Wednesday, July 26
Returning, Day 10
the Rocky Mountains

What a day this has been! Tiring, but very, very beautiful.

I got a late start from Limon because I took the motorhome into a shop to have the oil and air filter changed and the tires checked before tackling the Rocky Mountains. I also had the mechanic check my generator oil just in case I had not been reading it right, and it read "full" Go figure.

Denver is a mile high, but it is still on the flat plains. Just West of Denver however is the Front Range of the Rockies, that rises abruptly from the flat land below. The Rockies, from Denver It was too misty for me to see the Rockies from any distance. By the time they were visible, I was close enough that I could only see the first range, that didn't look that impressive. The Rockies, from Denver Once I crested that first range though I could see the real mountains that I was heading up into.

From Denver to the Eisenhower Tunnel is only 60 miles and when I travelled it before by car, it was pretty effortless. The Rockies The Rockies By motorhome however it is a long slow 2-hour haul in second gear, with visions of my transmission fluid frying as I drove. (Yes, I plan to have the transmission fluid changed once I get home -- after hauling up the Front Range, and then the Muddy Pass in northwestern Colorado, and the haul over the Wasatch Mts to come, not to mention getting over the Sierras -- I doubt there will be that much oomph left in the stuff. Heat is not a friend to transmission fluid.) The Rockies The Rockies The slow journey however gave me lots of time to admire the stunning scenery, and take snaps through the windshield as I groaned upwards.

The day was overcast with periods of rain, so my pictures aren't as pretty as they could have been. In this light the colors did not come out well; the actual scenes were quite beautifully colored. Another deficiency of the camera as vs the eye. The Rockies The Rockies

At one point, I turned off the Interstate in search of a good place to potty the dogs. I found myself in a quaint old mining town -- Georgetown -- now of course full of boutique shops and tourists, but still really cute. Georgetown the Rockies

The Eisenhower Tunnel is quite impressive. In the old days, US 6 had to wind up and over an 11,000 foot pass. I remember that road when my family drove it in 1954, and it was really something. That was where my poor mother found out she was afraid of heights. :-( And no way to get off the road except down and down and down tight windy switchbacks -- terrifying for her. My brother and I, in the back seat, didn't add to her comfort by looking ahead through binoculars and screaming "We're about to go off the cliff! Turn, turn!!" (My father, driving, was impressively tolerant.)
Anyway, to return to the Tunnel, when I-70 gets to the top of the watercourse it has been following, it simply dives under the mountain peak and burrows clear through to the other side. It is spectacular from the air -- a huge multi-lane freeway vanishing under a mountain and emerging again on the other side.

Once on the other side of the Eisenhower Tunnel, I turned north on State 9 towards Steamboat Springs. Northwestern Colorado I've never been through northwestern Colorado before and I felt like seeing some new country on my way home instead of following I-70 through Grand Junction. State 9 runs down the valley of the Blue River and is easy driving, through beautiful country with almost no traffic. As the elevation drops the heavily forested mountains give way to dry treeless sagebrush, but it is still beautiful in its shapes and distances and colors. Northwestern Colorado

State 9 ended at US 40 where I turned west once more. US 40 travels the gap where the steep peaks of the Rockies, both north and south, moderate to more gentle and gradual mountains. It's where the early Mountain Men crossed the Rockies, where the Green River and the Colorado both originate. I actually crossed the Colorado, way up here in northwest Colorado far from its southwestern canyon aspect.

US 40 is a stunningly scenic road. I recommend it highly for anyone who is more interested in seeing the country on the way than getting West as fast as possible. Northwestern Colorado From the intersection with State 9, it slopes upwards once more, and the dry sagebrush slowly changes to green sage and grass, then scattered trees, then over the Muddy Pass, back to full dense forests. Pulling the Pass meant second gear once more, but the scenery was so spectacular I didn't mind at all.

On the other side of the Muddy Pass is Steamboat Springs, a clean and charming resort town; and then an easy descent down the Yampa River Valley down the western side of the Rockies. Which incidentally is a gradual slope in general, not the steep ascent of the eastern face of the mountains.

I am staying in a KOA in Craig, Colorado, almost down out of the Rockies. I got here late, courtesy of the late start in Limon plus the slow going over the mountains; but tomorrow is a short run down to Vernal, UT and I'll do my motorhome chores in the morning.