Sunday, December 6, 2009

Book Announcement

We have always loved dogs, especially boxers. We had two, successively, each one lived for ten (short) years. The first one was a male we named Koko and the second was a female our children named Kyra.

Last year I wrote a little book about Koko, as a remembrance for our children who grew up with him, and as entertainment for our grandchildren who never knew him. The book is an "autobiography," that is, it is written from Koko's point of view. It consists of a series of anecdotes, as told by Koko, about some of his funny and at the time vexing exploits while growing up in our family.

After I had the book printed, bound, and had presented it as Christmas presents, I was encouraged to make it available to a wider audience. So, recently I decided to publish it. The book is called A Dog's Life and is available at and at

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

5 July 2009

Here I sit at the Calgary airport, drowsy and at the same time relieved. It has been an eventful trip and the drowsiness in large part is due to the lack of stress I suddenly feel - no place to go, nothing to see, just waiting to board an airplane.

We drove 8733 kilometers or 5240 miles in four weeks and then participated in the Calgary Stampede for almost three full days. Everywhere we went there was always something to do or to see. I like to drive, but four weeks of driving, sometimes as much as 10 or 12 hours at a time, does wear you out. I was very glad that in Calgary I had booked a hotel downtown within walking distance to most of the sights and that we didn't have to worry about parking and driving while in Calgary.

Days 31, 32 - 3, 4 July 2009

The Calgary Stampede is an annual giant fair with live stock shows, rodeo events, rides, food, and games. All day long there were motorcycle stunt shows alternating with divers plunging head-first from a 90 foot tower into a small pool of water while performing all kinds of gymnastics (see the video below). Every evening the climax of the day were the thundering hoofs and rumbling wagons of the chuckwagon races (see the video below) followed by a grand stage show.

The whole town participated with events in the streets, such as square dancing where onlookers, such as us, were invited to participate (whether they wanted to or not - we had square danced many years ago and therefore didn't make complete fools of ourselves and even earned hugs from our hosts), or music by bands or individuals, and a free pancake breakfast on Sunday morning. Many people were decked out in their finest Western wear. You could hardly tell the locals from the visitors because almost everyone wore at least a cowboy hat or a bandana. We decided to join in and my friend wore a Western hat, and I tied on a colorful bandana. Furthermore, my friend finally got her wish and acquired a cow hide which will be used as a carpet under the coffee table in our living room back home.

The Stampede was kicked off by a giant parade representing all facets of Canadian life from First Nation People (as Indians are called in Canada) in colorful clothes and feather headdresses to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Canadian Army, as well as representatives of many of the other nationalities that populate Canada. The US flags carried by many of the parading groups shows the close relationship between the US and Canada that exists mainly in the western parts of both countries (I claim), because of the common heritage of settling the western frontiers. The border between Canada and the USA beyond the great lakes was unclear for many years until it was formally settled in the first half of the 19th century.

The parade was so long that we abandoned our vantage point, went to the hotel to warm up because in the shade of the tall building where we were standing the cool wind made it chilly, watched some more of the parade on TV, and still caught the end of it live as we exited the hotel again. Because of the many horses in the parade, the last entry in the parade were a series of street sweepers.

The two days in Calgary were a fitting close to our Rocky Mountain trip. Although we hated to see it come to an end, we were nevertheless looking forward to returning to our permanent home.

Day 30 - 2 July 2009

We awoke early, full of anticipation of the problems that might confront us during the return of the camper, the packing, and the transfer to the hotel that we had booked in downtown Calgary.

First thing we did was to look for a car wash large enough to accommodate the RV because the instructions were to return the vehicle free of road grime, especially tar or mud. So we scrubbed inside and out, washed the windshield, and polished the chrome. I was particularly concerned about the small chip in the windshield and the hatch on top that had been blown open by a sudden gust of wind, thereby breaking off the plastic knob that held the hatch shut. Both damages occurred during that fateful day when my sciatic nerve in my right leg acted up on the way to Monument Valley. All along the road after that I worried about these damages because when we accepted the camper a nice man went all around it with me encouraging me to make a note of any little flaw in the paint, the windshield, etc. I had to assume that when we turned in the camper it would be subjected to the same kind of scrutiny by the rental people. I had even bought some glue and buttons to try to patch the plastic mechanism of the hatch well enough to pass visual inspection, but due to a lack of the proper tools (there was a fan blade in the way) I had abandoned the attempt. I had actually tried to get the chip in the windshield repaired in Rapid City, South Dakota, but abandoned that effort also when it turned out that it would cost $30 without a guarantee that one wouldn't still see the chip in the windshield. I reasoned that if I had to pay for a new windshield anyway I would save myself the $30.

Well, wonders never cease! Since I didn't want to be caught in a lie when the rental people discovered the damage, I decided to "come clean" right up front. I pointed out the broken hatch, but the nice man just shrugged his shoulders and showed no interest in climbing on top of the camper to look at it closer, "the boys in the garage are going to take care of it," he said. He recommended that I mention the chip in the windshield to the ladies in the office who were going to finalize the paperwork. When I mentioned the chip in the windshield, the nice lady said that things like that happen and that was it. She gave me back my entire deposit plus she reimbursed me for a water pressure regulator which I bought in Colorado and the TV extension cable which I had bought in Salt Lake City. Some campgrounds required the water pressure regulator if one was going to connect to their water supply because of its high pressure, which might blow holes into the camper's water pipes. The TV cable was useless because the TV was not set up to accept cable input, it just operated off the roof antenna which was also useless in the Rockies; besides, the US had gone to a digital TV signal and the TV set was still analog.

While I sweated out the finalization of the paperwork, my friend labored with the packing of our belongings. We had more than what we had come with: souvenirs, some new clothes, and left over food. It was eventually all packed in suitcases, bags, and boxes and when the taxi arrived we were grateful for large American cars with their big trunks. The taxi took us to downtown Calgary, to the hotel which I had selected specifically because of its location, because the next two days were to be entirely different from the rest of the trip, that is, in a nice hotel within walking distance to restaurants and other amenities normally found in a big city.

The next day the annual event called the "Calgary Stampede," a giant, over a week long, fair with rodeos, rides, and shows was starting. We had planned this Rocky Mountain trip to end on just this day so that we could enjoy the activities in Calgary for the next two days. With a preview during the afternoon and evening of what was in store during the Calgary Stampede the camping part of the Rocky Mountain trip came to an end.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Day 29 - 1 July 2009

As the reader may or may not recall, we were here near Fort Macleod at the beginning of our journey. We had discovered that off to the northwest of Fort Macleod there is a place that is on the World Heritage Register, the "Head Smashed in Buffalo Jump." At that time the place was still on reduced hours and it was closed when we got there (remember?). Well, this time we made it. And on top of it, this was Canada Day, the equivalent of the United States' 4th of July.

What a show awaited us there! There were what in Canada are called "First Nation People" performing dances, songs, and drum music. But the main attraction, when it doesn't happen to be Canada Day, is the buffalo jump. When we first passed by here we had no idea of what this is all about, but when we got to Montana we had a thorough introduction to the buffalo jump as practiced by the original inhabitants of the North American continent (see the narrative about Day 6 of our journey).

During the lunch break I had a chance to talk to one of the Blackfeet drummers. He was the one with the red white and blue polo shirt. I wanted to know if the, to our ears, monotonous drumming and chanting had any meaning and he assured me that there is a distinct meaning to all of it. None of it is written down, it is passed from one generation to another. He readily discussed the heritage of their dances and chants and remarked that I was the first foreigner who had ever asked him these questions.

I love the wide open spaces of the northern plains. I like seeing mountains in the background, but I feel hemmed in if they are too close.

We thoroughly enjoyed the visit to the "Head Smashed in Buffalo Jump" and sadly had to leave to meet our next deadline, Calgary, to turn in the camper the next day. We stayed at a campground outside Calgary which is frequented and run by people of German descent. There were, among others, German flags, little dwarfs as seen in some gardens in Germany and a band had just ended playing German songs when we got there. Not what we really wanted to experience after the buffalo jump.

With a beautiful sunset Day 29 ended.

Day 28 - 30 June 2009

This day dawned bright and clear and since we had a lot to be accomplished we departed a little after sunrise. This time we were bound and determined to travel the Going-to-the-Sun Road to the other side of the Rockies.

Along the way we passed some scenic sights which we had seen during our earlier trip through the park, but now it was summer and the weather was more hospitable. Even though it was summer, the glaciers were still majestic. We encountered many animals along the way (no bears) who were greeting the new day by foraging for their breakfast.

Much to our astonishment we also met some curious species directing traffic at a construction site along the road at this early hour.

Having traversed the pass, for which the size of our RV was again just at the allowed limit, we came to the West Entrance of the park and a Restaurant where hordes of tourists were already feasting on the opulent western-style breakfast being served. Luckily we found an empty table and eagerly joined in.
Outside the West Entrance to Glacier National Park there are a lot more attractions and facilities than outside the eastern entrance at Saint Mary. The area seems to be geared toward hunting and fishing and family activities, that is, it is more "touristy." Unfortunately, we didn't have much time to enjoy any of it because we wanted to get to someplace within an easy day's drive to Calgary, Canada, where we had to turn in our camper the day after next. We arrived at the Buffalo Plains Campground near Fort Macleod, where we had been at the beginning of our journey, in time to enjoy the sunset. Sunsets on the prairie are more enjoyable to me because you don't have a bunch of mountains blocking your view of it.

That concluded day 28 of our trip.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Day 26 - 28 June 2009

We departed Cody, Wyoming, without seeing much of the famous town. Too bad, after all "Buffalo Bill" Cody founded the town and there is a Buffalo Bill Historical Center, a Buffalo Bill State Park, and a Buffalo Bill Reservoir. But we were in a hurry because my friend wanted to see a grizzly bear in Yellowstone National Park and travel the Going-to-the-Sun-Road in Glacier National Park before our trip ended.

So we headed up into the mountains on the scenic "Chief Joseph Highway" in northeastern Wyoming and entered Yellowstone Park at the northeastern entrance. We drove along much of the same stretch of road which we had traveled on our first time through the park and still didn't see any bears, not even a black one.

Disappointed we left the park at the northern entrance and headed for Helena, Montana, to try to take a boat ride through the Gates of the Mountains the next day, which we had missed because of bad weather as we passed through this area earlier.

There isn't much to report about this part of the trip, except that the campground we ended up in was the worst we had experiences so far. The campground itself wasn't that bad, only that it was full except for one slot between some semi-permanent campers. It looked like we were in a junk yard. But it served the purpose and that was day number 26.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Day 25 - 27 June 2009

Bright and early we drove into the park that surrounds the Devils Tower National Monument. In 1906 President Theodore Roosevelt proclaimed Devils Tower the first national monument under the new Antiquities Act to protect it from commercial exploitation. His action made Wyoming the home of both the first national park - Yellowstone in 1872 - and the first national monument.

The unusual shape of the tower is a geological story, but more interesting to me is the legend shared by several Indian nations of the Great Plains about the origin of the prominent butte. The Kiowa people say: "Eight children were there at play, seven sisters and their brother. Suddenly the boy was struck dumb; he trembled and began to run upon his hands and feet. His fingers became claws, and his body was covered with fur. Directly there was a bear where the boy had been. The sisters were terrified; they ran, and the bear after them. They came to the stump of a great tree, and the tree spoke to them. It bade them climb upon it, and as they did so it began to rise into the air. The bear came to kill them, but they were just beyond its reach. It reared against the tree and scored the bark all around with its claws. The seven sisters were borne into the sky, and they became the stars of the Big Dipper." This quotation is from N. Scott Momaday, The Way to Rainy Mountain, The University of New Mexico Press.

According to the National Park Service, approximately 5,000 people climb the Tower every year. We saw some climbers way up already, although it was only about 8 O' Clock in the morning, they must have gotten an early start.

Because the day on which we had to give back our RV was drawing near and we had many miles to travel and some more sights to see, we departed the Devils Tower toward the west, stopping only for a little lunch in one of the few towns that we encountered on the way. As was the case several times before, we had a buffalo burger - lean meat without hormones or antibiotics.

Along the way we had to make a major decision - do we go back to Grand Tetons National Park to see the Grand Tetons Range which we did not see because of the low clouds and fog, or do we go back to Yellowstone National Park to try to get a glimpse of a grizzle bear. As it turned out, my friend was more disappointed in not seeing a grizzly as in not seeing the Grand Tetons. Therefore we headed back to Yellowstone by way of Cody, Wyoming.

We were in Cody before sunset and without much ado the day, number 25, ended.

Day 24 - 26 June 2009

We departed Ellsworth AFB fairly early and after a stop for some breakfast we headed toward the Badlands National Park. The name tells all: This area is bad. That is, it is desolate, at times like a moonscape or some other uninhabitable planet. Unbelievable that people lived there and some still do. To see it was interesting, but I didn't need to do what some people did - they went for hikes that took several hours through this desolation. At the trail heads there were warnings to take plenty of water and to watch out for snakes - brrr! I was glad to get out after taking the scenic route through the park.

One refreshing tidbit was that on the highway leading to the park entrance we were the only car at a traffic stop where a nice young lady held up a "stop and go-slow sign" because one lane was closed due to construction. She had little to do because there were not many cars on the road. Although we were in the Buffalo Gap National Grassland and not in the Badlands directly, the area was still daunting because of the loneliness it projected. So there was this young girl, sucking on her water bottle which actually contained a block of ice which was slowly melting. Since we had to stop because it was time to let the one or two cars from the other direction pass the construction, we engaged the young lady in a conversation. We asked her what it was like to live out here in all these wide open spaces. She replied that it was fine, to her it was like living anyplace else. We told her that we live in Germany and that such wide open spaces are unheard of in Europe. She seemed amazed that one could not see "forever" as one can in her part of the world and that one practically cannot take a step anywhere in Europe or in other parts of the US without constantly running into other people. We in turn were amazed with what little regret she talked about living near the Badlands of South Dakota, but I guess it's all in what you are used to. Our conversation eventually was terminated by the car that comes by regularly with her substitute. The car then takes her for a potty break, she told us. I don't know why they go through all that effort, with the small number of travelers on that road and the absence of inhabitants nearby, she could easily take her potty break right there at her place of work.

As we were making our way out of the Badlands National Park we kept seeing signs announcing free ice water and coffee for 5 cents at the Wall Drug Store. Wall is a small town near the Badlands National Park on Interstate 90 named that way because it was built on the edge of the northern extension of the "Badlands wall." The major attraction is the Wall Drug Store, a large complex consisting of a pharmacy, soda fountain, museum, amusement center, mall, restaurant, and heaven knows what else we didn't get to see during our short stay. It takes up a whole block if not more.

The part about the free ice water and the 5 cent coffee is true. According to the brochure, they give away an estimated 5,000 glasses of ice water every day during the summer! And the coffee is self served, you fill a mug from an urn that sits near the place where the silverware is available and "if you have a nickel put into the wooden box," the sign says. There are several dining rooms that can accommodate hundreds of people, the one we were in was cafeteria-style and quite efficient with lots of nice young people behind the counter (this may be the best or only summer jobs they can get in Wall).

The free ice water came about this way: A young pharmacist from somewhere else in South Dakota bought the drug store in 1931. The town of Wall had 326 poor inhabitants, most of them farmers who'd been wiped out by the depression or the drought. Consequently, the drug store was not doing well. By 1936 the pharmacist was about to give up and to move away when his wife had the idea to offer free ice water to thirsty traveler who were passing by on a highway. It worked and they haven't been lonely since then. Once people stopped for ice water they ended up buying ice cream cones, etc., before they went on their way. The next summer they had to hire eight girls to help out and in 1982 the founder of the drug store wrote that Wall Drug draws up to 20,000 people on a good summer day! The American Dream come true.

Full of ice water, coffee, and whatever we had to eat (I forget) we moved on. We drove west past Rapid City, braved a major thunderstorm whose accompanying rain shower washed our RV better than any car wash could, and ended up in Wyoming at the entrance to the Devils Tower National Monument. It was getting dark so we settled into the only campground available without going into the park.

The campground offered a daily attraction: When it gets dark they show the movie "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," which was partially filmed near Devils Tower, at an outdoor theater, weather permitting. The atmosphere was spooky, befitting the theme of the movie! I watched a few minutes of the film, but the sound was bad and it was getting cold, so I opted to sit in the RV to write a blog entry. My friend called me several times to come outside to hear the group of young people who were singing folk songs around the communal fire pit. I was bound and determined to finish my narrative and when I finished, unfortunately, the singers packed up their guitars and retreated into their school bus which was converted into a camper. I regretted missing out on the folk music greatly, the blog could have waited, no one reads it anyway. This was one of those opportunities that will never come my way again. Oh well, thus ended day 24.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Day 23 - 25 June 2009

We departed the Crooked Creek Resort bright and early so as to catch the morning sun shining on the faces of the presidents on Mount Rushmore - and we saw the morning sun on their faces, from far away already. It seems that you can't escape the great men's solemn gaze if you are anywhere within several miles of Mount Rushmore in the direction that they are facing. The detail of the sculptures is amazing, even the rim of Theodore Roosevelt's glasses can be seen and the eyes seem to be alive because of the light effect in the hollowed-out pupils.

It was a monumental job (if you pardon the pun) to carve these, to me, perfect likenesses. Many tons of stone had to be blasted away at the cost of millions of dollars, an enormous engineering feat in itself as can be seen by looking at the photograph of what the mountain looked like before it became the home of these distinguished heads of state (pun intended).

Having said that, I can't suppress the question that came to me while looking at the great work of art: Why? No doubt the great men for whom this monument was created deserve our respect and admiration, but that is already being done in a myriad of ways, even in daily life. Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln we encounter daily as we handle our money and "Teddy" Roosevelt is present in almost every home that has children, in the form of the Teddy Bear. From reading the information posted at the Mount Rushmore Memorial this undertaking was a private effort, financed by donations and federal money. But, I could not help getting the feeling that there were some people involved, including the artist, who were mainly interested in their own aggrandizement. I can't say any more about this, it is just a feeling I got from reading the narratives associated with photographs of the initiation, progress, and dedication of the project.

Furthermore, what for me was distracting from the solemnity that could accompany a traditional site such as this was the bombastic architecture that makes up the memorial. A huge parking garage system (buses one way, vans and trailers another, and cars yet another), heavy stone arches with rows of flags - reminiscent of sites where Nazi rallies took place, and a huge cafeteria that could hold many busloads of tourists formed the core of the memorial. It is run by a private enterprise and therefore only the view of the presidents is free and that one can get from miles away as I said at the beginning. Actually, there is no entrance fee to the memorial, only a $10 parking fee. So if you are hardy and like to hike, you can walk to the memorial from some distance away because there is no parking allowed for some distance on the road leading to the memorial.

We stayed only a short time at the memorial, you can only take so many pictures and look up at the great men so many times, so that we were able to depart the area just as the masses of tourists started to arrive. As we drove away the great men kept watching us, especially since we then toured Custer State Park which lies within viewing distance from Mount Rushmore.

The highlight was a scenic drive along the Needles Highway which owes its name to the odd rock formations found there that resemble the eyes of sowing needles. But what was most exciting, and at times frightening to my friend in the passenger seat, were a series of small tunnels (small as in short, narrow, and low). A brochure had warned me that large RVs should avoid this route because of the narrow tunnels and the lack of turn-around possibilities near the tunnels. But, according to the information in the brochure our RV was just small enough and the nice man at the entrance to the park who took our $15 entrance fee did not say anything about the tunnels, so we pressed on. The park was very scenic, lots of picture opportunities and the weather was perfect. The first few tunnels were a piece of cake, we had lots of room to spare on the sides and on top, but then they got narrower and lower so that my friend suggested several times that we take the next opportunity in the middle of the woods to turn around before we got stuck in a tunnel. Of course, I insisted that the brochure indicated that we would fit and the nice man at the gate surely would have warned us, unless he was nearsighted or otherwise unable to tell what size our RV was. We finally came to the one tunnel that, according to the brochure, was the "show-stopper" for larger RVs. As we entered the tunnel my friend started saying her prayers which soon ended in a gasp as the irregularly shaped walls of the tunnel came withing less than an inch of the outside rear-view mirrors. I was less worried about the mirrors than about the top of the camper since I had no way of knowing how close to the ragged ceiling of the tunnel we were coming. I just held my breath and inched forward, if I would have heard the roof scraping or the mirrors touching the walls I would have tried to back out gently, hoping for a minimum of damage. But, lo and behold, the tunnel did not get any narrower or lower and soon we saw a throng of onlookers at the exit of the tunnel applauding and cheering as we exited. They made me feel real good for having traversed the tunnel without a scratch even though I think some of them were hoping for someone to get stuck in the tunnel so that they could take home a photograph of the hapless individual. Instead they got a picture of a triumphant me at the exit of the tunnel.

The scenic Needles Highway led us to a very nice recreation area on Sylvan Lake where we stopped and had a little lunch and then drove on through the rest of the park, occasionally seeing bison and deer, but no other animals. We avoided the much advertised Crazy Horse Memorial because of the commercialization that we saw at Mount Rushmore and which we expected at the Crazy Horse Memorial. Besides, we had seen pictures of the sculpture of Chief Crazy Horse.

We arrived at the Ellsworth AFB campground outside Rapid City to find the campground full. But the nice man who ran the campground offered us a spot in their "overflow area" where they put people when the main campground is full. The site had electricity, but no water and no facilities and was way out at the edge of this sprawling Air Force Base. We had planned to go into town to get something to eat and to do some laundry, but none of that because we were afraid that we would not be able to find our way back to our campsite in the dark. We made do and when loudspeaker all over the base warned of possible lightning strikes (the Air Force stops all refueling, munitions handling, and other activities that could be affected by a lightning strike) we stayed put. No lightning strikes, not even a thunderstorm materialized, but the taking-off and landing of B-1 bombers kept us entertained most of the night. But we survived and thus ended day 23.

PS: Some kind soul sent me the following explanation.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Day 22 - 24 June 2009

The first part of this day was another excursion into the past, that is, we visited places that are a part of American history. Again we crossed paths with the famous Oregon Trail which thousands of settlers traveled to, hopefully, find a better life.

The first stop was Guernsey, Wyoming, which had been another major stopping, resting, and refitting point similar to the one we had visited in Montpelier, Idaho. At a bend in the Platte River outside what is now the town of Guernsey there is a large flat area on which the Oregon Trail travelers apparently made their stop. At the edge of the flat area some cliffs rise up to a moderate height. These cliffs consist of a soft rock into which hundreds of travelers have carved their names and often the dates when they passed by here. This supposedly was a sort of “peg board” for leaving messages for those that followed. The names and dates indicated that the travelers were alive and had reached this point in their journey. There apparently are some records of some of those people whose names are carved into the stone – some made it to their destination, some didn't.

Near the cliffs, at the edge of the river, there also was pony express station, now commemorated only by a stone marker with an inscription. Further down the road the ruts made by the wagons can still be seen because they were literally carved into the rocky ground. Year after year thousands of wagons traversed the same ruts so that now at some places the ruts are six to eight feet deep. As I said before about the cliffs, it is soft rock, but nevertheless – rock.

A few miles to the east is the famous Fort Laramie. It was established to protect the settlers, who were moving west, from the Indians. Fort Laramie was never a fort as forts are seen in the movies, with high palisades and a gate through which the cavalry rode. Fort Laramie was more like a trading post. A number of buildings, some housing soldiers, some accommodating families of officers, some sheltering horses, and at least one store where the travelers passing through could buy some of the necessities of life made up Fort Laramie. Indians came to trade there too. The role that Fort Laramie played in the settling of the West is an entire story in itself. How the West was won is worth a separate study. A book about this period of time which I found fascinating (roughly 1850 – 1890) is called “Bury my Heart at Wounded Knee” by Dee Brown. It tells the story of the westward expansion of the United States from the Indians' perspective. On the whole, not an era for which the United States can be entirely proud of.

After a little lunch in the RV while parked at Fort Laramie we struck out for the Black Hills in South Dakota. The trip through eastern Wyoming was uneventful, the weather was good, and impressive were the miles and miles of grassland through which we traveled.

Toward nightfall we came into the Black Hills and found refuge in the campground called “Crooked Creek Resort” near Mount Rushmore which we hoped to visit the next day. The term “Resort” was an exaggeration, but it sufficed to bring day 22 to close.

Day 21 - 23 June 2009

Colorado sure is scenic! We left the Air Force Academy and drove on back roads past Denver. We were headed toward Golden, Colorado, home of the Coors brewery. We went through peaceful valleys, through quaint little villages, and along rushing mountain streams. One got the feeling of being out in the wilderness, but in fact we were only a bend in the road away from civilization. I guess the area we drove through (just west of Denver) is an area where people who work in Denver live, or at least retreat to on weekends. New houses in a style that fits into the countryside, made of wood and native stone, are sprinkled throughout the valleys and along the mountainsides.

Golden is an interesting town, quite old for that part of the country. Adolph Coors (the last name was probably Kurs or Kurz in the original German) founded his brewery in the late 1800s, at first quenching the thirst of early settlers, miners, and adventurers. The excellent mountain water helped further the popularity of the brew so that it now is distributed nationwide. We didn't spend a great deal of time in Golden, except for the main street there wasn't a whole lot more unless one made a visit to the brewery or to the miner's museum. We didn't have the time nor the inclination to do either, so we had a little lunch, perused some shops, and pressed on toward Boulder.

Boulder, Colorado, is a bustling city, well-known for its university and various other (mainly environmental) research institutions. We were on a tight schedule because we wanted to reach Cheyenne, Wyoming, by nightfall, so we actually just drove through Boulder, stopping only for a coffee.

We did reach Cheyenne in time to secure a campsite at the F. E. Warren Air Force Base campground. Having been in the Air Force for 23 years does have its benefits. Sometimes the benefits are better than at other times. This applies to the Air Force campgrounds as well – some are better than others. The F. E. Warren campground wouldn't be bad if it weren't in a damp, swampy hollow near a creek. The location resulted in plenty of mosquitoes, such that it became almost impossible to spend any time outdoors. In addition, a thunderstorm with a mega downpour put the place under about a foot of water. Other than having to run from the campground office (where I had been trapped by the storm while I was using the Internet connection) to our RV site in the rain mixed with hail, we remained high and dry in our RV and closed out day 21.

Day 20 - 22 June 2009

We decided to stay at the Air Force Academy campsite for another night. We had decided to visit Denver, not just by passing through, but to actually spend most of the day there. And that's what we did. We paid for another night at the campground, ran some errands (post office, gas station, etc.) and departed for Denver. Our Navigator took us right downtown to the state capitol. After driving around several city blocks we finally found a suitable parking space and were on our way on foot.

Denver is a really nice city, at least what we saw of it. There is a fairly long shopping mall, actually a street with one store or restaurant after the other, without traffic, just with convenient shuttle buses. The shuttle buses are free, you just hop on or off as you like. They run every couple of minutes and stop every few hundred feet.

We rode part way, looked in stores, and walked part way. The stores we went into were mainly those that sold Western items. In one store the nice sales lady tried to sell me a nice, fur-lined leather jacket - except that the temperature on the outside was around 90 degrees and I couldn't get into the mood for buying a winter jacket. Of course, my friend had to ask the obligatory question: "Do you sell cow hides?" The answer was "yes," but luckily she didn't like any of them, even though the store offered to ship it to us so we wouldn't have to carry it around in this heat.

Unfortunately, this being a Monday, the museums were closed and to get into the US Mint required a reservation made well in advance, so we had a little lunch at a sidewalk restaurant and decided to visit the air conditioned State House.

The Colorado Sate House is a magnificent structure with golden (just like in Salt Lake City) drinking fountains, golden railings on the stairs, and golden doors to the talking elevator. Yes talking, because the floors are announced by a voice rather than by illuminated numerals as other more plebeian elevators do. There was an extensive braided rug exhibit stretching over the accessible floors and the rotunda of the State House. The usual gallery of US presidents and Colorado governors rounded out the tour. But alas, it finally was time to leave the air conditioned splendor and find our RV, which was no easy task since we had wandered in circles and around corners without paying attention to where we were going in relation to our parked RV.

We found our RV by trying to recognize buildings near where it was parked and by encirclement, e. g., we went around in circles until we finally stumbled on it. A little more than an hour later we were back at the campground at the Air Force Academy where we relaxed after a day in the big city and thus ended day 20.