Where are we?
Fall 2007
Just Traveling

Subj:     192. Where are we?
Date:     Friday, September 14, 2007

After spending six nights in or near Denver, we headed out. We didn't drive too far but we did drive to the second largest city in Colorado. The city was created as a playland for the wealthy. Although there was another town in the area (Colorado City), which was really a mining town. Besides mining, this city is known for a beautiful city park called the Garden of the Gods, a 14,000+ foot peak (Pike's Peak), and one of the United States Service Academies. Yes, this is the home of the Air Force Academy. This city is also know for Cheyenne Mountain which was command-central for the North American Air Defense Command (NORAD).

We were only able to do a little bit of sightseeing in Denver. Most of our time was spend shopping at Costco, WalMart, and other stores to stock up after being in the mountains for about 2 1/2 months. We were able to spend a little bit of time with Larry's nephew, Brian, and his wife and 2 children. That was a very pleasant visit but much too short.

Two highlights of our stay in Denver were visiting the Margaret Brown house, a late 19th Century house that at one time belonged to Margaret Brown. If that name doesn't mean anything to you perhaps the name that she was given by the press and Hollywood would mean more. Yes, this was the home of the Unsinkable Molly Brown. One of the things we learned is that the movie musical, although based somewhat on fact, doesn't portray Margaret Brown accurately. It's still a good movie but don't believe everything in it is based on fact.

The second highlight of our stay in Denver was getting the side of the RV repaired. About a month after we purchased the new RV, Larry had a brick wall jump out and scratch the side. Thanks to a camper we made friends with at Denver Creek Campground, the side of the RV has been repaired and painted. Larry feels much better now that it has been fixed.

Now, where are we? We are actually at a campground about 15 miles outside of Colorado Springs Colorado.

The Brauers
Havin' Fun
Enjoying the beautiful state of Colorado

Subj:     193. Where are we?
Date:     Tuesday, September 18, 2007

After 5 days in Colorado Springs we decided it was time to move. Besides, the campsite we had was reserved for Monday evening. We are in a high, flat, semiarid plain about 50 miles wide and 125 miles long. It was once the bed of an ancient lake. Irrigated by the Rio Grande River it is one of the most productive farming areas in Colorado. When the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad reached the stagecoach stop on the cottonwood-blanketed bend of the Rio Grande, it created this town. This area is probably best known for a National Park and Preserve that has sand dunes that reach up to 750 feet!

We certainly enjoyed Colorado Springs. There were so many sights to see we weren't able to see everything, but we certainly saw a lot. Our first stop was the Garden of the Gods, a city park at the base of Pikes Peak, where the Great Plains meet the Rockies. This beautiful park is known for the towering red sandstone formations, as well as the flora and fauna of the area. It is indeed a beautiful place. We then stopped by the Manitou Cliff Dwellings. These cliff Dwellings were built during the Great Pueblo Period and depicts the lives, culture, and architectural achievements of the Southwest American Indians.

Then we had to go to the top of Pikes Peak. We took the train and it was a beautiful 2 hour train ride up and another beautiful train ride back down. The view from the top of Pikes Peak are magnificent. In fact, the views inspired the words to American the Beautiful. Wow, what a trip.

We also visited the US Olympic Complex. This former US Air Force Base is now the headquarters for the US Olympic Committee and is also a 37-acre sports training center for olympic class athletes. It is really beautiful and is similar to a college campus, except the emphasis is actually on competitive sports. 

After the Olympic Complex we went out to the World Figure Skating Museum and Hall of Fame. Near the well known Broadmore Resort, it was an interesting way to spend so time.

Finally, on our last full day in Colorado Springs, we went out to a place called Seven Falls. To get there you have to drive up a Box Canyon and then take either a very long staircase or, as we did, an elevator to a position where you can see seven waterfalls cascading down a steep canyon wall.

In summary, we had a good time in Colorado Springs and will probably want to come back to see even more.

Now, Where are we? We only drove about 175 miles today, first south from Colorado Springs, and then west. We are in Alamosa Colorado. About thirty miles from here (and visible from our campsite) is the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve.

The Brauers
Havin' Fun
traveling (slowly) through Colorado

Subj:     194. Where are we?
Date:     Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Today is Wednesday, September 19, and we left Alamosa today and headed west. Although we only drove about 150 miles, we are in a totally different area of Colorado. The town where we are is referred to as a natural gateway to one of the more scenic sections of Colorado, the San Juan Mountains (although they are still part of the Rocky Mountains). Although this town began as a mining and smelting center during the gold and silver booms, it is now a crossroads for local industry, ranching, commerce, and culture.

We enjoyed our two night stay in Alamosa. The main attraction at Alamosa is the Great Sand Dunes National Park. The sand dunes here are quite different than the sand dunes we have seen before (Death Valley, White Sands National Monument, and the sand dunes between El Centro California and Yuma Arizona. First of all, they are not white, but kind of a light brown. Also they a much higher some of these sand dunes are 750 feet above the surrounding area. Finally, they cover about 30 square miles! That's a lot of sand.

The drive from Alamosa to our current location was really beautiful. We had to go over the Wolf Creek Pass (again crossing the Continental Divide at over 10,000 feet). We can't say we made good time (30 to 40 miles an hour going up Wolf Creek Pass and 25 to 30 miles an hour going down), but the breathtaking vistas made us glad we weren't in a hurry.

It turns out that the most economical campground to stay at (with our 15% discount) was a KOA. It also turns out that we had met the owners of this campground when they visited the Manchester Beach KOA. Jay and Carol are really nice people and remembered us.

Now, Where are we? We are in Durango, Colorado, at the Durango KOA.

The Brauers
Havin' Fun
Getting ready to explore the San Juan Mountains

Subj:     195. Where are we?
Date:     Sunday, September 23, 2007

Today, Saturday, September 22, we left Durango and headed west. We are now in town that has been a trading center for 2,000 (yes, that's two thousand) years. The area is probably best known for the ancient archaeological sites near by, including one which is a National Park.

When we spent the summer at Denver Creek, high in the Rocky Mountains, in North Central Colorado, many of the people we met claimed that Southwest Colorado was even more beautiful than where we were. Guess what, we think they were right.

The big thing we did while we were in Durango, is drive about 70 miles of what is called the San Juan Skyway. The San Juan Skyway is a 236 mile loop going through the San Juan National Forest. We drove the part from Durango, to Silverton, and to Ouray. Wow, what a fantastic drive. Especially after we were high enough to be where the Aspen trees were turning yellow. We have certainly decided that as gorgeous as it was near Granby, this area is the best of the best.

Both Ouray and Silverton are old mining towns. But, imagine a town in a high mountain valley. On all sides were huge mountains and the towns are less than 1/2 mile wide and maybe about a mile long. Near the towns are hot springs, waterfalls, and lots of history. Even though Silverton was fascinating, our favorite was certainly Ouray.

Now, a couple of interesting things about our trip so far. We left Denver Creek on September 6, 16 days ago. In the last 16 days, we have traveled a bit less than 500 miles in the motorhome. That means we have averaged traveling just over 30 miles a day in the motorhome. That's not much. What that really means is that we have been staying in one location for several days and enjoying the sights. This is really the way to travel.

From Durango to our current location (less than 50 miles) we left the gateway to the San Juan Mountains and are now in a high desert. In fact, we are still at an elevation of over 6000 feet. The terrain is relatively flat but there are hills and mesas. Mesas are hills with very flat tops. We are also in American Indian Country, both the Navajo and the Ute Indians have reservations and towns nearby.

All we can say is that Colorado is a majestic, varied, and very interesting state.

Where are we? We are in the Southwestern Corner of Colorado in a town called Cortez.

The Brauers
Havin' fun
Still in Colorado

Subj:     196. Where are we?
Date:     Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Well, today we drove the RV more than another other single day since we left Denver Creek. We are now in a different state (having been in a total of three states today). Now we are in what has been called the "roughest, toughest, most lawless, bloody town of the old west!" We are in a high desert at an elevation of over 5000 feet. Fortunately, this town doesn't display any of it's wild beginnings.

Cortez Colorado was great. The day we arrived, it was early enough to visit the Four Corner's Monument. This is the only place where four states touch at a single point. This is where you can stand on two feet and two arms and be in Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and Colorado at the same time. The monument is actually on Navajo land. We saw some incredible art work being done.

The next day it rained all day so that was a good time to relax in the RV, and get the laundry done.

The day after the rain we finally had a chance to see Mesa Verde National Park. Mesa Verde means "green table" in Spanish. Imagine a very high (7000 feet in elevation), relatively flat area with lots of green trees (at least before the fires in the past 15 years). Now imagine the relatively flat area having some 600 foot deep, steep sided canyons created by rivers. That's a fair description of the Park. American Indians inhabited the area for about 700 years. They lived on the mesas initially, then, for an unknown reason about 1200 AD they built living areas on natural shelves in the cliffs. These shelves, or coves, were about 50 to 150 feet below the mesas. At that time they built their houses out of sand stone blocks and cemented the blocks with mud. Because of they way they lived in the 1200s, they are now called Cliff Dwellers. They are also called the Anasazi, or the ancient ones. Verde Mesa was a fascinating place to visit.

The next day we drove up to an old mining town called Telluride. The drive itself was beautiful, especially with the Aspens turning yellow and the snow on the mountain peaks. Telluride has changed from a mining town to a major summer and winter resort area. It's part of a drive designated the San Juan Skyway, a 240 miles drive that also includes the towns of Ouray and Silverton which we visited while we were in Durango. Telluride is in a box canyon (a canyon with only one entrance) with a huge waterfall at the closed end of the canyon. Telluride has expanded to include another town, a higher town developed a few miles south of Telluride called Mountain Village. There is a free gondola ride between the two towns. Although Telluride is expensive, it's cheap compared to Mountain Village. We looked at a real estate magazine and the least expensive thing listed was a three month time share for $300,000! The least expensive home we saw listed was about $3,500,000. Both of these are a bit out of our budget.

We really loved the summer in Colorado. Every place we were in Colorado was fantastic.

Where are we now? We are in Northeastern Arizona (the three states we've been in today are Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona). The town we're in is Holbrook Arizona. It's the closest town to the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest National Parks.

The Brauers
Havin' Fun
In the high desert of Arizona

Subj:     197. Where are we?
Date:     Saturday, September 29, 2007

Friday we left Holbrook and headed West again. We had to change our original plans because we missed our turn and had to drive an additional 30 miles. Well, that's not really true. We called a campground to make reservations and they told us they had plenty of spaces and we didn't need reservations. When we got there, they didn't have anything available (this was about 30 minutes after we called). We called some other campgrounds in the area and they were all booked. When we called this campground (30 miles away), they had space available for us, so we continued our drive for another 30 miles.

Where we are now is named for a mountain man and trader. The town is on the Historic Route 66, Interstate 40, and the Southwest Chief Amtrak train route. This small town was the last town to have its section of Route 66 bypassed. It was in 1984 that Interstate 40 was opened around the town (I-40 has three exits into this small town) and the following year the famous US 66 was decommissioned.

We actually ejoyed our stay in Holbrook. Our main purpose for staying in Holbrook was to be able to visit the Petrified Forest National Park which includes the painted desert. We spent about 5 hours wandering around on the 26 miles road through the park. It was really great. The Painted Desert (north end of the part) is really magnificient. The south end of the park is primarily where the Petrified Trees are located but there are petrified trees throughout the park. It was well worth the time spent there.

The second reason for staying in Holbrook was to get the oil changed in the motorhome. I have to mention that this is not as trivial as getting the oil changed in a gas engine. Our Cat 350 diesel takes about 5 or 6 gallons of oil, not the typical 5 or 6 quarts for a gas engine. It seems to be a 2 to 3 hour job to change the oil. So while the oil was being changed, we went for a drive. Although it wasn't planned, we ended up at the Hubbell Navajo Trading Post, a National Historic Landmark now operated by the National Park Service. That was a great stop. The Trading Post has been an active trading post since before 1876 when John Hubbell bought the post. It is still a Trading Post. We even took a tour of the place with a young Navajo guide. It was really a great treat for us.

Now - Where are we? We had intended to stop for a few days in Flagstaff but, because the RV parks were full, we continued west to Williams Arizona, a town also known as the Gateway to the Grand Canyon.

The Brauers
Havin' fun
in Arizona.

Subj:     198. Where are we?
Date:     Monday, December 3, 2007

The last time we sent out a Where are we? was when we were in Williams, Arizona in late September. It's now more than two months later but we haven't updated anyone. Right now we are in a place where we spent three seasons. Yes, we are on the Northern California Coast enjoying this beautiful place again and visiting with some good friends.

Since our last email, we have been in Camp Verde, Phoenix, and Yuma Arizona, Ridgecrest, Bakerfield, San Diego, Valencia, and Pomona, California, and, of course, our current location. We were able to spend time with all the kids and grandkids in Southern California, including taking four of them to Disneyland with two more grandsons joining us. It has been a really busy two months but, as always, we've had a lot of fun.

Now, Where are we? You probably guessed we are at the Manchester Beach KOA in Manchester California, but Why are we here? We have planned to visit Manchester for over a year to attend a Quinceañera. Norma, the daughter of Yolanda and Sergio Orozco, celebrated her 15th birthday in a huge way, a Quinceañera! A Quinceañera is an Hispanic tradition to celebrate a girls transition from childhood to womanhood. It is often described in our culture as a cross between a Sweet Sixteen Party and a debutant's coming out party. The Quinceañera started with a special Catholic Mass, transitioned into a wonderful carnitas dinner. The birthday girl is presented with her last doll, and her first pair of high heel shoes to symbolize the transition. This is followed by a traditional dance performed by the birthday girl and her court. Norma's court consisted of six chamberanes (male escorts) plus her escort and six damas (maids of honor).

We think it was a great honor for us to be invited and to participate in Norma's Quinceañera.

The Brauers
Havin' Fun

Subj:     198. Where are we?
Date:     Wednesday, January 2, 2008

It's been almost a month since our last "Where are we?" and we are certainly late in updating everyone. But things have been very hectic. Regardless, we want to wish everyone a belated Merry Christmas, and we hope you have a wonderful New Year. We are certainly looking forward to 2008.

As we write this we are in Southern California not too from from Los Angeles. The RV Park we are in, if you can call it that, is very small, difficult to fit into, but very convenient, and has full hookups. We'll leave it like that since we haven't done much exploring in this area.

Adrienne has had stomach problems for several months now. It really became severe on Thanksgiving. But that didn't stop us from going to the Manchester Beach KOA for the Quinceañera, an event we really didn't want to miss. After we left the KOA, we drove to Eugene Oregon to visit with Larry's older daughter, her husband, and two wonderful grand children. Adrienne had asked Michelle to get an appointment for her with Michelle's Doctor. Well, that couldn't be done but it was recommended that we go to Urgent Care.

The same day we arrived in Eugene, we took Adrienne to Urgent Care. In four hours, Adrienne was seen by a physician, had blood tests, an EKG, an ultrasound, and had the results. The ultrasound showed "a mass" on her gall bladder. The doctor recommended that she have another ultrasound in a month. Well, since we are very mobile, we decided that we should get copies of the test results so we had the medical information for a follow up where ever we were. When we received the test results the next day, the radiologist's report stated that the mass might be cancer and that she should either get another ultrasound in a month or have gall bladder surgery. The doctor had never mentioned the surgery. This all of a sudden created almost panic.

We called Adrienne's oldest son, who works for Kaiser Hospital in Southern California and asked him to check to see if there were some recommended doctor's in Southern California. After asking some surgeons he respected, we were given the name of a Surgeon at City of Hope in Duarte California. We also learned that we could apply for admission on-line. On Sunday, December 9, we submitted an application via the City of Hope web site. Monday morning, a clerk from the City of Hope called us, wanted some more information, requested that we fax the reports we had, and said someone else would call us within 48 hours. Monday afternoon, another City of Hope clerk called and said Adrienne was accepted and had an appointment at 2:00 PM on Wednesday December 12. Since we were in Eugene Oregon, Adrienne asked if we could have a later appointment and an appointment was set up for Wednesday December 19.

Adrienne's Doctor is the Chief of Liver Surgery at City of Hope. We checked out his credentials and he is a very well respected surgeon. After seeing the doctor on December 19, and undergoing a series of tests (CAT scan, blood tests, X-rays, etc.) on December 20, an appointment for surgery was set up for January 3. The diagnosis was that she had a polyp in her gall bladder and the it didn't appear to be cancer. That night Adrienne was in a lot of pain so we took her to the Emergency Treatment Center at City of Hope. She was obviously in a lot of pain and slightly dehydrated. She spent two nights in the hospital and was sent home with antibiotics, pain killers, and some anti-nausia pills. Plus, her surgery was moved up to December 27.

On December 26, we moved from the Pomona KOA to our current location. Then next day Adrienne checked into the hospital and had her surgery. The surgery went extremely well. It was indeed a polyp and it was benign. On December 30, Adrienne was released from the hospital. She's still recovering from the surgery but is really doing quite well.

Some of you knew  what was happening and we want to thank everyone for their prayers and concern.

Now, Where are we? We are obviously still in Duarte California and we are parked at a very small RV park at the City of Hope. It is less than a 5 minute walk from the RV to Adrienne's hospital room. When I say this RV park is small, it really is. Getting a 39-foot motorhome into our spot took about 30 minutes of very careful maneuvering.

The Brauers
while Adrienne's recovering