From Thermopolis, Wyoming we headed home to the Denver area for a few days before starting the second loop of our summer journey. Our three days at home were just as hectic as the week before we left the first time. After our whirlwind of tasks were done, we headed out again, heading south to Rio Grande del Norte National Monument in New Mexico.
In the few days that we were home, we managed to get everything done that we needed to. The first day we were back was the last day our temp tags on our Red Tail Lodge were valid, so registering the van with the DMV was our first priority. First we needed to get the VIN verified. The Broomfield Police Department will do it for $50, but only by appointment and only on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Since it was a Friday that wasn't an option. So we went over to Air Care Colorado who does VIN verifications in addition to the normal emissions testing, for a fee. We were there first thing in the morning as they opened, but, evidently that was too early because they have limited staff at the time and won’t do VIN verification until later in the day. However, they were nice enough to tell us that any car dealer will do a VIN verification. Our next stop was Sill-Terhar Motors, the Ford dealer in Broomfield. Not only were they willing to perform a certified VIN verification, they would do it for free. From there we went over to the DMV with the VIN verification in hand, ready to spend however long it took to register the van. To our surprise, there was no line, no waiting and the process was smooth and quick. The only painful part was writing the check for the sales tax on the vehicle. To show our appreciation to Sill-Terhar Motors, we took the van back to them for an oil change.
Our next priorities were do laundry, make another shelf for inside the sink cabinet, replace some totes with a couple of stacked drawer units, make a new shade for the windshield, make another one for the sliding door, and mount our bicycles on the back of the van. We did not take the bicycles on the first loop of our journey because we wanted to feel comfortable driving and parking the larger vehicle before adding a couple more feet to the length of the vehicle. Left Buddy (LB) lost some confidence when he took a patch of pavement out of the street with the hitch while backing the van out of our sloped driveway. We realized that we were never going to be able to have the bike rack on while the van is in our driveway. With the van parked in the street, LB figured out how to mount the RakAttach Swing Away Rack Arm to the hitch on the van. The RakAttach was purchased from VanDOit, but we already owned an old Yakima bike rack that holds two bikes. The bike rack fits into the RakAttach and allows us to swing the bikes out of the way so we can open the back doors with the bikes still attached. For security, we added several locks. The bike rack is locked to the RakAttach using a Yakima Hitch Lock (paid link), the RakAttach is locked to the hitch using a hitch receiver lock (TowSmart 5/8 in. Receiver Lock - paid link), and the quick release front bike tires are locked to the frames using one of our bike locks. In addition, our quick release bike seats are stored inside the van. Are our bikes theft proof? No, but we feel we did our part to not make it easy or tempting. Despite our nervousness about the added length and our concerns about scraping the rack, we did not have any issues the rest of the summer. When parking spots were a little short, we either backed in to allow the bikes to overhang the curb or took up two parking spots.
On Saturday late afternoon, we headed down to Denver’s Mile High Stadium for DCI’s Drums Along the Rockies. Right Buddy (RB) had a press pass, so we wanted to get there in time for her to shoot some pics of the BKXperience Clinic as they performed their Show & Tell outside the stadium. RB was standing in the tunnel with the BKXperience kids, who were waiting to go out onto the field to perform their show again in the stadium as part of the pre-show before the competition started. Then the thunderstorms rolled in and hovered over the stadium. Lightning and hail caused a more than two hour delay. The stadium staff closed the doors to the tunnel and tried to stay ahead of the water seeping into the tunnel under the doors. We felt sorry for the clinic kids. They spent the whole day in a clinic, learning a short routine to perform in front of a large crowd in a large stadium, only to spend hours in a tunnel just to have the pre-show cancelled. It was getting late and the field was still wet, so the competition was cancelled, but most of the corps performed a musical standstill instead of their shows so the crowd of spectators who had stayed would get to enjoy something for their admission price. The host corps, the Blue Knights, was the only corps to perform their whole show so we got to see our daughter perform. However, since the field was wet, the color guard did not wear their show costumes. Unfortunately, due to the busy tour schedules, DCI does not schedule rain dates if a show is cancelled, so they are at the mercy of the weather.
Sunday was just as hectic. Our daughter came home with us late Saturday night so we got to spend some time with her on Sunday, as she did laundry and we finished up our projects. After a nice family dinner at Cochino Taco in Englewood, we dropped our daughter off at the corps buses so she could continue her summer tour with the Blue Knights. A Blue Knight alum first told us about Cochino Taco a year or so ago and it quickly became our favorite restaurant in Englewood with their wonderful variety of tasty street tacos.
After a quick follow up appointment with RB’s podiatrist for her foot early Monday morning, we headed out on the road again. This time we headed south, towards New Mexico. Colorado Springs and the Manitou Incline were along the way, but we did not have time to stop. We have been wanting to climb the Manitou Incline to train for our Grand Canyon backpacking trip, but we weren’t sure how long it would take us or if RB’s foot was up for it yet. The Incline is the rail bed of a former narrow gauge funicular which shutdown in 1990 and is now a popular extreme hiking trail. It is less than one mile to the top, but about 2000 foot elevation gain with 2768 steps. The Incline will have to wait until we get back from our summer trip.
Our stop for Monday night was Little Arsenic Springs Campground in BLM’s Wild Rivers Recreation Area which is part of Rio Grande del Norte National Monument near Questa, New Mexico. The Wild Rivers Recreation Area is on the slice of land between the Rio Grande River and the Red River just north of where the two rivers join together. The campground just has vault toilets, water, picnic tables and fire rings, but the sites are nicely spaced apart with wonderful views. The area has some overlooks and hiking trails, with some of them descending the 800 feet down into the river canyons.
We arrived near dinner time so we didn’t have time for a hike. However, after we ate dinner, we took advantage of having our bikes with us and rode the Rinconada Loop Trail before it got too dark. The trail is a little over six miles long and runs along the canyon rim of both the Rio Grand and Red rivers, circling the perimeter of most of the Wild Rivers Recreation Area. The trail was fairly flat, but there were a couple of spots that pushed the limits of our hybrid bikes. The width of our tires is somewhere between those of a road bike and a mountain bike. There were a couple of times along the trail where we lost traction due to the incline of the trail and the loose gravel, so we had to hop off and walk a little ways. RB had not been on her bike since the previous autumn because of her foot issues, so it felt good to ride again. We made it back to our campsite just in time to sit and watch the sunset.
As we were driving out of the Wild Rivers Recreation Area the next morning, we stopped at one of the overlooks to take some pictures. There were two sisters there painting as part of the Wild Rivers Plein Air Festival. Through our conversation with them, we discovered that they were both originally from Toledo, Ohio, where we both grew up, so we talked about Toledo for a little while. The two women were both art teachers and they taught us that plein air (or en plein air) is the act of painting outdoors. We wished them luck in the art contest, but they said they were out there more for the fun than winning. We believe their names were Mary Jo and Jillie or Julie. Looking on the Plein Air website later, we saw that a Mary Jo won the Emerging Artist Award and a Julie won third place in the Wild Rivers Recreation category. Maybe one or both of those were the people we met that day? It is nice to think so, as they were lovely ladies.
As usual, RB collected some pics into an album for you: Rio Grande del Norte 2019.