Archive for April, 2011

And in other flood-related news

Hwy 165 over Table Rock Dam was closed for several days.  I think it’s open now, but will be closing again at 6:00 AM on Tuesday, May 3 to allow for repairs to the downstream face, where some topsoil was washed away in the recent rains.

The Hilton Inn down at the Landing has been closed since Tuesday, when flooding caused it to lose electrical power.  Not sure how much water was in it, but it was evacuated and when I was driving down there on Thursday, there was water lover the road on Branson Landing Blvd at the Hilton, where fire hoses were shooting the pumped water out onto the street.

The fountain at the Landing is under water and will be out of commission for some time, as the electrical room was flooded.

The walkway on the lake side of the Landing is still under water.

Some 50-60 houses, mostly along Lake Taneycomo and in the Turkey Creek area have been flooded now since Monday (it’s Saturday) with several feet of water.

The brown semi-circle of businesses at Turkey Creek are all under water.

The Bass Pro boat dock broke off its moorings Monday night, was re-affixed to the Fish House restaurant, broke loose again, and drifted 10 MILES downstream before it was lassoed and made fast just above the Powersite Dam.

Table Rock Dam has been releasing some 68,000 cubic feet of water per second for a number of days and will continue doing so till the lake is down to (I think) 930 feet.  People have said seeing all those floodgates open looks like Niagara Falls.

Alexander Park and Sunset Park are all under water.  People are using boats to go down the road we drive to get to the frisbee golf course.

Seven inches

It has been raining here for about a week.  In fact, it’s been record-breaking rain.  On Monday morning (4/25) Jessica said she thought the water was as high on the Bull Creek bridge (over Hwy 160) as she’d ever seen it.  Blansit Road went straight down into water about three car lengths from the “no parking sign,” and the horse pasture across the way was about 1/3 submerged.

As our house was high and dry, it was actually kind of exciting.  KY3 news had shown a piece on how to use their website to get river levels, and one of the “rivers” that was included was “Bull Creek near Walnut Shade.”  Amazing!  Jessica looked it up and found that the measurement was actually taken at the F Highway bridge over Bull Creek, about 1.5 miles from our house.   It said Bull Creek was at 15 feet!!!  WOW!

During a pause in the rain on Monday morning, we walked over to the bridge and took pictures.  There were a lot of other people doing the same.  I’d say the water at that point was about four feet below the bottom of the bridge, and you could only drive about three car lengths down Blansit Road before you it disappeared into the water.  We learned from some of the folks that the water was over the road at Bull Creek Village, and F Highway was closed.  Hence the extra traffic past our house.  The rain resumed before I could get back home, but I didn’t mind getting wet; it was all a grand adventure.  We were high and dry, and it was kind of exciting to see how high the water would go.

All was well until Andrew looked out the front window and said, “Look at the yard!  It’s flooded!”  Not a good thing.  I looked, and sure enough, a small river was flowing across the yard.  This tends to happen when either the pipe at the end of the ditch (under Smart Lane) gets clogged with debris or when the volume of water cascading down the hill and driveway is simply so massive that the ditch overflows.  In either case, the gravel from the driveway – and a lot of the dirt and gravel from Smart Lane is redistributed over our yard, and this time I had two additional concerns.  Our new tree was standing in some four inches of fast-flowing water (not good for its tender young roots) and my flower bed was being washed away.  The water was actually flowing UNDER the bed, and on the downstream side, one of the curved bricks had floated loose.  Neither of those concerns were really critical, but it was a bit alarming to see fairly deep water from the mailbox flower bed all the way to the end of the sidewalk.

Of course, Scott and Josiah were working in Springfield that day.  It is the nature of problematic things to occur when one’s menfolk are unavailable.

Jessica headed out into heavy rain with shovel in hand and spent the better part of the next hour first clearing the clog in the pipe (VERY nasty, she said) and then trying to move gravel with a snow shovel into a configuration to channel the run-off more into the street and less into our yard.  Andrew was out there helping her, and they were both soaked to the skin in the first couple minutes.

She finally gave up, announcing that the “river” flowing across our yard was not due to the pipe being clogged, but simply due to the volume of water cascading down the hill and driveway.  They came it and dried off with beach towels, and we prepared for a late lunch.  Andrew went to the cellar to get more cheese out of the fridge, and he called out loudly, “There’s WATER down there!”

Now once in a great while, we get a damp place in the gravel in the cellar.  It’s not even wet to the touch, just darker than the surrounding gravel, and it usually happens after a lot of days of rain.  It’s infrequent; maybe once a year or less.  I assumed that that was what Andrew meant, so I hollered something like, “Oh, it’s not big deal.”  But he and then Jessica replied that there really was water in the cellar – a lot of it.

I took a look.  Oh.  My.  Goodness.

I couldn’t see any gravel; only muddy brown water.  It wasn’t as deep as the bottom step, but things were floating around down there!  Now, what do you do about that?!?!

The first thing I thought of was the eight boxes of children’s church supplies stored down there.  They were in plastic flip-top boxes, but who knew if any of the boxes were cracked?  Our children’s church supplies have been collected over many years and are near and dear to my heart.  I hollered at Jessica, who had gone down ahead of me, to start handing them up.  I rolled up my jeans, donned my crocs and stood in the three-inch deep muck to hand the boxes from Jessica to Andrew, who carried them, dripping, up to the playroom.  There was one cardboard box that had a few books in it, but they were not treasured books, and as they were completely ruined, I had Andrew take them out to the trash.  I saw no reason to look at and cry about ruined books!

Once the children’s church boxes were up, I was able to start thinking about the other things in the cellar.  The puppet stage, one pipe of which had its attached mini-skirt.  We got all the puppet stage parts up and into the playroom.  The FNL cleaning supplies (also in a plastic box, but evidently it had a leak or had tipped.  We got all that up and out.  Let’s see.  What else really mattered?  The stuff on the other side – mostly miscellaneous junk and some cans of paint – was floating around, but didn’t seem too critical.  Two coolers and two water coolers were also floating around, but it seemed better to let them float and clean them up later.

I called Scott and told him we had three inches of water in the cellar and that we had gotten most of what mattered most up and out of there.  I told him it was really gross and I didn’t know what to do.  He said we needed to raise the freezer and fridge, and I thought, “Yeah, right.”

A few minutes later, Bob and Cody, in rain gear and waders, showed up at the back door.  Scott had called Bob, who we knew was sick with what he was hoping wasn’t strep throat, and asked him to come over and raise the freezer and fridge.  They are such wonderful, helpful guys, and they always keep a cheerful attitude, no matter what.  Bob smiled and trudged back out into the pouring down rain to try to find some bricks or blocks or anything we could use.  He came back a little while later with some boards.  He tipped the freezer forward while I kept the door (bungeed) from falling open, and Jessica and Cody shoved boards under the back on each side.  Then he tipped it back and they shoved boards under the front.

We had gained about 1.5 inches of height, but the thing wasn’t level and that bothered Bob.  There was a pulling out and re-arranging of boards, and then they prepared to work on the fridge.  Just then, the fridge started making a whirring flapping noise that it had never made before.  I asked what that was and Bob said it sounded like the fan blades hitting the water.  Then he said, “What we really need to do it to get this water pumped out of here!”  He suggested that we buy a sump pump and use a garden hose to pump the water out.  He said that we could dig a hole and set the pump down in the gravel, so it would be lower, and that way it could pump more water out.

We called Lowe’s and learned that they had one that would do the job for $67.  On the way to Lowe’s, Bob suggested we stop at Home Depot, which was eight total miles closer, “Unless you really prefer Lowe’s.”  I told him that I did prefer Lowe’s – only because we’d always gotten good service there and because we frequently couldn’t find what we needed at Home Depot – but that I trusted him (what I knew about the features and prices of sump pumps could be written on a dime) and I was fine to save some time by going to Home Depot.

In the pump department, we found one that would work for $119.  That seemed a lot higher than $67, so we headed out, but up front we saw one that Bob said looked similar to the one Lowe’s had quoted him, for a mere $82, and what did I want to do?  Well, Scott and I always like to get a deal (Scott even more so than me), and I figured if he were doing the shopping, he’d drive the eight miles to save the $15.  So, back out into the downpour and off tro Lowe’s, where we did, yea and verily, procure the last of the $67 sump pumps.  Bob said he had an extension cord and hose we could use, so we bought only the pump and zipped back home.

To find that in the forty-some minutes we’d been gone, the water in the cellar had grown twice as deep:  SEVEN INCHES!  Yikes!  Bob and Cody slogged back down into it and got the sump pump running.  I know seven inches doesn’t sound like a lot of length, but let me tell you that seven inches up onto your fridge, freezer, furnace, and water heater is very significant.

Bob then had the brainy idea to borrow a second sump pump from his former boss (Carl Conner at the Rosebud Inn), so he went back to town, got that pump, and rigged a second garden hose of his to it.  He had asked how we wanted to take (shoot) the water out, and I figured the laundry room door would be better than the dining room window (the two closets egresses).  So we had two hoses coming up the cellar stairs, across the kitchen floor, out the big laundry room door, then up and out where the glass has never been replaced on the wooden (falling apart) storm door.  Those pumps ran for about three hours, putting out streams like when you turn on your garden hose full force, and got the level down to under two inches.

At that point, Bob, returned with an empty five gallon bucket that looked like Swiss cheese.  He had drilled dozens of holes in it, because he wanted to sink one of the pumps.  Back into the goo and muck he went in is waders and with a shovel began digging out a hole in the cellar floor.  He excavated a nice pile of gravel, and once he was down in pure mud, he set the holey bucket there with the sump pump in it – the theory being that if the water could be channeled down into the bucket, more of it could be pumped out.

We had to check the pump every twenty minutes or so, to make sure it didn’t run dry and burn out the motor.  About that time, Scott and Josiah arrived home from work, and they took over the pump monitoring duties.  Scott also didn’t like the hose (we were down to using one pump and one hose at that point) going out the laundry room door.  He wanted it out the cellar door, so he and Josiah re-routed it thusly.

We turned off the pump when we went to bed, and at that point, it was just squishy gravel.  When Scott got up the next morning, there was three inches of water in the cellar!!!!  Pump on again, but thankfully that was Tuesday, meaning that the menfolk were home and they did pump detail.  Since that time, it has stayed dry, despite an additional day of rain.  Well, dry is a relative term.  No new water has come in, but the cellar stinks to high heaven.  Wednesday, Scott moved the new dehumidifier from the shop to the cellar, and it has been running more or less continually.  Since it drains by gravity, it has to be dumped every hour or so, and I don’t want to describe the look or smell of what gets dumped.   I am very thankful for our local llama.

The forecast is calling for rain on Saturday and rain pretty much all day on Sunday, with total accumulation of something like 1.5 inches.  If I can carve out time, I will write another post about all the flooding that has occurred Taney County, but if I don’t get to that, suffice it to say that ALL the ground in this county is totally soaked and more rainfall will have nowhere to go.  I am fervently praying that it does not ooze back up into our stinky cellar, but I am thankful that we only had seven inches and they weren’t in our living area.  Many folks have as much as five feet in their homes.

Georgetown – Car Talk

I am thankful that we have a great reliable van to get us around and especially to transport our family during this vacation.  However, the little Micro-Van has had some interesting challenges of late.

A few weeks before vacation, the windshield began to crack.  In fact, I am thinking the crack started while it was sitting snow-covered in. . . would that have been February. . . ?  Anyway, we talked about getting it replaced, but no decision was made until two days before departure.  My Hero wanted to get it replaced the day before we left, but I vetoed that.  It cracked the rest of the way before we were out of Missouri.  = )

Then somewhere in Kansas we stopped for gas, and as we pulled out of the parking lot, we heard and felt something underneath scraping.  Not a good sensation.  Scott was on the phone, and Josiah said (in his typically upbeat way), “the exhaust system is falling off and I think it’s SERIOUS!”  I said, “Tell Dad about it; I’m going to keep driving.”  Which I did.  And about a mile up the road the scraping sound got worse, so I pulled over, and Scott ended his call and got out to investigate.  The rest of us prayed.  At least I did, and I think the kids did.  Well, Scott probably did, too.  Analysis:  it seems that there is a heat shield that covers the exhaust pipe that runs along the length of the van on the driver’s side, and it was loose.  Scott had wedged it in place, commenting that it was pretty hot and that he didn’t know if it would stay in place.  However, as there was really nothing else to be done, we drove on.

We came to a rest area, and Scott pulled the van up onto the curb to provide a surrogate jack.  He used a floor mat as a potholder, did some poking around, and got back into the van, saying that it might fall off, but that he had done the best he could.  We drove on.  A few miles later, we heard a scraping sound followed by a clatter, and that was evidently the end of the exhaust’s heat shield.   Oh, well.  Scott called our friend, Rick, who knows a lot about automotive repair, and he thought we’d be okay.  He just advised us to be wary if the floorboards got really hot!

We arrived in Georgetown on Saturday evening, April 9.  The guys skied on Sunday, April 10 in horrid conditions.  All that day, Jessica kept saying, “I’m SO thankful to not be skiing!”

Monday was a gorgeous day and Scott, Jessica, Josiah, and Andrew all skied.  Well, actually Scott ended up snowboarding that morning, but that’s another story.

After I dropped them off, I decided to see whether or not it was really possible to coast all the way from Loveland down to Georgetown.  That’s a distance of twelve miles.  I had tried it another year but had had to accelerate on a couple of flat stretches.  However, I had had the van in drive, and Josiah had told me that it would coast faster if you put it in neutral.  I decided to give it a try.

I got on I-70 at the speed limit of 65 mph and immediately put the van in neutral.  I then proceeded to coast all the way down to Georgetown.  Wow!  In fact, the speedometer never dropped below 60 mph and I even had to brake between Silver Plume and Georgetown.

I wasn’t even stopping at Georgetown.  Some guy that Scott had called for advice when we realized we had left the Colorado Gem cards (for discounted lift tickets) at home had told Scott that there was a Shell station in Idaho Springs where, if you filled up, you could get a voucher to buy one lift ticket and get one free.  Now, that was a deal!  We had stopped there and filled the tank as we came in Saturday night, and by Sunday night we’d been down to a quarter tank.  The fuel light had come on just after I got on the freeway, and I was headed back down to Idaho Springs to get gas and another voucher.  (Idaho Springs is 12 miles east of Georgetown, which is 12 miles east of Loveland ski area.)

As I zinged past Georgetown, I did have to put it in gear and give it a little gas, because the stretch along the lake is fairly flat.  But as I passed the dam, I put in back into neutral to see if I could coast to Idaho Springs.  I was tooling merrily along and was approaching Empire when suddenly the dashboard lights started flashing.  I put it back in drive and they kept flashing:  O/D OFF!  And the battery light was flashing.  And some other lights were flashing.  This was not good.

I was still zipping along at about 60 mph, but the steering was sluggish, as it is when the power steering goes out.  Great.  I came to another flat stretch and quickly slowed to about 50 mph.  Pressing on the gas did nothing.  At that speed, lots of traffic was passing me, and it occurred to me that I would soon be a road hazard.  I thought about pulling off on the shoulder. . . and doing what?!??!  Call Scott?  He’d be up at the continental divide, shoving off to zoom down some double black diamond!  And what could he do?  He couldn’t come get me.  I was in our only vehicle!

I put on my right turn signal and touched the brake.  No brake.  No brake?!?!?  This was REALLY bad!  I was sailing down the mountain with no brakes!  In a car that was almost out of gas and had virtually no steering.  And whose idiot light kept screaming at me, “O/D OFF!”  Whatever that meant.  The only thing I could figure was that the odometer was off, but that didn’t make any sense at all.

Doing about 45 mph, I eyed the shoulder beside me.  It was smooth and clear, just barely one lane wide (thankfully), and with a guardrail that continued as far as I could see.  If I could at least get the van all the way out of the traffic lane, I’d be safer when it finally stopped – assuming it stopped somewhere before I ran out of gas.  I eased onto the shoulder, turned on my hazards and tried to decide what to do.

I wasn’t sure if I wanted it to stop as soon as possible, or if I wanted it to run as far as possible before it stopped.  I guessed it didn’t really matter; since the brakes didn’t seem to be working, I would have to just let it keep coasting till it stopped on its own.  Which I did.  I later determined that I coasted about a mile from the point the lights started flashing (and the steering and brakes malfunctioned) to the point where I finally came to a shaking stop in the middle of nowhere.

I was pretty shook up.  I knew Scott was going to be ticked off, to say the least.  It would be one thing to have your pristine day of skiing interrupted.  It would be a whole nother thing to try to figure out what to do about your wife and van stranded fifteen miles away, several miles from the nearest exit, with almost no gas, in a vehicle that clearly wasn’t working right.  I thanked God for protecting me and prayed for wisdom.

My foot was still on the gas, so, not knowing what else to do, I turned the key.  Nothing.  Nothing, and that stupid “O/D OFF!” light still flashing at me.  I sat there for a couple minutes with cars and trucks whizzing by only inches from my driver’s side door.

Once my heart stopped racing and I was able to pause between saying, “THANK YOU, GOD!”  I realized I was still in drive.  I put the van in park and eased my foot off the brake.  I breathed.  Breathing is good.  I didn’t want to turn the key again, because I didn’t know what to do if nothing happened.  At that point I would HAVE to call Scott, and that was a call I definitely did not want to make.

I turned the key.  The engine started!  O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!  I was so very thankful that I just kept right on breathing!  I let it run for about a minute to make sure it wasn’t going to die on me.  Then I put on my left turn signal, waited for a break in the traffic, and eased (with feeling) back out onto I-70 east.  At Idaho Springs I got my gas and our ski voucher and returned safely home to our fair abode on Buckeye Circle.  Mission Accomplished.

That was Monday.  Tuesday we took the day off skiing.  The guys rented bikes and did lots of riding, but Jessica and I had already planned to do some exploring that day.  We intended to walk along all the cute little shops in Idaho Springs – something we’ve talked of doing on other trips, but never seemed to have the time to do.  We decided to take the scenic route to Idaho Springs.  Actually, we started out on I-70 and I showed her where my adventures the day before had occurred.  But as we neared Empire, I remembered that the drive down the access road was really very quaint.  I wanted to show Jessica, so we exited at Empire and got back on the freeway westbound, returned to Georgetown, and took the access road back east.  These are the kinds of wasteful (of time and gas) things that one would never do normally, but which one is allowed to do on vacation.

We stopped to tour the Alvarado Cemetery, an excursion which probably merits its own post, then proceeded on toward Idaho Springs.  Somewhere around Dumont (I think) we were behind a slow-moving piece of earth-moving equipment, and thus having plenty of time to survey our surroundings, noticed a bridge to our left, which crossed the freeway and ended in a tunnel.  Ooooh, a tunnel.  How fun!  We decided we simply HAD to turn back and find out what was on the other side of that tunnel.

Now, since this post is about car issues, I will spare you the details of exactly what we found there on North Spring Gulch Road, and I’ll just let you know that it was amazing and I may write about it in the future.  Meanwhile, having exhausted the possibilities on that road, we returned to the access road and continued on toward Idaho Springs, BUT we passed a road to the RIGHT that looked like it wound up into the mountains, and Jessica said, “Can we turn around and go up that road?”  Which we could, and so we did.  It was actually Trail Creek Road, and it took us up to the Phoenix Gold Mine, which could be toured for a fee and where one could literally pan for gold.  We were tempted, but chose to move along.  When that road became questionable, even though we had a great topo map and it LOOKED like we could make a grand circular jaunt, I told Jessica that I didn’t want to risk getting the van stuck or damaged, so we’d need to turn around.  Sadly, we did.

We really wished the guys had been with us, because we like to explore, but exploring is much more fun with boys.  We called them to see if they wanted us to go back and get them, but they were exhausted from all their bike riding.  They told us to just enjoy Idaho Springs and then come home.  (We told them we hadn’t yet gotten to Idaho Springs, which was only 12 miles from Georgetown.  As we had been gone for more than two-and-a-half hours, they were shocked and slightly embarrassed.)

Nature was calling by the time we did finally arrive in that fair town, so we merely went to the visitor center – VERY nice and includes a free museum about all the gold mining stuff – and then tooled down the main drag to get on the freeway and head back west to our family and lunch.

This is where my innate compulsion to be early got me into trouble.

I was in the right hand lane (there were two lanes going my direction and two the other, with a yellow line between) and would be turning right to get on the entrance ramp to the freeway in about a tenth of a mile.  I put on my turn signal.  However, between me and the entrance ramp (also on the right) was a Carl’s Jr. restaurant and a McDonald’s.  My guess is that the driver of a car in the Carl’s Jr. driveway (about to pull out and turn left ) thought that my right turn signal meant I wanted to eat at Carl’s Jr., although I did not.

In any case, he burned rubber, screeched his tires, and pulled out rapidly in front of me.  I hit the brake and swerved to my left to to avoid hitting him, but realized (in slow motion) that we would crash.  And we did.

He hit the right front corner of the van, continued on across in front of me, and made his left turn, without ever slowing down.  It was a low, dark car.  After the that sickening crunch, I was still holding onto the wheel, but I was fairly shook up.  I asked Jessica if she was okay, and she was.  Neither of us was injured, but I suspected the van was in bad shape.  The impact had pushed me into the left lane (of the two lanes going our direction), and once my brain was functioning again, mt next thought was that I had to try to get the van over to the side of the road and call the police.  Shakily, I eased the van forward and over against the curb in front of McDonald’s.  I expected any moment for the driver of that car to come over and start hollering at me, although I didn’t know where he had parked.

Looking in the rearview, I couldn’t find him, and turning around in my seat, I still couldn’t.  What to do?  I looked across the street where there was a large driveway or small parking lot.  No low dark car.  He wasn’t in the center (turning) lane, either.  Where the heck was he?  And what was he going to do to me when he appeared at my window?

I guess we sat there for a minute or so, and then – after the fact, when everything was okay – I started to cry.  It made no sense at all, but I couldn’t stop crying.  I didn’t know how to call the police, although I was sure the other driver would have already done so.  It was going to be a whopper of a ticket, for sure!  I knew I needed to call Scott.  This would NOT be a fun call.

We called and told him that we were fine but that I had had an accident with the van; that it seemed to be drivable, that we couldn’t find the guy I hit, and that I didn’t know if or how I should call the police.  Just after I hung up with him, a large SUV pulled in behind us.  Strange.  That couldn’t be the guy because he had been driving a low dark car.  Or had he sent his rich relatives after me?  I got out and walked back to the SUV.

A lady rolled down her window and asked if we were all right.  I said that we were and she said, “I saw it all.  It was a black Mustang.  I saw him hit you and I came back to see if you were okay.”  I told her that was very kind of her and we appreciated it very much.  She told me that she was on her way to work in Breckenridge, but that she was behind me and had seen the whole thing.  “He hit you.  It wasn’t your fault.  Didn’t you see that part of his car he left in the street?”  Well, no, I had not, but looking back, there was a large piece of black plastic lying in middle of the road.

I asked if, given the other driver’s absence from the scene, she thought I should contact the police.  She said she figured it would be a good idea.  I told her I realized she couldn’t stay to tell the police what she had seen, because she had to get to work.  She agreed. I thanked her again for stopping and she drove off.

Back in the van, I called Scott again and he said he thought it would be good to contact the police.  As things turned out, the number we had found only gave an answering machine, so Jessica went into McDonald’s and got directions to the police station.  The officer there was quite nice and helpful and explained that, since the damage was less than $1000, we weren’t obligated to file a police report.  The only advantage to filing a report would be to document what had happened for the sake of filing an insurance claim.  However, since we only carry liability on our cars, that would not be an issue.  We left the Mustang’s spare part with the officer and drove – thankfully – home to our menfolk in Georgetown.  It was only early afternoon and it had been a full day!

Three days later, the van did make it home, with its broken windshield, its missing heat shield, and its smashed-in headlight.  The lack of a heat shield does occasionally produce a burning aroma around the back of the van when you get out, but it doesn’t seem to be a time-critical repair.  We tried to price the headlight cover (lens) at O’Reilly’s, but learned that it would have to be special ordered.  Furthermore, it is not possible to buy the lens alone; you have to buy the entire headlight/turn signal assembly for the truly amazing price of $214.00.  Scott was not about to do that, so he ordered the whole assembly from a junkyard for a number that’s a lot smaller than 214.

All in all, it was not a boring trip, vehicle-wise.

Georgetown – Fun Stuff

I have given up trying to write chronologically about our trip.  I think it will be easier and faster to post topically instead.  Here are some of the really fun experiences various ones of us have had thus far.

Skiing in gorgeous weather on Monday (Scott, Jessica, Josiah, and Andrew)

Proving that it is possible to coast all the way – that would be 12 miles – from Loveland to Georgetown (Patty)

Seeing bighorn sheep beside the shoulder of the freeway numerous times, generally between Idaho Springs and Empire (all of us)

Locating piano music in the Georgetown Library and checking it out on the honor system (Patty)

Grocery shopping at Safeway (Jessica and Patty)

Organizing our house, food, and supplies (Patty and Jessica)

Exploring Alvarado Cemetery (Jessica and Patty)

The grand bike excursion from Georgetown down to North Spring Gulch Road AND from Bakerville down to Georgetown (Scott, Josiah, Jessica, and Andrew road bikes; Patty followed in the “pilot car.”)

Climbing to and exploring the mine shaft – Andrew actually climbed into it and brought back some souvenir ore!  (Jessica, Josiah, Scott and Andrew)

A half-day of snow boarding (Scott)

Hitting the jumps on Tempest!  (Andrew and Scott)

Driving up North Spring Gulch Road and especially driving up Trail Creek Road  (Patty and Jessica)

Walking through the museum in the Idaho Springs visitor center (Jessica and Patty)

Playing on computers (Josiah, Andrew, Jessica)

First crochet lesson.  There is hope!  (Patty)

Driving up Guanella Pass Road, even though we could only go four miles to the near end of Clear Lake  (Jessica, Josiah, Andrew, Patty, and Scott)

Our traditional snowball fight at the turn-around on Guanella Pass Road  (Scott, Josiah, Jessica)

Driving up Guanella Pass Road AGAIN and taking color pictures to replace the ones mistakenly shot in B&W!  (Patty)

Talking with a nice lady in the Georgetown visitor center who was very friendly and answered a lot of questions about Guanella Pass Road, water supply, and electrical power generation.  Also getting a delicious donut there!  (Patty)

Wandering about town and taking pictures (Patty)

Doing no chores (Josiah, Patty, Andrew)

Seeing mountain goats by the shoulder of I-70  (Patty and Andrew)

 

 

Georgetown: Sunday – Sweet Sixteen

Jessica and I had been requested to pick up the guys at 4:30 PM.  This timing is based on the fact that the ski lifts close at 4:00 PM.  The goal of skiing seems to be to get on the lift at 3:59 PM and then prolong the final downhill run, thus extending one’s day on the slopes as long as possible.  It takes fifteen minutes to drive from here to there.  It’s 12 miles (all freeway) and the speed limit is 65 mph, but for a large portion of the journey, the van can only get up to 55 mph with the accelerator on the floor.  We actually left the house a few minutes after 4:00 PM, because the Pelican would always rather be early than late.

As we headed up I-70, the flurries we’d had off and on in Georgetown turned to steady snow, and I began my regimen of shooting washer fluid onto the windshield every thirty seconds or so.  The slush and grime from the road (which was mostly clear with snowy spots at that point) is continually thrown all over the van, rendering it perennially filthy, and making it impossible to see out the windows.  I got Jessica to get the rear washer/wiper thing going, too.  Not that I had much of an opportunity to look in my mirrors; visibility straight ahead was becoming challenging.

Georgetown is at exit 228, and I had in my mind that Loveland (Hwy 6 over Loveland Pass) was at 216.  But there’s also an exit 218, which has no name and nothing there, and I was so focused on trying to keep the van going forward in only one lane (as I bobbed my head up and down to try to see through the windshield muck) that I wasn’t really paying much attention to road signs.

A little geography commentation might be in order here.  I-70 runs generally east-west through the Colorado Rockies.  From Denver, it climbs west (mostly uphill) for some 40 minutes to Georgetown, which is nestled at the base of the highest set of mountains that surround the Continental Divide.  Up at the Divide are two significant features:  the 1.7 mile-long Eisenhower Tunnel, and Loveland Basin ski area, which sits on top of the tunnel.  The exit for Loveland is the Hwy 6 exit.  Traveling west (uphill) from Georgetown to Loveland, you get off I-70 at Hwy 6, and travel it for 1/4 mile to the Loveland Basin parking lot.  If you were to stay on Hwy 6, it would take you – with difficulty – up and over Loveland Pass on a winding, very steep, somewhat treacherous two-lane road.  You would come down past Arapaho Basin ski area (where we took our very first ski trip some years ago, and where the younger three learned how to ski in conditions that were significantly worse – i.e. blizzard? – than what the guys faced on Sunday) and eventually weave past other ski places like Keystone and finally (after a total traverse of some 20 miles) down into the side-by-side towns of Dillon and Silverthorne.  If for some reason a person wanted to go from Loveland to Dillon and Silverthorne without taking the scenic route over Loveland Pass on Hwy 6, he could just stay on I-70 up through the tunnel and down the west side for eight miles.  Westbound on I-70, after you pass the Loveland (Hwy 6) exit, the next exit is Dillon and Silverthorne.  Hazardous chemicals are not allowed to go through the tunnel, so all the big trucks hauling gasoline, oil, and other stuff like that have to take Hwy 6.  You can’t pass the whole length of Hwy 6 over Loveland Pass, so it’s usually a creeping process at 20 mph behind one or more heavy trucks.

Jessica had leaned back the seat and was resting as we labored up to Loveland, but when things got a bit hairy, she sat up and asked if I wanted her to do anything to help.  I just asked her to turn off the music, which bugs me when driving is tense.  It was getting pretty hard to see anything at all, and I knew that the homebound journey would be tough.  The eastbound traffic (back into Denver at the end of a weekend) was very heavy and moving very slowly.  I didn’t really want to have to inch my way back down into Georgetown, slipping and sliding with no visibility, but I also knew that Scott would have to change out of his ski boots into his snow boots in order to drive.  Anything that has anything to do with ski boots takes a long time, and there would be no place for him to sit and change with all five of us in the van plus all the skis and gear.

I asked Jessica to call them and tell them that we’d be there in about five minutes, but that the traffic and weather were really bad and would they please be ready to just pile in and not change drivers so we could get headed home as quickly as possible.  She made the call, and while she was on the phone, I saw up ahead the Exit 216 sign.  I hadn’t been able to see any other big signs, because A) it was snowing heavily, B) my windshield was a mess despite defrost, wipers, and lots of washer fluid, and C) I was only able see things in my direct line of vision; things like the Exit 216 sign.

Me: “Isn’t this our exit?  Tell them we’re getting off.”

Jessica:  “No, it’s not.  Our exit is 218.”

Me:  “But the numbers get smaller this way.”

Jessica:  “But there’s that big brown sign at the Loveland exit.  We need 218.”

I knew that she’d been watching the signs while I had only been focused on the road itself, so I was glad she knew what was what.  As we passed that exit, I saw a mile marker sign:  216.  Well, surely 218 and our familiar Loveland exit would show up next, and I was so flustered that I was probably all mixed up about whether the number went up or down.  But we kept climbing, and suddenly I saw a yellow warning sign about the tunnel.  We NEVER saw a yellow warning sign about the tunnel on the way to Loveland!  Oh, no!  We had missed our exit, whatever the heck its number was, and we were about to go through the tunnel.

I told her to call them back and tell them we had missed our exit.  This was not good at all.  Worse than all that was the time element.  We’d have to go through the tunnel and down eight miles (in these wretched conditions) to Dillon and Silverthorne, turn around, climb back up eight miles on slick roads in heavy traffic and poor visibility, and leave the guys standing out in the blizzard-like conditions for an extra thirty or so minutes.  The ski resort had closed, so they were standing at the pick-up spot trying desperately to keep warm.  It’s hard enough to do that in the late afternoon at 11,ooo feet (or whatever the base of Loveland is) in cold and wind when you’re skiing.  It’s harder to do when you just have to stand still and stamp your feet.  I felt terrible.

I was also sweating.  I was wearing a t-shirt, a sweatshirt, and my winter coat, and we were running the defrost at full blast on high heat, because it was the only way to keep the windshield even marginally clear.  I had a knuckle grip on the steering wheel and couldn’t take off the coat.  My face was red and my ears were on fire, and my deodorant was nearing the end of its usefulness.  But I had to somehow get down this mountain and back up.  I told her to call and tell them we’d have to go down to Silverthorne and turn around and we’d be there as fast as we could.  All Scott said was, “SILVERTHORNE?!?!?!”  I knew I was in hot water with him.  We prayed like crazy – for our safety, for them to not freeze, for the van to not slide, and for God to get us to the Loveland parking lot as quickly as possible.

Coming out of the tunnel, I was in the right lane, behind a pickup truck pulling a pop-up camper.  I hate to drive behind big trucks (where I can’t see) or other heavy vehicles (that slow me down), so I pulled into the center lane.  There are three lanes each way on the west side of the tunnel, but only two each way on the east side.  I wanted to get in a lane where I could stay all the way down, and then just get in the right lane when it was time to exit, and I figured center would be good.  Left – traffic would be moving too fast; right – big trucks would be moving too slow.

However, my brain obviously wasn’t working too well.  For some reason the center lane seemed a  lot snowier than the left and right lanes.  I was in the worst lane!  I eventually moved right, and after a couple miles, the snow grew lighter, and the road was just wet.  Once I could loosen my knuckle grip and turn the defrost down a notch I realized that there’s no way to plow the center lane!  In the right lane, the blade shoves all the snow to the right shoulder, and in the left lane the blade shoves all the snow to the left shoulder, but if you tried to plow the center lane, where on earth would you shove the snow?!?!?  Learn something every day.

At Silverthorne, my bladder was screaming, so we pulled into a gas station for that, and Jessica told the guys where we were.  Scott was not pleased, to say the least.

We got back on the freeway, headed east, uphill, and back to the tunnel.  The speed limit was 65 mph, but I gunned it to 70 mph on the low (merely wet) part to try to get us there as soon as possible.  Things went well for the first few uphill miles, but a couple miles before the tunnel, the snow was again heavy, the road snow-covered, and we began to slide a bit.  I really hate sliding.  We kept inching our way up, praying.  I was praying fervently that they wouldn’t close the tunnel before I got in it!

I got into the right lane and finally Jessica said she could see the tunnel.  Praise God!  We called the guys again and gave them our location and ETA.  Once in the tunnel, traffic was heavier and slowed to 12 mph, but we did emerge, we did take our first exit (216; ever hereafter to be remembered with the mnemonic “Sweet Sixteen), we did slide coming down the somewhat steep and tightly curved exit ramp, we did creep into the Loveland parking lot, our menfolk were waiting for us, Scott did change into his snow boots, and he drove us home through traffic and snow that both improved as we descended to Georgetown’s mere 8500 feet of elevation.

White Chili was waiting for us in the crockpot, and that evening we watched a Veggie Tales movie (a take-off on “It’s a Wonderful Life”), and both Scott and Andrew beat me royally at Blokus.

Some of us slept better that second night.

In Georgetown – Sunday till 4:00 PM

It was the first day for the guys to ski and the weather was not particularly cooperative.  When we arrived Saturday night, Scott had arranged to meet the ski rental guy (only two blocks away) and get the skis then, so, after donning many layers and packing a lunch, we drove the menfolk 12 miles uphill to Loveland.  They spent the day skiing in constant snow, with temps mainly in the teens and winds of 25+ mph.  And they all had great attitudes!

Aside:  It is possible for Llamas to ski in the sweats of Peacocks.

Meanwhile, Jessica and I traveled 12 miles downhill to shop at Safeway.  We had long been anticipating this shop and it did not disappoint.  We spent over an hour in there, leisurely comparing prices and analyzing options.  In the end, we feel that we had a very successful shop, and yes, we DID use my Safeway card, thus getting all posted discounts.  = )  When we got home, we had the additional joy of organizing and arranging all our purchases.   Extra fun.

The guys had called requesting beef jerky (obtained at Safeway) and some additional ski gear, so we drove that up to them at lunch time.  They were a bit tired and windburned, but having fun despite the rugged conditions.  The lot of TOTALLY full – odd to me in such weather, but I guess it was because it was a Sunday and kids were out of school.

After Jessica and I ate lunch at home and I took a nap, it was time for the grand bedroom re-org.  There’s one downstairs bedroom (C) in this house, and two upstairs bedrooms (A & B) linked by a bathroom that is accessible only through either of them.  I had chosen B for us, because we like bathroom access, and the bed in B rolled to the middle less than the bed in A.  Jessica had A, and the boys would share C.  Well, actually, the boys would take turns sleeping in C with the other out in the living room in a one of the four sleeping bags we found in a closet.  This would be because Josiah cannot sleep in the same room with Andrew, due to his (Andrew’s) “intermittent breathing.”  So Saturday night we were set up as indicated, and nobody had a very good night.  We were especially challenged because bed B sank in the middle quite a bit more with two people in it than had been assumed.

Therefore, Sunday afternoon, Jessica and I played fruit basket turnover with everyone’s already unloaded stuff.  The woman is incredible.  She did all the heavy hauling up and down stairs without a murmur – and with a smile!  I helped a little bit and we managed to move the boys to A, Jessica to B, and us down to C, where the bed is actually level, PTL!

About 4:oo PM, my intrepid companion and I headed up to pick up our guys at the scheduled time of 4:30 PM.

Let it SNOW!

This is the second day of our ski vacation, and we are safely ensconced in a wonderful HOUSE in Georgetown. We’re on Buckeye Circle in a rather odd, but much more than adequate house that has probably been around for a while and has endured some updating through the years.  First, a bit of blurb about our trip.

We have learned that it takes us about 15 hours to drive to Georgetown.  This is due in part to the fact that I take a diuretic twice a day (read:  bathroom stops every 30 minutes for an hour-and-a-half in the morning and in the afternoon); in part to the tendency of the gas tank to need filling at times other than bathroom breaks; in part to the our family members all getting hungry for breakfast (read:  McDonalds or Wendy’s – breakfast out being a treat we reserve exclusively for vacations) at different times; in part to our unique ability when traveling to forget certain essential items and/or tasks and then need to find a wi-fi hotspot to get online to deal with those mistakes; and in part to our great desire to stop for supper somewhere in Denver.  I am pretty sure that if we chose to eat breakfast at one time and place, got our gas at bathroom stops even if the tank was over one-eighth, and made some written lists and looked at them before leaving home, we could do it it fourteen hours flat.  However, since we’ve done this Colorado vacation thing now at least five times, and since we’ve managed to spend fifteen hours on the road each time, I think I’m going to resign myself to saying that’s how long it takes.

This trip has thus far been a summary of things we forgot.  Here is a short list:

* The videos we checked out of the library to watch in the evenings – but we realized that only five miles from home so we went back and got them  = )

* Sunscreen

* The 2 Colorado Gem cards we bought to get us a discount on lift tickets

* Mayonnaise & mustard packets

* A pen

* The Alleve for Josiah’s ankle

* The Claritin for Jessica’s sinus infection

* Josiah’s thermals, sweats, and hat

* The “treasure trove” stuff for the car ride

However, in our defense, Jessica and I figured out that the reason we forgot so much stuff (and trust me, there was a lot more) was that we had no time before the trip to make a list!  We literally worked non-stop up till 11:00 PM the night before we left and then got up at 4:45 AM to hit the road.  If we had been able to make a list, I think we would’ve remembered a lot more stuff, but the good thing about forgetting so much is that the van wasn’t so crammed full.  = )

It’s SNOWING here!