble.  At about the turnoff to Marble the intermittent rain became pretty violent – slow down cuz you can’t see the road kind of violent – with grape-sized hail.   There is a NatFor campground on the road to Marble, so that is where I holed up for the night.  I drove into town, even walked into the one open restaurant, but didn’t really dig the feel of the place so I returned to the campground.

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