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September 19, 2017 / Jim Fenton

Colorado Road Trip Day 12: Lightning Field

Tuesday, August 29, 2017
Trip Odometer: 2162

We all rose early to make our way to The Lightning Field, an art installation in a remote location near Quemado, a small village in western New Mexico. Jan had made very hard-to-get reservations as a birthday gift for Dave, and invited their friends David and Kelly as well as us to join them.

GatherinDave, Jan, David, and Kelly took Jan’s Tesla X for the trip, which required planning because of the distance involved and the lack of charging facilities in rural New Mexico. Dave had arranged for the use of a hook-up at an RV park in Pie Town, New Mexico, about 20 miles from Quemado. We charged the car while eating lunch at The Gatherin’ Place, one of three pie shops in this village of about 60 people.

While we were there, the owners of The Gatherin’ Place chatted with us at length about the history of the town, what it’s like there in the winter, where the students go to school, the local economy, etc. This is a really remote place — the nearest law enforcement is nearly an hour away, and we were told that residents of that county are required to carry guns.

After lunch, we retrieved Dave’s car and drove the last 20 miles to Quemado, the headquarters for The Lightning Field. We parked our cars and were met by Kim, our host, who drove us to the site, about 45 minutes over mostly dirt roads. The Lightning Field site includes a log cabin which sleeps six people, and includes a kitchen, electric power, and running water from a well. The Lightning Field itself is an array of 400 stainless steel poles with pointed tips laid out over a 1 km by 1 mile area. In a lightning storm, the poles act as lightning rods, which is one of the attractions of the Field.

After introducing us to the cabin and its facilities, Kim left us, to return tomorrow morning to retrieve us. We settled in and moved to the back porch, with a hopeful eye toward the storm clouds in the sky. We got a few light showers and heard a bit of thunder, but also had time to examine a couple of the poles and for some of us to take a more extended hike.

As sunset approached, the sun fell below the clouds and reflected off the poles, making them much more visible than earlier. This was followed by a beautiful and peaceful sunset, although no lightning on the field this evening. We enjoyed dinner provided by the Lightning Field people as well as excellent wine brought by Dave and Jan.

Per the request of the artist and the Dia Art Foundation, which operates the Lightning Field, I have no pictures of the Lightning Field or the cabin.

This article is part of a series about our recent road trip to Colorado and back. To see the introductory article in the series, click here.

September 18, 2017 / Jim Fenton

Colorado Road Trip Day 11: Santa Fe

Monday, August 28, 2017
Trip Odometer: 1831

After breakfast, we continued south on Interstate 25 through varied terrain as we entered New Mexico. Due to mountains, I-25 follows a somewhat roundabout route to Santa Fe, approaching it from the southeast rather than directly from the north. This made the drive somewhat longer than the direct distance would suggest.


Santa Fe Hills

Our destination for the day is the home of our friends Dave and Jan, who live in a beautiful home in the hills north of Santa Fe. We arrived mid-afternoon and went for an early dinner at Tesuque Village Market, a favorite of ours from previous visits. Jan and Kenna then went to a quilting meeting, while Dave and I discussed improvements to the WiFi system at their home.

This article is part of a series about our recent road trip to Colorado and back. To see the introductory article in the series, click here.

September 17, 2017 / Jim Fenton

Colorado Road Trip Day 10: Resumption

Sunday, August 27, 2017
Trip Odometer: 1679

Our flight back to Colorado was at 10:50 am, so we were able to leave home at a “civilized” hour, which was good because we got to bed rather late after last night’s concert and last-minute repacking.

We had one significant additional item, Celeste’s guitar, which wouldn’t really fit into the car on the trip to Colorado. Thankfully, there was open space in the overhead bin near our seat just big enough for the guitar. The flight left on time, and we retrieved our car and drove back to Boulder to drop off the guitar and a couple of other items. We got a chance to see Celeste’s room and apartment in its unpacked and decorated condition; looks like it will be comfortable and work well as a study venue.


KC-97 refueling area

After a little while chatting, we dropped Celeste off at a school event about 5:30 and drove to Colorado Springs, our planned stop for the night. The hotel we had booked was a little out of town, near the airport, and it didn’t look like there was much around. The hotel clerk told us of a restaurant, The Airplane, a short drive away that sounded unusual. Indeed it was: we ate in inside a restored KC-97 tanker dating from the 1950s. The theme of the restaurant was entirely aviation: the waitstaff referred to themselves as “flight attendants” and we were thanked for “flying with them” as we left.

This article is part of a series about our recent road trip to Colorado and back. To see the introductory article in the series, click here.

September 16, 2017 / Jim Fenton

Colorado Road Trip Day 9: Concert

Saturday, August 26, 2017

It’s kind of nice waking up in your own bed in the middle of your vacation. I had been missing my exercise classes at the Y, so I went and experienced a crowded Saturday morning class. Other than that, the day was mostly spent reorganizing our things for the second half of our trip, doing laundry, and taking care of a little paperwork at home.

ConcertAs I mentioned yesterday, long ago we bought four tickets for a OneRepublic concert this evening. If Celeste had still been home, she would have taken a friend, but instead we invited our friends Tim and Linda to join us. We parked a mile or so away, had a nice Italian dinner beforehand, and walked to Shoreline Amphitheatre. We arrived toward the end of the first warm-up act (James Arthur); the second warm-up, Fitz and the Tantrums, is one of our favorites. It was a fun concert, and overall a nice evening with friends.

This article is part of a series about our recent road trip to Colorado and back. To see the introductory article in the series, click here.

September 15, 2017 / Jim Fenton

Colorado Road Trip Day 8: Intermission

Friday, August 25, 2017


Pearl Street Mall

Celeste was free until 9:00 today, so Kenna and I took her to breakfast nearby and got to hear stories about the previous day’s activities. Summary: it went well; she was also able to meet up with Rebecca, a classmate from high school, and some of her new friends/roommates.

Celeste had orientation meetings starting at 9:30, so we dropped her off at the dorm and went off on our own. One of our first stops was at McGuckin’s, a truly remarkable hardware store. We were told by one of the many very helpful clerks that it’s about 60,000 square feet in size.

We spent much of the day at the Pearl Street Mall, shopping but not buying much. We also picked up a local campus newspaper, and were amused by an ad for McGuckin’s describing it as “your local zombie survival superstore.”

Long before Celeste had chosen a school to attend, we bought tickets to a concert near home (OneRepublic and Fitz and the Tantrums). We bought four tickets, thinking that if Celeste hadn’t left for school she could invite a friend or if she had, we would invite another couple. We decided that we still wanted to attend the concert, so late in the day we parked the car at Denver International Airport and flew back home. In addition to the concert we’ll get a couple of nights in our own bed, do some laundry, and pick up Celeste’s guitar and anything else from home she needs.

DIAIt was a little strange parking our car at an airport 1000 miles from home, but other than that everything went smoothly. We had plenty of time before our 8:10 flight to SFO, so we found a comfortable seating area before security, then flew through security (TSA pre-check really wins) before having dinner on the other side.

We finally had a chance to ride the AirTrain at SFO out to the rental car center, something that we don’t normally experience. It’s quite a nice system, just like the train to the terminals at Denver. Too bad it doesn’t continue out to the long-term parking garage!

This article is part of a series about our recent road trip to Colorado and back. To see the introductory article in the series, click here.

September 14, 2017 / Jim Fenton

Colorado Road Trip Day 7: Move-in

Thursday, August 24, 2017

CelesteStuffToday is the climax of the first part of our trip: Celeste’s move-in at University of Colorado Boulder. The move-in process at CU is very well organized. Each student is issued a parking pass with a designated drop-off area color and time window for arrival. We arrived right at 9:00 when our window began and were directed to a drop-off line while Celeste went to pick up her student ID. After a short time we were directed to a parking place and assigned a volunteer who helped load Celeste’s stuff from the car and car-top carrier into two large roll-away bins. Kenna then re-parked the car while we waited for the elevator to Celeste’s floor in the dormitory. With 12 floors and only two elevators, this was a bit of a wait but unavoidable.

Arriving at Celeste’s apartment, we were greeted by a note on the door from Celeste’s roommates welcoming her and explaining that they were out. We quickly unloaded Celeste’s stuff from the bins and thanked our volunteer, and set to the task of getting her stuff unpacked and at least preliminarily placed.


View from Celeste’s apartment

We had expected that Celeste would need some drawers for her closet but didn’t have any measurements, so we grabbed lunch together and then went over to Bed Bath and Beyond for some that would fit. Another realization is that Celeste’s bed is rather high and Celeste isn’t, so we picked up a folding step stool for her.

After returning with those items, Celeste needed to be at an all-floor meeting for her dorm as well as several evening events so Kenna and I departed. Celeste’s college life has begun.

Dinner with Susie, Ken, and family was take-out food from an excellent Indian restaurant in town. Kenna and I resolved to eat more Indian food when we get back home.

This article is part of a series about our recent road trip to Colorado and back. To see the introductory article in the series, click here.

September 13, 2017 / Jim Fenton

Colorado Road Trip Day 6: Boulder

Wednesday, August 23, 2017
Trip Odometer:1554


Chautauqua Auditorium and Green Mountain, Boulder

Today is mostly a day to prepare for Celeste’s move-in tomorrow. So we parked near the campus and took a walk around it and some of the University Hill commercial district during the morning. We had a few things to pick up and expected that the local Target store would be very crowded, so we drove a few miles to another Target. There were still many CU students shopping there, but it was not excessively crowded.

We all (8 of us including Stan, Susie, Ken, and the kids) went out to dinner to observe Celeste’s last night before moving to CU. We ate at Next Door, a modern and very family-friendly restaurant on Pearl Street, Boulder’s primary commercial district. We had an excellent dinner in a semi-private alcove overlooking Pearl Street, where we could watch a few showers fall.

This article is part of a series about our recent road trip to Colorado and back. To see the introductory article in the series, click here.

September 12, 2017 / Jim Fenton

Colorado Road Trip Day 5: Colorado

Tuesday, August 22, 2017
Trip Odometer: 1340

With a short ride today, we had a somewhat more leisurely start from Rawlins. The first part of the trip continued along I-80 to Laramie, from which we took US-267 to Fort Collins, Colorado, bypassing Wyoming’s capital, Cheyenne. Celeste noticed that immediately upon entering Colorado, the surroundings were quite a bit more scenic: pine trees, interesting rock formations, and the like. We are wondering if the trees were planted as a “welcome to Colorado” gesture to travelers.

As we had planned, we had lunch in Fort Collins at Austin’s, a downtown restaurant we had enjoyed on a previous visit. The temperature was perfect for their sidewalk seating area.

For most of the trip, the highway speeds have been too fast (70-80 mph) for Celeste, still an inexperienced driver, to share in the driving. But as we left Fort Collins, she took over and very appropriately did the “anchor” segment of the trip to Boulder.

We arrived about 4 pm at the home of Susie and Ken, my cousin’s daughter, son-in-law, and family. My cousin Stan was there to greet us. Susie and Ken and their kids Zach and Molly arrived about 5 from school on their bicycles.

Celeste had made arrangements to meet some of her new roommates in town, so the rest of us had a fine time getting caught up on things over excellent tacos prepared by our hosts.

This article is part of a series about our recent road trip to Colorado and back. To see the introductory article in the series, click here.

September 11, 2017 / Jim Fenton

Colorado Road Trip Day 4: Eclipse

Monday, August 21, 2017
Trip Odometer: 1015

TotalEclipseToday is a relatively rare event: a total eclipse of the sun, stretching from coast to coast. The timing of Celeste’s move-in at University of Colorado made it possible for us to take a detour to central Wyoming to try to catch this.

Except that we didn’t stay in the path of totality, we prepared for the worst in crowds. We stopped at a grocery store last night to pick up sandwiches for a picnic lunch, expecting that the lunch offerings in the area of totality would be limited. We got up extra early, and departed a little after 7 am for the 2 1/2 hour drive (under normal conditions) to Pavillion, Wyoming, right on the centerline of totality.

There was more traffic than usual, but we were surprised and happy that there were no traffic delays on the way. We drove just past Pavillion to the centerline, which turned out to be about where the paved roads end. There had been warnings not to park on the grassland due to high fire danger (mufflers, etc. igniting the grass) so we found an elevated spot on the edge of one of the quieter dirt roads. We got there about 10:10 am, and totality was at about 11:40 am.


The time went by quickly as I set up my camera and Kenna and Celeste played Frisbee (very appropriately, with a Frisbee painted as the moon). As totality approached, we spent more and more time watching the Sun through our eclipse glasses. The Sun got dimmer and the air got noticeably cooler.


Then all of it sudden, it was twilight. We heard cheers from the other eclipse-watchers scattered nearby. I took a bunch of pictures, focusing on the spectacle of the Sun’s corona. Kenna and Celeste noticed that it looked like the sun had just set — everywhere! In all directions, there was light around the horizon. We took some panoramas of the horizon as well. Suddenly, it was over. The Sun got quickly brighter, and we re-donned our eclipse glasses. After a few minutes talking about what we had just seen, we enjoyed our picnic lunch.

A woman who lives nearby rode up with two small children on an all-terrain vehicle, and thanked us for coming all the way from California, and she hoped we were having a good time in her area. We asked her what we should see while we were there, and she suggested we see Sacajawea’s grave, which was just a few miles out of our way.

SacajaweaWe passed through the small community of Pavillion (population 232) on our way out. We drove past a park where there apparently had been an eclipse-watching party as well as by a small tavern. It was quite nice, especially considering that it is such an out-of-the-way place.

Our next stop was at Sacajawea’s grave, just outside the town of Fort Washakie. Sacajawea, the native guide for the Lewis and Clark Expedition, was nicely memorialized by a statue and plaques describing her important contribution to the Expedition. The graveyard was interesting too, with many colorful and well-decorated graves, primarily, I assume, of members of the Shoshone tribe of the Wind River Reservation.

LanderBakeShopWe started our return trip, and made good progress until we reached Lander, the county seat (and large town, with a population of about 5000). Traffic came to a dead stop, so we decided to wait it out at the Lander Bake Shop, a cafe we saw. While enjoying our drinks, we noticed that traffic was moving very little. Fortunately the shop had WiFi so we were able to look at traffic on Google Maps, and decided to stay a while. We walked around the town, visited a couple of art galleries (not what we expected in central Wyoming!) and returned for more coffee and an excellent ice cream sandwich, this afternoon’s ice cream treat.

At 5:00 the bakery closed, and we decided to press onward. We were optimistic because Google said that it would take a little under two hours to get to Rawlins, our stop for the night. But what we hadn’t considered was that much of the route has minimal to no cell service, so Google didn’t really know about the traffic along much of the route. While there were sections that got up to 70 mph, there were also long stretches that crept along at 15 mph or less. We arrived about 9:00, had a late dinner at the Burger King next to the hotel, and turned in for the night.

Overall, we had a great day in central Wyoming and were glad that we were able to be there for the total eclipse.

This article is part of a series about our recent road trip to Colorado and back. To see the introductory article in the series, click here.

September 10, 2017 / Jim Fenton

Colorado Road Trip Day 3: Utah

Sunday, August 20, 2017
Trip Odometer: 685


Bonneville Salt Flats

After breakfast, we continued east on I-80. Our first stop was after only about 10 miles at the rest area adjacent to the Bonneville Salt Flats, where many land speed records have been set. We stopped there on an earlier trip (2006), but it’s striking to see the very white landscape, very much like snow.

After passing through the deserted western part of Utah, civilization returned. We stopped again at the Great Salt Lake state marina to have a look around and our morning snack. The snack was quickly cancelled because of the thousands of tiny bugs in the parking lot. They weren’t actually all that annoying but we didn’t want to let a bunch of them into the car. The marina was worth a look around, even with the $3 parking fee.

We then drove into downtown Salt Lake City, passing by the Mormon Temple and Tabernacle and then up to the State Capitol, high on a hill. There were an unusual number of motorcycles, which we found out were there for the annual Ride for Fallen Officers.


The Great Salt Lake

Continuing east on our winding climb out of SLC, we decided to stop at Park City for lunch. This took us a few miles off the road, but we loved breathing the mountain air and enjoyed our lunch at a local cafe.

After a few more miles of winding road, things straightened out somewhat and the speed limit again went up to 80.

Soon after crossing into Wyoming, we came to Evanston, Wyoming, where we thought we would find a good place for ice cream. We checked out a couple of possibilities, and one was closed (it’s Sunday) and another looked like it had gone out of business. We decided to stop by Wendy’s for their Frosty (sort of a cross between soft serve ice cream and a milkshake), and were pleased to see that they were on sale: a small Frosty was only 50 cents. They weren’t all that small, either. $1.58 for three Frosties (including tax) will undoubtedly be the most economical ice cream stop of the trip.

Continuing from Evanston, we passed through some picturesque rock formations to the way to our destination for the night, Rock Springs. It’s striking how much the scenery changes each day.

This article is part of a series about our recent road trip to Colorado and back. To see the introductory article in the series, click here.