Animals, Dunes, and Depression

Monday, 4 September 2017

Blanding, Utah to Lamar, Colorado – 475 miles

Colorado route

Map credit: Google Maps 2017

There weren’t many options for breakfast this morning, but we found Yak’s Cafe on our way out of town.  The parking lot was pretty full, and that’s usually a good sign, so we were hopeful – and again, we were not disappointed!  The staff was friendly and though we got the expected ‘you’re not from around here’ looks from the regulars, everyone was nice and the food was hot and good.  Nothing fancy – good ole scrambled eggs, bacon, and hash browns are a great way to start the day.  You may have noticed that we’ve been eating only two meals a day most days.  We’ve learned that a hearty breakfast can go a long way, and we haven’t even been snacking on the snacks we bought at the Dutch Bakery.  Well, except for the vegetable chips which I may be becoming addicted to…  Back to the subject at hand – today’s route would take us across southern Colorado, most of which we had not seen before.  We visited Durango, Mesa Verde, and the Four Corners Monument on our Sassy Sister trip in 2013, and this time we’d be passing through Durango from west to east instead of north to south, although we did reminisce about our stormy, rainy, curvy, scary drive on US 550 past Ouray on that trip.   We also realized that the lovely day we spent soaking in natural hot springs was in Pagosa Springs, which was right on our route on Highway 160 today.  Sadly, we didn’t have time to stop at any of those places this time, as we had lots of ground to cover.

Our first stop of the day was an unexpected one, but who can resist hand-lettered signs for an elk ranch?  We were near Del Norte, and Kim gamely (haha) turned in at my request.  What a hoot!  From the Burma Shave-like signs lining the drive to the ‘Welcome to Ribeye, Colorado’ (population 12) sign to the photo ops to the store full of game meats to the pens of elk and caribou to the cute little kittens hanging out on the steps, we enjoyed our short detour at Anta Grande Elk Ranch.

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It turned out to be a good thing we stopped here, because from Del Norte to Lamar, there was very little of interest.  The small towns were sad – very depressed, very little open – we wanted to stop for rest and refreshment, but there were no options along our route, even in the bigger places.  We were astonished to learn that there was a National Park in the middle of this nothingness, so we decided to have a look at Great Sand Dunes National Park, and we planned to ‘sled’ down the dunes.  Alas, you needed to have procured your sled in town before arriving at the park.  Oh well, we just opted to take a short hike, get some photos, and learn a bit about the dunes and the surrounding area.

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The rest of today’s trip was blah!  No scenery, no people, no place to stop, and very little of interest.  We took a little accidental side trip in Walsenburg, and that was even more depressing! We were glad we actually knew a good place to eat in Lamar and we really wished we had known there was a brand new Holiday Inn Express (right next door to our dreary Days Inn) – Booking.com, you let us down this time!  We stopped at a Sonic in Lamar for some iced tea and saw an interesting sight, but we couldn’t get a good photo. Until we stopped for gas a couple of blocks later (whew!) and the same truck pulled up next to us.  Too funny!  We passed our Days Inn and were really tempted to drive on, but it had been a long day and there was nothing promising on the horizon, and we had already paid for the room.  We ate a delicious dinner at Thai Spicy Basil (we had eaten here on our 2013 trip) – Kung Pao Chicken and Moo Goo Gai Pan, with some chicken coconut soup for me – and then we resigned ourselves to the motel.  Just to add insult to injury, there was no elevator, and even though we both had two bags and the guy ahead of us had a tiny bag, he got the first floor room and we got the second floor room that was as far from the front desk (and stairs) as it could have been.  We see how it is.  I think I get cranky when we are heading home!

Totally Experiencing Totality!

At long last, the day of the eclipse was upon us!  Kim and I went for a walk and it was hotter than any of the previous days, even though we got an earlier start – not a great sign!  The sky was clear, though, so we were hoping it would stay that way.  Judy had gone to Red’s for doughnuts, so we all shared a big box of pure sweetness – heavenly!

We got downtown and found parking spaces with no problems, and we just wandered around a bit prior to time to enter the party area.  Soon it was time, so we staked out a table in the breeziest section of the yard.  We were joined by Jeanne and Pat, a delightful couple from Chicago who had come to Paducah for the big event.  They were a hoot and we loved having them celebrate with us!  It was plenty warm, so Jim and Alex went back to their car to get a couple of golf umbrellas, as we had no shade at all.  Thankfully, we could go into the Carson Center for beer and bathroom breaks.  Lunch was served about 11:30, but we waited a good bit later so that the line was not so long.  BBQ, baked beans, hash brown casserole, cole slaw, cookies, and Moon Pies were on the menu, and they were delicious!

I had a great eclipse timer app, so we were able to know the exact moment when first contact would appear at our location – it was so exciting!!  Things started moving quickly after that, and we were all so surprised that our eclipse glasses worked so well, because you could not see one thing out of them in normal light!  We decided to try some pinhole ‘cameras’, and that was fun.  We took pictures of the eclipse shadows on our hands, on eclipse handouts, and on plain paper.  It took us a while to work out the best angles and positions, but we did it!

At one point, we noticed that shadows of the leaves on the sidewalk had changed, and anywhere there was a hole in a leaf, there was a crescent-shaped shadow.  We took off the tablecloth on the table next to us in hopes of seeing shadow bands (at second and fourth contact) on the white surface.  And we did, but it was really hard to get a good photo of them.  Blissfully, as it got closer to time for the full eclipse, the temperature dropped significantly.  There were no animals around to observe ‘strange’ behavior, and before we knew it, the total eclipse was happening!  We saw the diamond ring, and then we heard the app tell us “Glasses off!!” – the moment of totality was finally here!  I got a couple of great photos, and noticed lots of bugs hitting my arms.  Then the app told us to observe the horizon, and we say what looked like a beautiful sunset.

All too soon, it was time to put our glasses back on and prepare for fourth contact.  Pat had recorded a video during totality, and we were shocked to hear the crickets chirping and cicadas humming during it.  That explained the bugs hitting me – as if it were nightfall!  The big post-eclipse excitement was learning that Paducah would be in the path of the next one, which just happens to be on Jenny’s birthday in 2024!!  Pat and Jeanne are planning to join us, wherever we end up watching it!

Lots of people started leaving fairly soon, even though the moon still had a ways to go before the sun was uncovered.  Between the heat and the fear of huge traffic jams, many were ready to get out of there!  Jim and Alex left after a while to get back to Memphis, but Jenny and Judy had some shopping to do.  We were able to see the last bit of the eclipse before leaving.

On our way back to the hotel, we drove by PTHS (our high school) and we stopped by the Chief Paduke statue.  J & J headed back to Nashville hoping not to run into a big traffic jam, and thankfully, they were rewarded!  None of our group hit traffic, but we talked to several who had a seven hour ride back to Louisville (about twice what it would normally be)!!

Kim went to visit her friend Francie, and I did some laundry for us, and then we both enjoyed the Homewood happy hour.  On our way downtown for dinner, we drove by our old house, and then we made our way to Max’s, where we enjoyed delicious salmon and a perfect gin and tonic.  After dinner, we walked back down to the river to see the Queen of the Mississippi, and then we called it a day.  And what a special one it was!!

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It’s finally here!  Let’s have a cookie!

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Sundrop/Moon Pie Eclipse Party is about to begin!

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Judy has her first Moon Pie

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Jim and Kim taking in the action.

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Jenny has the eclipse in her hand.

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It took a team effort to get the pinhole pictures!

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Another pinhole shadow

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One more

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Jenny getting a good view

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The whole crowd was into it!

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It’s hard to see, but these were the shadow bands…

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Glasses off – TOTALITY!!

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It was almost like sundown…

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Looking toward the river during totality

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We stopped by the Chief Paduke statue before Jenny and Judy left town.

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Our old house is looking pretty good.

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Our home away from home for a few days – neat clouds on eclipse day!

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The Queen of the Mississippi was docked in Paducah

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Love this sign!

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Kim and I went to Max’s for dinner.

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A delicious eclipse Hendrick’s and Fever-Tree