Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Northwest Passage

It is September—the long awaited month to begin our fall trip to travel parts of Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and California.  This trip is about a lifestyle of travel in the beloved condo-on-wheels, with no specific schedule of dates for arrivals (or departures) as we travel from place to place.  This trip is about visiting a long list of amazing locales and habitats, with lengths of stay influenced by good weather and our growing list of interesting stops.  This trip is about exploring cities and countryside; about visits to touristy towns and remote hot spots for birding.  This trip will surprise me. 

I plan to regularly blog about this journey that has been a half-century in the making (and post when wi-fi enabled). 

But the beginning is the challenge.  How to pull the condo-on-wheels from a starting point on the upper gulf coast of Texas and reach the furthest northern point of this travel plan:  the Denver, Colorado area.  The answer is simple:  drive long hours in triple digit heat, watching transmission and engine temperatures, and not stopping until the sun is setting each day, giving a fair chance for a hot Airstream to cool down with its trusty air conditioner. 

And so the rick-man and I began this intended leisurely multi-month trip doing what we do not like:  traveling twelve hour days on the road.  But this trip’s northwest passage caused us no problems.  There were no nights spent in a Walmart parking lot; there were no sudden re-routes due to a fire at Raton Pass; and there were no nasty challenges due to last summer’s loss of trailer brakes in Wyoming.  This trip’s beginning challenge—traversing the big state of Texas (in sustained summer heat) was simply as good as it gets.  And I am thankful.

A first day’s stop at a Walmart, conveniently located on I-35, allowed us to stock the condo-on-wheels with food and supplies:

By the time we reached northwest Texas we were driving in triple digit temperatures.  The roads were good and the winds were calm.  The Suburban’s transmission temperature stayed below 200 degrees except for a short period of time during the worst of the heat and the extended steady climb into the high plains around Amarillo:

This tired driver was thrilled to safely reach Colorado and stop at a first rest stop on I-25. An even eighty-degree temperature with low humidity never felt so good:

Much of our travel finds us camped in state or federal parks, but occasionally a commercial park serves as the best port for visiting city locales.  This Denver-area commercial park lacks all aspects of remote camping, but provides a surprisingly quiet and convenient home base for this week’s visit to a major metropolis and its many sightseeing opportunities.  Can you find the beloved condo-on-wheels amongst all these big rigs?

And so today was the rick-man’s and my first day in the Denver area, driving about with the Suburban’s windows down and enjoying Mother Nature’s air conditioning.  I found myself thrilling over the sports car-like handling of the Suburban, a lively drive unhitched from the condo-on-wheels. 
We played tourist today, walking the quaint streets of downtown Golden and eating lunch at a wonderful little restaurant called the “Windy Saddle CafĂ©”. But mostly we relaxed and puttered about the Airstream, recovering from two hard days of driving and allowing time to acclimate to the mile-high altitude and low humidity.  It was great fun visiting downtown Golden:

But the best treat, these first twenty-four hours at locale #1, was getting up in the middle of last night to get a heavier blanket. I was cold. 

And it feels good to say, I’m looking forward to tomorrow.


  1. I'm so jealous of you! Looks like a great start to your trip :) I know exactly what you mean about the temperature...I have your red quilt blanket on my bed now becaue it has been cold here the past few nights. I love curling up under it with Good Dog nearby. Keep posting more pictures! (and sending me postcards)

    -Love in the High Plains

  2. Hello there, I found your blog via Google at the same time as looking for a related topic, your website came up, it appears great. I've bookmarked it in my google bookmarks.


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