Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Hiking and Touring

Posted from Hurricane, UT
(Click on Pics Below to Enlarge)

There are MANY pictures not presented in today's blog.
If interested, click on the link below to view.

Monarch Pass, CO
Warner Point and South Rim Trails
Gunnison Diversion Dam and Trails
Morrow Point Boat Tour

After visiting the Colorado Springs area we headed west on US 50 to Montrose, CO. We had never traveled this route and didn't quite know what to expect with the mountain climbs and descents. US50 continues thru an area known as Monarch Pass. The scenery both up and down the mountains was beautiful. I believe this is the highest elevation that our rig as gone so far. We stopped at the summit (11,312 feet) for a photo op.

There were available "slow lanes" coming up the mountain, so we just moved right and drove along at a steady pace.  The rig did fine. We only have an exhaust brake on our rig, but it worked well to slow the coach on the descent. The key is to maintain control of your speed and to stay off the brakes as much as possible.

We spent a week at the Montrose KOA with the intent of visiting the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.  Let me begin by saying that I am not a big fan of KOAs. They are usually overpriced for what you get (IMHO). After the escort person brought us to our site from the wrong direction, my opinion was further enforced.  We made it into the site (with no help from the attendant, I might add).

Ok, enough negativity, on with exploring the area. We actually drove to the Park on several days to both hike and explore. The first day we went to the South Rim Visitor's Center to pick up maps and literature for the Park. The Visitor's Center is situated right on the rim of the canyon.

Several trails take you on a walk along the rim of the canyon. The river at the bottom is named the Gunnison River.

Here's a picture Karen took of me sitting on a rock near the rim (but not too close.)

The Warner Trail provides great views into the canyon and looking south towards Montrose.

One of the areas we enjoyed was a drive down the East Portal Road to the Gunnison Diversion Tunnel and Dam. The road was originally used to transport materials and machinery to construct the dam and tunnel back in 1905-1909. The road is narrow and not available to any vehicles greater than 22 feet in length.

Tunnel Opening to left Beyond Pump House
The road winds back and forth for 8 1/2 miles from the main road to the river. The elevation drops almost 2000 feet in that distance. There are picnic areas along the river. We saw folks mainly fishing when we were there. The tunnel was quite an engineering feat carried out by the Bureau of Reclamation. The tunnel length is 5.8 miles and was bored straight through the side of the mountain and exits into the Uncompahgre Valley. The main purpose of the tunnel was to provide irrigation to the Valley and to the city of Montrose.

The adventure we enjoyed the most in the entire park was the Morrow Point Boat Tour. (Thank you Laura H. for the recommendation.) The tour is a bit over 1 1/2 hours in length on a large pontoon-style boat operated by the NPS. To reach the boat's dock is a bit of an adventure in itself.

We drove back east along US50 for 35 miles from Montrose. Once at the parking area at Pine Creek, a trek of 232 steps is necessary to reach the river. This is a picture of the "nice" part of the steps. There are many turns and rocky steps as well.

Once you reach the river, a hike of 3/4 mile is necessary to reach the boat's dock. This is along a flat path which once held a narrow gauge railroad track. Easy walking here.

We boarded the boat and were given the usual "safety" instructions by Ranger Morrison. He was to be our guide during the tour. I might say that he did an excellent job of relating the history and geological make-up of this area.

The canyon and river in this area are simply beautiful. Because of the remoteness of the area (and limited accessibility) we saw NO ONE else on the entire tour. (Sorry about the blurriness of this shot of the eagle, but the boat was moving as I attempted to get the picture.)

Even though it was summer, Chipeta Falls was still flowing from the cliffs above.

Here's a view looking west down the river.

If you are ever in the area, the Morrow Point Boat Tour is well worth the $24 per adult fee. The views along the canyon walls from the river level are stunning.

Thanks for stopping by to take a look!

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Garden of the Gods and the US Air Force Academy

Posted from Verde Valley TT Park

(Click on Pics to Enlarge)
If interested in viewing more pictures not contained below, please click on a photo link.

Cheyenne Mountain State Park
United States Air Force Academy
Garden of the Gods Park

I'm a bit behind in posting, but as I look back we were pretty busy during the month of August.  We pulled in to Cheyenne Mountain State Park near Fountain, CO and spent four nights. This was a well thought out and designed park from an RVer's standpoint.  Nice roads and easy to get into and out of spots. We stayed in a FHU site, but I believe they also have partial hookups, as well as, tenting sites. One of the minor "irks" I have against CO state parks is that they charge a daily entrance fee for your vehicle being towed. Why not just add the cost into the nightly camping rate and be done with it?

We selected a pull thru site which was terraced  on the mountain side and allowed for nice views of Colorado Springs below.

Although trees (and thus shade) in this section is non-existent, the temps were cool enough, and the wind was enough, that we only ran the A/C units for part of the day, and almost never at night.  The patio side of the rig had nice views looking towards Colorado Springs.

We had stayed in the area back in the mid-90s when passing thru with our 5th wheel, but had not returned since. We took one day and visited the United States Air Force Academy up in Colorado Springs.  Since there are no organized tours offered (unless you're a candidate I'm told), we began our exploration at the Visitor's Center. They show a nice video explaining the Service Academy's role in our country's overall defense and there are many items to view.  One such display is that of a typical cadet's dorm room. Very organized and tidy!

One of the most iconic structures at the USAFA is the Cadet Chapel. It was completed in 1962 and is very "modern" in style.

The structure is comprised of two levels, with Protestant assemblies on the main level. This area seats approximately 1200 persons.

The lower level holds Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, and Buddhist events. Both levels are uniquely beautiful.

An area which we visited (purely by accident) was the recently re-opened Planetarium. Different films are presented daily in an IMAX format. Well worth a visit if you are lucky enough to attend.  Seating is limited, with no advanced reservations taken.

Visitors are not permitted to "roam freely" in the cadets' living or classroom areas, but there are many viewpoints around the campus which afford nice photo opportunities.

On another day we visited the Garden of the Gods Nature Center. This park is located on the west side of Colorado Springs, not too far from Manitou Springs. At this plaque attests, the area contained within the park was given to Colorado Springs back in 1909 by the children of Charles Perkins. It was his desire that the park would always be free to visit by the public.

This is a view of the park looking from the Visitor's Center.  On the day of our visit the park was extremely busy. It was a bit of a hike just to reach the Visitor's Center from the parking lot.

There are several relatively easy hiking trails to explore the park. On this particular day, it was pretty hot so we just hiked a couple of trails.

It you have the time, Garden of the Gods is well worth a visit. Well, after a day spent resting up and "re-provisioning" we head further west thru Colorado. Come join us on our next blog post.

As always, thanks for taking a look!

Monday, August 19, 2019

A Way to Save Dollars on Diesel Fuel Purchases

Posted from near Bryce National Park, UT

Who doesn't like to save money when it comes to RVing?

 I've been called cheap by some, but I like to think I'm frugal. I can sum up my philosophy by saying that I don't like to pay more for a product when I don't have to.

When I was informed of a new way to save some money when it came to purchasing diesel fuel for the motorhome I sat up and did my own research and decided to give the following program a try.

Wow, I just read the above and it sounds like an advertisement.  Believe me, it isn't. This is just a simple way to save money at the diesel pump.

Let me begin by saying that the following post is pertinent to DIESEL FUEL users only. If you own a gas rig you can stop reading at this point.

When we travel, we re-fuel the motorhome almost exclusively at Pilot or FlyingJ. I'm not interesting in getting into a debate over cheaper places (because I already know of them). We like the convenience of using the truck lanes at these stations because we know that there will be no issues getting in and out of the station.

Also, because we are Lifetime Good Sam Members we have been able to use the Pilot/FlyingJ RV Plus card and receive a discount of .08 cents per gallon for diesel and .06 cents per gallon on gasoline for the toad.  Pilot/FJ then sends a monthly statement which we pay in its' entirety from our bank account. This has worked without a hitch for all of our 7 years of fulltiming.

Recently, however, I discovered a new "fleet discount card" program which RVers are eligible to sign up for. The trucking company which administers the program is called TSD Logistics, Inc. out of Texarkana, TX. If you would like to learn more about TSD Logistics, Inc. Click here.

The above company is offering the TSD Fuel Discount Program to RVers thru the use of EFS card locations (Loves, Pilot/FJ, Petro, and Travel America) truck stops. TSD Logistics claims savings of between .20 and .40 cents per gallon.

Here is a brief description of how the program works
1. An interested party (RVer) fills out an online application form and submits it to TSD Logistics.
2. Fuel purchases are quickly sent to a phone app (We have android phones and the app is entitled "EFS Card Control".) I would imagine there is an available app for Apple users also, but not sure. On Edit: Thanks to one of our blog readers (See comment #1 at end of blog), the EFS Card Control app is available for Apple users under the same app name.
3. When fueling at one of the above stations you insert the EFS card at the pump. When finished, you may still go inside for a receipt if desired.  We don't do that anymore, because the phone app has already received the transaction in short order.
4. TSD Logistics charges a fee of 10% on the SAVINGS for each gallon.  An email is sent out daily with the prices TSD has contracted with the above truck stops.
5. On the following day,  your selected bank account is automatically debited the price of the transaction.

Real Life Examples
Here are two examples using fuel purchases at Loves Truck stop.

8/15/19  Loves in Grand Junction, CO
              Cash Price at the Pump:   $3.069              Pumped 48.88 gallons
              EFS Price for that station on that date:  $2.623

EFS savings per gallon was 44.6 cents
TSD fee is 10% of savings per gallon:  44.6 x .10 = 4.46 cents
My NET savings per gallon off the station price was 44.6 cents - 4.46 cents =  40.14 cents/gallon

So.........we saved $19.62 on this fill up.  Not too bad for just using the EFS card.

8/16/19  Loves in Salina, UT
              Cash Price at the Pump:  $3.049             Pumped 32.14 gallons
              EFS Price for that station on that date:   $2.701

EFS savings per gallon was 34.8 cents
TSD fee is 10% of savings per gallon:  34.8 x .10 = 3.48 cents
My NET savings per gallon off the station price was 34.8 cents - 3.48 cents = 34.45 cents/gallon

So......we saved $11.07 on this fill up. Again, savings just for using the EFS card.

What we've found so far is that Pilot/FlyingJ prices are discounted at a consistent basis of 5 cents/gallon. That means that our current Good Sam card tied in to the Pilot RV Plus card would give us a better discount (8 cents).
As you can see from the above uses at Loves' Truck Stops the discount was 34 and 40 cents per gallon.  Pretty good discount for using the same product (diesel fuel) I feel.

For anyone wanting to take advantage of the EFS fuel card offered through TSD Logistics, here is the link to a simpler form they've created for RVers.    EFS Card Application
(Please note that the increased demand for these cards has caused a delay in TSD mailing them out as quickly as when I obtained mine. I believe the average wait is about 10 business days at this time.)

If all of the above has confused you, here is the quick version of how the fueling process works directly from the TSD Logistics' site:

        We issue you an EFS card.
Pull into the truck line in the back of the store.
Insert your EFS card into the fuel pump.
A prompt will show to ask for specific information that verifies the owner.  You enter the correct information and pump your diesel.
The next day the money is drafted from your bank account and you receive an email showing you the details of the transaction and our fees.
Our fee is 10% of the savings per gallon.  So if the retail cost is $3.00 per gallon and our cost is $2.50 per gallon, your fee will be 5 cents per gallon.
If we can’t save you money, you owe us nothing!
There are no long-term contracts to sign and no hidden fees.  If you choose to not use the program any longer, simply don’t use the card.

Full Disclosure on "Spreading the Word" about this diesel price savings program

Ok, so here's what I get out of this should you decide to take part in the program.
You'll notice on the EFS Card Application that there is a place to insert someone who referred you to this program.  The choice to fill in this line is TOTALLY up to you. If you decide to insert "Steve Fischer" on that referral line, here is what I get (directly from the TSD Logistics site):

                                   Refer a Friend Program
If we sign someone you refer
We will pay you $25 after the first 100 gallons
and another
$25 after they reach 500 gallons.

Again, the choice is up to you concerning the referral, but hopefully you'll find the program will save you some money in fuel costs.  We are very satisfied after only 2 uses of the program thus far.

Should you have any specific questions about the program, the best person to assist you is Tara Rape ( or her phone number   800-426-7110 x125.

As always, thanks for stopping by to take a look!

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Major League Baseball and The Gateway Arch in St. Louis, MO

Posted from Montrose, CO

(Click on pics to enlarge)
To view additional photos not included in today's blog,
                       click on the link below.

The Cardinals vs. the Astros Ballgame
The Gateway Arch Park

From Kentucky we traveled a bit west to visit St. Louis, MO. We had wanted to stay a bit closer to the city, but many of the nicer campgrounds are located on the western side of St. Louis, but many were along waterways which had sustained heavy flooding a few months ago.  As a result, our  campground of choice was still awaiting re-opening, or we were too late in attempting to make a reservation at some of the other campgrounds.

It was back to the state parks again.  We stayed for a week at Cuivre River State Park with FHUs. The park is very popular on weekends, but clears out nicely during the week. There was road construction going on within the park, so we entered from the north side.  Quite an adventure on a narrow road. The entrance to the park on that side was pretty narrow and we barely made it thru the gate without having to unhook the toad. Once settled in, everything went fine. The utilities worked great and the sites were fairly large.

Since we were going to be in the St. Louis area I wanted to try and see a major league baseball game at Busch Stadium, home of the St. Louis Cardinals. This is a very nice stadium right in the heart of the city.

Since I'm not a big fan of driving and trying to find parking for intercity games, we chose to take the metro from the closest point to our campground. The metro stop just east of the airport has free parking and the cost is only $2.50/person to ride each direction. As we approached the stadium, we found that these folks had used an alternative method to come to the game.

The Cardinals' fans seem to do a nice job of supporting their team. The crowd for the game against the Houston Astros was over 46,000 tonight.

Yes, we had some pretty high seats, but the view of the game and surrounding area was great. You can sense that the game isn't going well for the team when there is a "meeting at the mound" late in the game.

The old Fischer jinx was working again tonight against the home team. The Cardinals wound up losing 8-2 against the Astros tonight, but we enjoyed ourselves at the game.

We had made prior ticket reservations for Monday the 29th to travel back into the city and visit the Gateway Arch and take a guided tour on a riverboat. Of course, Monday is the only day on which it rained during our stay.  We decided to forego the rain and returned on Tuesday.

The new visitor's center to Gateway Arch Park was completed in July of 2018. The ticketing center, along with a very nice museum of the area is located at the western entrance to the Gateway Arch. There is also a theater which shows a movie on the construction of the Arch. The movie is a good starting point for understanding the engineering construction marvel of the Gateway Arch.

There are unique cars which travel up each leg of the arch. A model is shown in the visitor's center for those who would like to know what they're getting into beforehand. This little pod seats 5 persons. There are no windows except for a vertical piece of glass in the entrance door. Each ride up to the top takes about 4 minutes, and the ride to the bottom about 3 minutes.

The marker at the very top indicates that you are 630 feet above the ground.

Once at the top, all of the cars from both legs empty and you are free to stay at the top as long as you'd like to take photos out of small windows on the eastern and western side of the arch.

Here's a view looking west toward St. Louis. The white building in the center of the photo is the Old Courthouse where the famous Dred Scott case was initiated.

Here's a bit closer look at the Old Courthouse.  This building is part of the Gateway Arch Park and is free is visit.

This is the view, looking back to the east, of the Mississippi River and into Illinois.

The weather today was excellent. For folks who don't like to drive and attempt to find a parking spot in large cities, public transportation systems are the way to go. We again were able to exit the metro just a few blocks from the Old Courthouse and Gateway Arch Park. We had a very nice visit to the "jumping off point to the West".

As always, thanks for stopping by to take a look!

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

A Short Move in Kentucky, But a Lot of Things to Enjoy

Posted from near Colorado Springs, CO

(Click on Pics to Enlarge)

There's always a lot of pictures which don't make into the blog. If interested, click on the following picture links for more photos.

Taylorsville Lake State Park
Louisville Bats Minor League Game
Kentucky Capitol Building and Grounds
Louisville Slugger Factory and Museum

I'm seeing a theme to this summer's travel locations.  I just looked at our itinerary and we have used, or will be staying in, a lot of state parks this year. That's alright with us as we find state park campsites usually have more room between neighbors and they are located in less "touristy" areas many times.

From Cave City, KY to Taylorsville Lake SP, KY we moved only 96 miles. Hard to believe it was such a short distance as the landscape changed quite a bit. For several days prior to our move the weather had been very nice.  Of course, the morning of the move it rained on us the whole trip. I really don't mind driving in the rain, but would rather avoid settting up camp in it if possible.

As you can see, we had plenty of room beside us at this park.

We did a small bit of walking around the park (not really hiking), but strolled down one day to take a look at the lake. It looked like a nice lake for boating activities.

One of the reasons we selected this park was to use it as a central location to visit area attractions. The park is located roughly between Louisville and Frankfort, south of Interstate 64.

Knowing that we enjoy minor league baseball, we found that the Louisville Bats (AAA farm team for the Cincinnati Reds) were playing in Louisville Slugger Stadium in Louisville.

The city of Louisville supports their team well and most nights the stadium is full of spectators. We had nice seats along the third base line. This photo was pre-game and most of the folks hadn't arrived yet.

I had to include a picture of the Louisville Bats mascot.  Strangely enough, the "bats" doesn't refer to the nearby Louisville Baseball Bats factory, but rather to real bats.

Unfortunately, in more games than not, we seem to be a jinx for the home team.  Tonight was not the case, however, as the Louisville Bats defeated the Gwinnett Stripers (AAA team for the Atlanta Braves) by a 2-1 decision.

On another day we drove up to Frankfort to visit the Capitol Building and tours the grounds. Kentucky is a Commonweath, organized the same as our old Commonweath of Virginia. The Capitol Building itself is handsome.

While waiting to take a guided tour, we witnessed the Governor of Kentucky, Matt Bevin, signing an important bill in the rotunda area of the capitol.

Here's a picture looking up at the dome from the floor of the rotunda a few minutes later.

One of the most elegant rooms was the State Reception Room. This was originally across from the Governor's Office and served as an area for the Governor to receive important people and to hold special events.

The State Supreme Court of Kentucky is housed on the second floor. The walls are covered in Honduran mahogany. I found it interesting to learn that Kentucky had no State Supreme Court before 1976.

The grounds of the Capitol are nicely laid out and very well maintained.  This is the view as you exit from the first floor on the north end of the building.

The Floral Clock Marker is located on the south side of the capitol and was dedicated in 1961. The face is 34 feet across and consists of 10,000 plants grown in the Commonwealth's greenhouses.

For any sports fan, and a baseball fan in particular, no visit to Louisville would be complete without a visit to the Louisville Slugger factory and museum. That bat is 120 feet tall, but it's metal, not wood.

The museum and store are free to visit and the factory tour is available for a fee. The museum does an excellent job of chronicling baseball's great players.

There is an area where many of today's sluggers' bats are on display. I found out that if the player's name is written on the bat in "block" letters, then that player has no contract with Louisville Slugger. If the player's name is written in "cursive" writing, then a contract has been signed by that player.

I'm a big Washington Nationals fan, so a picture swinging one of Ryan Zimmerman's bats was very cool. You can take as many photos as desired. The only requirement is that you have to put on batting gloves so that contact with the bat is minimized.

Many, many famous bats are on display in the museum. Here's one of Joe DiMaggio's bats he used on July 16, 1941 to establish a continuous game hitting record of 56.

The factory tour of how bats are actually made is very interesting. Karen (who is not really a big sports fan) even enjoyed it.  You'll notice that I have no pictures of the tour as none are allowed once you go into the factory area.  Bat production is broken down into different areas for professional and regular retail customers.  Special machinery can produce a professional bat in 30 seconds. (This does not include finishing and stamping of names, etc.) The Louisville factory has been producing bats since 1892. If in Louisville, a visit is well worth your time.

As always, thanks for stopping by to take a look!