It's so difficult to get up before the Sun on a Saturday, however, today was a going to be an exceptional day. We were heading north to the town of Durango, Co to ride on a steam engine train. First for the both of us. The Silverton & Durango Narrow Gauge Railroad began making runs from Durango to Silverton in 1881. In the beginning the purpose of the train was to haul the silver and gold from the mines in Silverton. Over 30 million dollars worth were mined in the region. Today, it is a tourist attraction. The original cars have been restored to almost original condition. The seats were upgraded and it does have heat in most cars. We boarded the train at the Durango depot at the elevation 6500 ft above sea level. The train pulled out of the station at 8:45 am. This was the last run to Silverton until May. As you will see in the photos it is a narrow gauge railroad with little distance between the mountains and the Animos River. A dangerous journey to make in the Winter months. It is hard to believe it was constructed within a year. The tracks carved through mountainous terrain and bridges built to cross the river. It is breathtaking. While the train chugged its way up the mountain, reenactment characters told us about the history of the people and the train. And of course, ghost stories were told, since it was Halloween. To stretch our legs we would take walks through the cars. The cars swayed to and fro so walking was a bit of an exaggeration. It was more like wobbling down the narrow aisles. As we ascended the river fell below us. The steep cliffs looked like nature had cut them with a knife. Animos river is a whitewater rafters dream. The rugged rocks formed amazing runs of class 3 and 4 rapids. Mike and I made a mental note to come back during a Summer season to run the river. Several waterfalls cascaded from the mountain tops to feed the river. About half way, several of the passengers disembarked the train at a flagstop to hike the wilderness. How we wanted to join them. The conductor told them don't be late for your pick up on the way back down or the next train won't be until May. We found out that many movies were filmed in the area the most famous was Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. We saw where the famous jump into the river happened. As the hours pass, the endless wonder of nature filled our eyes and our souls.
The train pulled into Silverton, elevation 9,300 ft above sea level, shortly after noon. About of hundred tourist poured out into the streets of this little Western town. Scattered, we devoured the place like giddy children in a candy store. The tourist season had wound down in September, so many of the stores were closed. A few souvenir shops and restaurants were only open during the two hour layover before we began our descent down the mountain to Durango. The buildings were original with fresh coats of colorful paint. To walk the streets was like stepping back into time. During Silveton's heyday, there were 1100 residents, mostly miners, but it boasted 32 saloons! We ate lunch at The Pickle Barrel. We grabbed a few trinkets and boarded the train for the 4 hour journey down to Durango. With our bellies full, the high altitude and the gently rocking of the train, Mike and I snoozed on and off for the first hour. By the way, the hikers made it back in time. Feeling rejuvenated at the end of the trip we stepped out into the streets of Durango. Halloween was in full swing. Characters young and old bustled down the sidewalks in search of tricks or treats. We made our way to El Moro for dinner. Its innovative chef created an eclectic menu that satisfied our "foodie" taste buds. Even though we were full, I spotted Jean-Pierre French bakery and wine bar. We picked up some croissants for Sunday's breakfast. We dreaded leaving Durango but we had an hour drive back to Farmington, NM. This was a day to always remember.
Giving up sticks and bricks for rubber and road was the best decision Mike and I have ever made. Where the road will take us we don't know but we will explore and experience as much of it as we can. Live for today.
Saturday, Oct. 24, 2015 was a new day and we were determined to make the most of the short time we had left on our journey to Farmington, NM. We are big fans of Gone with the Wynns bloggers. One of their videos tells about Taos, NM and Rio Grande del Norte National Monument Park. Taking the scenic route through the Cimmaron Canyon we arrived in Questa, NM and with a little help from the ladies at the visitor center we found Rio Grande del Norte. There are several campgrounds to choose from but our 37 ft long rig made our choice limited. We settled in at Big Arsenic campground. Our site was feet away from the rim of the river. We could see a glimpse of the river but the roar of water was soothing. The site was sloping and tight, so we couldn't get as level as we should have to extend our slides. These sites are dry docking only with primitive restrooms so we made sure we had plenty of water and food. We discovered the water heater wasn't working so Mike began troubleshooting the issue. Behind our site was a trail down to the Rio Grande river. Lyra, our cat, and I explored part of the trail but I knew she couldn't do the difficult hike. I returned to camp and dropped off the cat and picked up a better hiker, my husband. The steep switchback trail wound down for just over a mile to a fresh water spring that poured into the river. The pristine surroundings of Ponderosa pines and basalt rocks set against the high cliff banks are what makes nature so exquisite. With sun setting, our time at the river was short, however, we did find the tranquility we were looking for. At 7,500 ft above sea level, the trek back up the trail was brutal but so worth it. When we arrived back at camp, Mike grilled some halibut and Brussels sprouts on the campfire. Then perfect end to an amazing day. Regrettably, we had to leave Sunday morning. Trying to squeeze more out of our trip, we wanted to jump into one of the nearby hot springs. With the coordinates logged into our GPS we ended up in a tight spot. Again, we had to unhook the jeep and with the incredible skill of Mike's driving we were able to turn the 37 ft. rig around on a narrow dirt road with water on both sides. The hot springs will have to wait until another day. We entered the Carson National Forest at Eagle Nest, NM. On the winding mountain road, we climbed to over 10,000 ft above sea level. The snow covered ground was speckled with green pines and leafless white birch trees. It was hard to believe we were in New Mexico. Even though this trip had a rocky start, we managed to make it one of the most memorable experiences yet. In the late afternoon, we pulled into Lee Acres RV park which was quite a let down after all the wonderful places we have seen but the choices in Farmington, NM are limited. The water heater is still not working, but I am sure we will figure it out. We always do. It's not always easy but we chose this lifestyle to be together and experience America.
The time had come to leave Natural Springs State Park in Oklahoma. Our home for the better part of 3 months. Mike's next project is in Farmington, NM. We woke up early eager to get on the road to our first destination, Beaver Dunes, on our trek West. Several hours into our trip, we heard a now familiar hissing air sound coming from the passenger side of the rig. We pulled over at a gas station in Woodward, OK. It had happened again! Saira blew the same air bag that we blew in Joplin, MO 2000 miles earlier. Freightliner is on speed dial now! Of course, there wasn't any Freightliner service centers near by. The closest is in Liberal, Kansas two hours away. Freightliner had our parts and a certified mechanic fixing our rig the next day. It was the longest 24 hours. We couldn't stay at the gas station because it was full of semi trucks (which are loud and stinky) so we parked across the street in a vacant lot. We sat in the huge lot alone in the night as if there was a large target sign on us. It was the first time that I wished we had a gun. With the carving knife by my side and the taser by Mike's side we tried to sleep. Between the nightmares and the semi trucks passing by little sleep was obtained. Friday brought more problems. We forgot to turn the key off on our "toad" so the Jeep battery was dead. Mike set out on foot to find some jumper cables. The day just dragged on until the mechanic arrived at 4:00 pm. He had no power tools and the sun was low in the sky. Amazingly, he was able to replace both rear airbags. By 8:00 pm, we were underway to Beaver Dunes. This was the first time we drove Saira at night. Not knowing exactly where we were going, we got into a bit of jam at what we thought was the park office. Mike had to unhook the Jeep but he had help from a little Chihuahua that chased around barking his little head off. After our failed attempt to locate the park at night we headed to the next town Guymon, OK. By midnight, we were both disappointed and exhausted so we pulled into the Walmart parking lot and called it a night.
We rolled into Twin Fountains RV Park on Thursday, October 1st. This is a very large RV park. The facilities are excellent. It even had sidewalks! The only downside was the interstate noise in the back of the park. We stayed in the front. We weren't even fully set up and I was heading over to the RV Parks very own Salon and Spa to make appointments for massages and pedicures in the morning. It was Mike's first time getting a full body massage. He loved it! When all the pampering was done and we were feeling all relaxed, we cruised to Bricktown. This is where all the fun happens in the city. We strolled down Sheridan St. to have lunch at Tapwerks Ale House. I am not a big beer drinker but they had a very good selection craft beers. It's a good lunch spot. Bellies full and muscles relaxed the bed was calling my name so we went back to the rig. After a nice siesta, the horse races were about to start at Remington Park which we could see the track lights from our campsite. We've never been to a thoroughbred horse race before and we had never bet on them. Following the "Beginners Guide to Betting" pamphlet, we place our first bet, a whole $5. We lost. We continued to take turns picking horses and betting $5 for the next 6 races. They ran both dirt and turf races in varying lengths which I know little about. We ate bar nachos and drank a couple of beers on the restaurant open patio. The smell of cigarettes and horses filled the air. Even though we didn't win, it was exciting.
Saturday morning we met our Sure Beats Walking Segway tour guide in Bricktown. This was my first time on a segway. Let's just say, I needed extra learning time. We were the only two people on the tour. Bricktown has a man made canal that runs through it. There are canal taxi tours that cruise through Bricktown. We meandered through Bricktown and downtown. One of the highlights of the tour was stopping at the Oklahoma City National Memorial. OKC has a very a unique Botanical Garden building. If we had more time, we would have explored the gardens. After the tour, we ate lunch at a tapas restaurant, Bolero. We did not have a good experience. Trying to put our bad lunch in the past we walked the canal down to the Oklahoma River where the Rowing clubs were competing. Colleges from all over the country were there. We had never been to a rowing competition so it was fun watching and learning about it. The early afternoon grew warm and we had walked several miles so it was definitely time to check out Bricktown Brewery. They make some excellent craft beer. We ordered the flight and some of their homemade chips. We should have had lunch at this place. Everything looked tasty. This is a must stop when in town. By late afternoon we headed back to our home on wheels for a relaxing night. Today is Sunday and we are trekking back to Natural Falls State Park. We will be there for about ten days. Then our next destination is Hide A Way Campground on Beaver Lake, Arkansas.
Mike & Kat
Kat left teaching after 18 years to travel throughout the USA with her husband, Mike, who is an engineer for a Power generation company.