Heaton Bay, Colorado to Rocky Mountain NP

There was no rush to get to Rocky Mountain National Park.  We were within three hours of the park, and the route avoided the Berthoud pass.  We had been to the pass once before, just for fun, and the road is a steep, curving, tall bastard. I had difficulty with the altitude the night before, and sleep that night was a dear commodity.  I woke up feeling like I was swimming in oatmeal.  We were not in a rush to get going anywhere.

When we finally left, we fueled up and went looking for some caffeinated coffee.  Louise is on decaf lately and I miss my high octane coffee.  I survived on gallons of police coffee for years, and I occasionally miss the high octane stuff.  Today was one of those days.

The search for caffeine was unsuccessful, so we went off on a beautiful drive.  The route followed the Colorado River for most of the drive, and the mountains and forests are beautiful.  We did notice that Colorado must have some very stringent building codes, as everything looks like everything else.  Event the Target and Wal-Mart look like some upscale western, log, high priced condo. The longer I’m in Colorado, the more beautiful I realize it is, but I could never live here.  I suppose that under the surface I’m a rebel, and Colorado reminds me of the Stepford Wives.

deliteAround noon, I really needed a coffee.  We had just passed through a half closed small town.  The choices for coffee were either a mini mart attached to a gas station, or a place across the street.  Something in me said that the place across the street was the correct choice, so I went.  Coffee was 50 cents.  A cheeseburger was $4.05.  There was a sign at the order window that said ‘All the food is cooked to order.  If you can’t wait, leave’  Lunch suddenly seemed to be on the menu in addition to the coffee. Another sign, in the rear, but visible from the counter was ‘Dinner options 1. Take it 2. Leave it’ If just for the attitude, I liked the place.

pricesThe place is called Dari-Delite and appeared to have been there forever.  It took me a little time to realize that any place that looked like it had been there since 1959, in a town where over half of the storefronts and houses were closed, abandoned, or for sale, must be something special.  We ordered.  A coffee, a small soda, a cheeseburger, a hamburger (both will all the fixings  – chopped onions, pickles, nice leaf lettuce, real tomatoes on a seeded bun) and the $1 onion rings, about eight rings for that price, made the bill about $11, or generally what a large chain burger, French fries and a drink would cost for one.

They didn’t brew the coffee.  The coffee was from a bag, like a teabag in a cup and then filled with hot water.  Very smart on the part of someone, as the coffee isn’t ever stale.  Not Dunkin Doughnuts style coffee, but then I haven’t seen one of them in months,  Starbucks, yes, we’ve seen, but I’d rather gargle with turpentine than drink, or pay, for Starbuck’s.

We ate out in the sun at one of the picnic tables while watching the rest of the other customers.  We enjoyed the warm breeze, and when we finished, we wandered off to Rocky Mountain NP to get a spot to spend the night.  We passed Grant Lake, and the scenery on the west side of Rocky Mountain NP is great.  We entered the park, took our mandatory picture in front of the sign, and then drove past the outstanding scenery, the elk, the deer, so as to get a spot for the night.  We still had no reservations.  The campground on the far western portion of the park had vacancies, and the campground board said all the other campgrounds were full, but I decided to try the area where we stayed several years before, since I thought that there was a walk in campground.

rmp_entWe made it to Moraine Park, where I had made reservations before with difficulty, and there was a sign out indicating there was a campground vacancy.  At the reservation booth, the ranger sounded like I had obtained the last campsite in the area, but after driving around the campground I sensed that the manure factor was on the ‘Danger Will Robinson’ scale.  We had a spot, and were refused consideration for another vacant site, ‘there are no more’.  Since we had the last spot in the park, we took off to see the sites.

muskratWe stopped at a visitor center, purchased a pin for Louise and a sticker for the rear of the RV for me, and found out about a number of places to visit. We were off.  One of the selections was a trip to, and a walk around, Lily Lake.  There was supposed to be a drive there on a gravel road, to some cascades, but the road was closed when we arrived.  The lake was very nice; and we saw some muskrats that I first mistook for really small beavers.  It was a nice way to end the day, and the drive through the high country was really nice and satisfying.

I noticed a car wash that would accommodate the RV on the way to Lily Lake, so I took advantage on the way home and cleaned the RV.  We picked up some nasty dirt in Yosemite, and in the end, the RV looked very nice, especially for a vehicle that we’ve been living in for the last forty five days.  Estes Park didn’t appear to have changed since we were there last, and there was no evidence of any of the damage from the September 2013 storm that we’d heard about. None of the condos on the creek were in the process of repair, there were no eroded sections of creek, there were nothing that looked really new and renovated.  I’m sure that when we go down the canyons east of Estes Park, we may see something then.

I wanted to make an appointment at the Camping World dealership in Longmont on Wednesday to have the air conditioning on the coach portion of the RV looked at before we took off across he plains, but the dealership both didn’t answer the phone for the majority of that day, and didn’t have a spot open until July 14th.  This certainly isn’t Mansfield Ohio, for sure.

We returned to the assigned site.  The site was right on the road.  The RV barely fit in the parking space added onto the road.  The site was designed for parking cars and then sleeping in a tent in a tent site area, and not for parking a level RV.  There were tents all around us, up the hill, in a manner similar to what we experienced when we wee here the last time.  It took about 45 minutes to level the RV, and it looked more like a cribbing project than a parked RV.

tableWe were straight across from the dumpster, so every 10 minutes or so, someone would dump the garbage and slam the access door.  I looked at Louise and said “This site is the worst site we’ve had, since we left.  The park is beautiful, but the camping sucks.” Then I looked at the picnic table.  The table was older than some of the parents of my students back when I was teaching in 2000.  I’ve seen better piles of lumber in the dumpster at Home Depot than the lumber that made up the table at our site.  It took me ten minutes to find a level spot on the top of the table to place the grill so I could cook.  I leaned my knee up against the seat, and I got splinters.  There is no excuse for a site with equipment in this condition.

Let’s do some math.  No, please don’t close the browser, but math will help you appreciate why a table that looks more like firewood, and is completely unusable for a family with any kids, is a rip-off.  The site rents for $20 a night.  The park is always full, so even if we calculate a 90% occupancy rate, and the season runs from May 15 through September 6, about 115 days, the revenue from the site, alone, is about $2,000.  Even if it’s rented by seniors for the entire time, the revenue is still $1,000.  Yes the rangers, the ones that do get paid, will cut into that, but either they volunteer of get paid peanuts, on the order of less that $400 per week.  This place has lots of sites, and someone is bleeding the campground dry. Lumber ain’t that expensive, especially out here, and besides, if you haven’t noticed, several MILLION trees were killed by the bark beetle in he park, so there might be one or two trees hanging around to send to a mill.

In spite of everything, dinner was great.  I grilled steak, cooked potatoes, sautéed onions, and served creamed spinach. With some good music and our great company, we really enjoyed ourselves.  I wrote, and then enjoyed the connectivity that was available for some reason, and then it was off to bed.