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THE CART TRACK TO CALISTOGA!

THE CART TRACK TO CALISTOGA!


THE CART TRACK TO CALISTOGA

I 5 as it is today from LA

Now if someone REALLY wanted to put America back to work here is the mighty state of California
which has to be classed as a federal disaster zone when it comes to roads. I drive on BETTER and SMOOTHER county DIRT roads in Colorado !! This state really is a disgrace, the surfaces are bumpy,
chunks of concrete missing, potholes everywhere and the worst ride I have ever experienced. The joke
that has the audacity to call itself a freeway (I5) is about smooth enough for the early settlers to move
on in a wagon train and even that needs to be done with care. In the last 5 years that I have ventured
into California there has been ZERO improvement to the roads and in many cases most have got
worse in a big way. The only thing I have seen is major work on the SHOULDERS???? Jesus Arnie, I
don’t give a flying f### about the bloody shoulders I want something to DRIVE ON!! ……. and as for
this crap of leaving bridges without any resufacing as some prat has decided concrete doesn’t freeze
as quickly as rubberised finishes, well how about making them level with either side? flying off one
side of the Grand Canyon and then getting airborne again on the other hardly makes for a
pleasureable driving experience.

An “everywhere” occurence

Enough on the road rage. The morning starts off well or not, as overnight we have lost all 12 volt
power so now the fridge isn’t working along with a host of other services, but the engine and the
generator both start so be thankful for what we do have. Phil arrives and whisks Brenda off to Trader
Joes so she can reload on the world’s cheapest good quality wine. We slip away from Warner
Brothers and make our way to the joke freeway. Now the first time we went up this cart track it was
laughable to see the colors in the road, huge red streaks and then a complete white stretch where
farm produce open topped trucks had shed their load over the bumps with load after load of
tomatoes deposited and then truck loads of white onions. I remember last time a truck had lost its
load of onions in 20lb bags and the freeway was at a standstill as people were looting the freeway
for bags of onions!!

Bumperty, bumperty bump and chunks missing

The lunacy of California driving continues unabated as we procede northbound, meaningless signs
adorn the road with “FINES DOUBLED IN CONSTRUCTION ZONES”…… nice idea but cock all
construction going on in the 300 miles + that I was driving. Some loopy sign about vehicles towing
limited to 55 mph, again nice idea but many places it wasn’t safe enough or smooth enough to attain
55 mph ! Periodically I achieved 60 but then regretted it as we were airborne again. When I did hit 60
I was still the slowest vehicle on the road as the brain dead hammered past in pouring rain to add to
the fun.

Nothing ever properly repaired

Refuel at California prices and notice the front passenger tire looks low?  Maybe a concussion
impact has nearly knocked the tire off the rim. It’s down to 40lbs from 110…….. doesn’t look good but
pump it up with truck stop air and off we go again. Might be dirt in the valve core or maybe they didn’t
tighten the core up fully ?

Still with no DC12 volt system time to find a Walmart and check the batteries again. Sure enough one
is a terminal case so buy two new ones and fit them tomorrow. The drive continues, and more rain
and now a $14.00 rip off toll fee to cross a bridge ?

At last !

Never mind Calistoga is in sight and we roll in tired and thankful we are still in one piece……..
everything else can wait until tomorrow!

TONY DOWN

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  • 10/19/2011 8:55 AM Jim Crain wrote:
    Tony, Just finished the trip to Hollister and found the same experience as you on I5. What a rotten drive. I was very happy to escape CA with my rig still intact. Thanks for the post. Jim
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PHOENIX TO PHILLY

PHOENIX TO PHILLY


PHOENIX TO PHILLY

Ready to roll in Cave Creek

Wednesday morning and grateful for the one hour time differential time to resecure that Beemer and
set off for Los Angeles and complete the parental round up with a quick visit to Brenda’s son Philly or
Phil to his friends. Phil has been out scouring the neighbourhood looking for places to park a 60′ rig in
the middle of downtown Burbank !

The Beemer is lashed in, small valve stem problem on a back set of wheels sorted and we are
unplugged and off to join I10 and wend our way into California. Back down I17 to the 101 loop which
it seems they are trying to widen and put in an extra lane. On the 10 and finally down to two lanes and
now the wind starts again with a crisp 30 mph cross wind making driving difficult and unpleasant.

Valves resecured

Refuel at Flying J and cross the border but don’t get stopped by the fruit and firewood police this time
so on into the gale which has now picked up and become a dust storm.

Into the dust storm

My new birthday present of “Miss Garmin” now tells us there is traffic ahead and she is thinking about
re-routing us! These things have come a long way!!

“Miss Garmin” warns of impending trouble

Into Palm Springs and pouring rain, after a brief respite in an area completely becalmed, which must
have been the eye of the storm, and now I guess its TOO windy for all the windmills which are all
stopped. The rain gets worse as does the standard of driving and lunatics are aquaplaning around
hitting the barrier and sliding up the banks beside the freeway……… Safari rumbles on between 55-60
and is still the slowest moving vehicle on the freeway, but we are still on the freeway unlike several
others.

No rain  in  Palm Springs……. yet

Yuk !

Into Burbank and find the guide Phil who directs us to our overnight parking alongside the Warner
Brothers lot. 2 beers later and any thoughts of moving further on up the road are done. Dog walking
complete over to Phil’s place for a hand crafted Margaritta. Phil has an exceptionally nice shared
apartment very convenient to all his acting and singing requirements and shows us his latest fun
film. I think Brenda was as pleased as I was to see Phil has given up all the “college” wild arse
ideas of veganism, alcohol abstinence and is now even smoking a pipe!

Pretty good margaritta and then to an Irish Pub for a couple of pints and a small meal. The day is
done, another family tick in the box and 420 miles closer to our destination.

TONY DOWN

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NOT SO FAST TO NAPA

NOT SO FAST TO NAPA


NOT SO FAST TO NAPA

The annual pilgrimage to Napa is planned, reservations made and all is due to begin on Monday 3
Oct. The Safari has it’s new tires, new tags, time cards for Dolores and Cortez School Districts are in,
the lawn is cut and the fridge loaded. Just the last minute loading of clothes, dogs (6), and Luna the
cat.

Sunday morning the Safari bursts into life and off I go to refuel ($200) and LP gas ( $100)…… all done
back in the park and connect up with the trailer now that Brenda has her NEW directions sorted out
using her previous experience as a cheerleader. So far, so good ………. but now the generator won’t
start !! A frustrating afternoon unable to resolve anything and now the bloody Safari won’t start either!!!
I’m beginning to lose it ! Frantic phone calls to Howard our RV Guru and as no answer there more
calls to other traveling RV experts. Seems everybody is on vacation and things are looking bleak.

Monday morning and still no answers from RV experts. Nothing for it but to try and resolve what I
believe to be a power issue in the battery bay. The generator just clicks! same noise that you get
when you try and start a car with a bad battery…….. just the click, click, click of the solenoid trying to
engage the starter motor. Well it could be a connection, bad earth, corrosion etc, etc. Let’s eliminate
all of the above. All batteries cleaned, all connections polished back to gleaming copper…… no
change…… just clicks faster!! About 11’ish Howard rings and he will be round later in the afternoon.

Battery cleaning time!

Better

Howard arrives, immediately says its a voltage shortage and its one battery dragging the others
down causing all the problems. Bad battery removed, everything now works!  No need for all the
hi-tech diagnostics to tell me it was the fuel pump, computer, cam shaft position sensor and any
other mysteries of the CAT engine…. no, very simple a NASTY battery!

Trying to recover lost time contestants must now depart at 0430 and make their way to Cave Creek
where they will find their next clue. Amid the non stop barking from the dogs the final bags are loaded
and Starship Safari slips from her dock at 0440. Moving through the time continuum we gain an hour
as we make Arizona and slide into a roadside docking area in the Cave Creek recreation area. Not
exactly a pull through but 50 amp right beside the road. Plugged in and not yet noon AZ time contact
a happy daughter to announce all is well and we WILL finally get to see one year old grandchild
Sophie.

Cave Creek and roadside 50 amp

Next up get the Beemer out…….. but once again thanks to the delights of the atrocious roads of
northern AZ my bike has once more shed all its 6 tie downs and is once again on its side in the trailer
……. I’m less than amused ! 30 mins of struggling with 850 lbs of Bavarian finest and its upright and
out of the trailer.

On the road by 1230 and meet up with Sally and grandchild at her apartment. Plan is to go to the zoo
and we will ride the Beemer. Zoo is done now time for some ice cream over in Scottsdale. Sophie
now suitably fed she becomes more amiable to being held so endures Grandfather’s touch without
too much resistance. All too soon time for fond farewells and OUR visit to a quality restaurant.

One happy daughter

A snowcone brain freeze…. and look what it did to my hair

Sophie with Grandad


Sally and father, Ian, take a baby break over icecream

Amazing what you miss when you are in the mountains. Last year when we were down for the
Buckeye Trial it had to be a visit to Red Lobster and this year would have been the Char grilled fillet
at Harolds on Monday and then a visit to P.F Changs on Tuesday. Well we are back on the Tuesday
schedule so PF Changs it is ! The weather has changed from strong winds and blowing dust and
now we have some warm rain to contend with but its intermittent  so press on without the rain gear.

Standard “memory” meal with lettuce wraps, crab and cream cheese wantons and then duck for
Brenda while I opt for my favorite of shrimp in lobster sauce.

Meanwhile outside the rain has intensified and is no longer warm! Rain gear on for the 20 mile run
back to the RV. Yes it stings but we make it back in one piece despite some clown driving straight
through a huge puddle that I was trying to avoid and covering us in a mighty bow wave!!

TONY DOWN

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BACK TO SCHOOL

BACK TO SCHOOL


BACK TO SCHOOL

The Mesa Verde “Bluebird” tour bus

During my time driving the Mesa Verde tour bus Bluebird I always had a 45 minute stint waiting for
the guests to emerge from the Cliff Palace tour and the time was most often spent up in the picnic
area. I had been trying to get a picture of the elusive “local” bluebird but without any sucess as they
seem to take off immediately the camera is pointed in their direction. One day I’m sitting at the table
when one lands on the table in front of me…….. and then walks every which way after crumbs…….
sod’s law the camera is in the bus!

Next day I’m armed with camera ……. NOTHING ! ……..but then on day 3, it comes back, hops about
and then sits in a tree over my head where I can finally focus the mini camera and get a worthwhile
shot.

The “elusive” Mesa Verde Bluebird

It seems to have gone very quickly, but its time again to be out scouring the countryside for lost
children and bring them in for another year at their place of learning. This time last year I was very
much the “newbie” and only working for one school district so my ration was fairly meagre to say the
least. This year with 3 school districts and the added bonus of Mesa Verde I should be fairly busy.

Cortez has kicked off with it’s “in service” day and exams have been taken and passed. This week
Dolores has it’s “new look” presented with Kathy as the Boss and Transportation Director, Wes from
Mancos, doubling up as the Dolores mechanic. Not sure how many routes will be up for grabs but
certainly Lena’s is available as she is now with Cortez on a full time basis.

The Team Mancos tour bus ready for a spot of mountain driving

The Mancos team are having a “drive-around” on Friday with all of us taking turns behind the wheel
as we take in all our mountain venues and get a chance to see where the school sports fields are for
the upcoming football season. I seem to remember the away teams were on the road nearly every
other day so this year I hope to get some pretty good trips instead of filling in for everybody else. Not
sure who has retired and who is still on the team but Friday will tell.

More mountain bends in the Telluride area

The Mesa Verde National Park driving lasts until the end of October with the Wetherill Tram operation
closing after Labor Day when that side of the park shuts for the winter. I’m hoping that with some of
the drivers now on full time school routes I will get a bigger crack on the Tour Bus which is without
doubt my favorite task, not quite so fond of the employee shuttle bus run which requires getting up at
0330!!

My school duties opened up with a Friday afternoon run on my well known D11 route and all was
going well until I pulled up at a little boy’s house and he then tells me he has moved and we passed
his house some 2 miles back!! Since then all has gone smoothly having taken over Karen’s Rico run
on the small Bluebird Vision while she is on holiday in Taiwan.

The Rico run sports car

I should have been on a Saturday sports trip to Monticello  taking the High School girl’s Volleyball
team but on arrival at the school no signs of anyone ? Further investigation reveals the first screw up
of the season and its a home game so clearly I’m only going back to the bus barn.

Two weeks on the Rico run watching the start of the fall colors, a week with Cortez relearning some
route changes and then another week driving the old D11 run and a fistful of activity runs with two trips
taking football teams to places far and wide and also the girls volley ball teams to Telluride and
Ignacio.

The girls just keep winning

Throw in another middle school activity of a two bus day driving up a mountain on some very dubious
roads which started off as dirt and then became rocks and more rocks something akin to Pipeline in
the Scottish. Needless to say the two buses chosen for this mission were manuals, and I can now
see why !!

Steep and washboardy

Through the Aspens and into the rubble field climb

Finally after crashing our way up the rubble in 2nd with delicate throttle control we make the stop
point  and let off the climbers to climb Helmet Peak which they all do within the 4 hour time limit….
quite a hike!

Made it !

About 4 miles to the summit

TONY DOWN

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THE PUSH FOR THE SUMMIT

THE PUSH FOR THE SUMMIT


THE PUSH FOR THE SUMMIT

The towering might of the Eagle Falls with its summit in the clear

With the arrival of the Disney Team late on Thursday night and favourable conditions, apart from
summer monsoons, all appears to be good for a major attack on the summit at Eagle Falls. The
Disney Team were delayed as Sneezy was having a bad allergy attack and his Claritin wasn’t
working too well and Grumpy had major reservations about working with Sleepy and Dopey.

Not quite sure where Snow White is, some say she is sleeping or being from Hollywood may be in
rehab after eating an apple and police are currently holding a wicked witch for questioning as foul
play is suspected. The “MO” seems to be similar to another “Cold Case” involving Little Red Riding
Hood and a wolf.

With variable conditions in the mountains and no sign of the falls run off decreasing the teams are
now getting pushed for time before next month’s expected snowfalls. Temperatures are down 10
degrees and thunderstorms are forecast for the forseeable future.

At Base Camp teams have all had photographs taken and press releases have been issued but so
far no signs of anything other than treks to Camp 2. We get the impression that nobody wants to be
the first to leave and show their route, but as time is pressing they need to get underway very soon or
miss the window.

The French Team of Jacque and Claude at Base Camp


The well groomed Kiwis are quietly confident

The latest in “dayglo” colorful climbing gear from the 6 man Disney
Dwarf Team

Dawn breaks, and all the climbers try to put her together again, but to no avail! Never mind, the
weather looks good and the French try to sneak away before the others have noticed. The Base
Camp Paparazzi immediately followed, eager to get first footage of the French team’s progress.

Day 1 reports are now in ! The French are going well and have made it to Camp 2. They passed by
Travelocity and scaled the rocks into the void behind the Bismarck Falls and picked their way
through the Stalactites and Stalagmites  ( tights come down if you remember! ). They slithered their
way across the wide expanse of Frog Falls and the raging white water and then came down the far
side to Camp 2 where they are drying out and staying the night.

Jacque and Claude reach the Bismarck Cavern

Slow progress in the darkness behind the falls

Dry rocks at last after the fast flowing torrents of the Frog Falls

Happiness is arriving at Camp 2

Shortly after breakfast the Team Kiwi from New Zealand left Base Camp and followed the French to
The Bismarck Falls and Cavern. All went well until the Frog Falls crossing where the gnomes boots
proved totally unsuitable on the slippery rocks and algae. They should, perhaps, have copied Jacque
and Claude and used the Wellington which the French now favor after the dicking they recieved at
Waterloo.

The Kiwis surge on passing Travelocity to the Bismarck Falls

They make the Cavern

Slippery going behind the Falls

Through knee deep algae and fast flowing water they make the far side

Having made it to the far side they elected to bypass Camp 2 (and the French) and press on to Camp
3 on the opposite side of the fjord where conditions were much drier for the ovenight stop.

Dry at last at Camp 3

Back at Base Camp the American Disney Team were in no hurry to depart and Sneezy showed off his immense strength lifting Sleepy and bed over his head ! When they finally left they were in good spirits
which seemed to be of a “Jack Daniels” variety which clearly got out of hand when Dopey pushed
Grumpy into the Fjord.

Sneezy shows off his “power lifting”

More “high spirits” as Grumpy is about to get an unexpected bath, with
a “helping hand” from Dopey

Passing Travelocity the rather overweight dwarfs of Sleepy, Doc and Happy had a hard time trying to
squeeze their rotund forms along the ledge behind the waterfall. Sleepy became so tired he was
forced to bivouac at the cavern entry.

Sneezy in power lifting action as Happy tries to squeeze through

Sleepy takes “time out” at the Cavern

Progress across the Frog Falls was slow and ponderous as Sleepy had to be carried the entire way
by Sneezy while Grumpy was very annoyed over his earlier forced bath. The Disney Team also elected
to push on to Camp 3 for the nightstop.

Sneezy carries Sleepy the entire way….. or is he going to toss him in the
Falls ?

With all teams safely in Camps 2 and 3 for the night the projected storm arrived. Tomorrow another
day of wind and rain and then clearing out. Some trench foot reported from the Kiwis and the French
suffered a bad bottle of wine and Sneezy was a bit tired having humped the incumbent Sleepy all the
way to Camp 3.

Day 2, and the French were up early now having to make up some ground on the other teams who
had slipped past while they were at the vino. They quickly descend to the Eagle Head Pass and are
up and over it making good time en-route to the base of the North Face. Claude took a nasty tumble
on the head of the Eagle and was lucky not to be swept away by the torrent.

The French quickly attack Eagle Pass

Much French cursing from Claude

The route up the North Face will require many pitons and a lot of rope work to scale the vertical wet
rock so Jacque takes the lead ahead of the limping wimping Claude. While the safety helicopter
has them on HD TV we can zoom in and see the severity of the task.

The Helicam shows the French working their way up the North Face

Hard work on the wet rocks

In the early afternoon they make it over the ledge and set off into the boulder field but due to the storm
we lost visual on the dynamic duo as the clouds rolled in.

On top at last, now the boulder field to  work through

Time to find the shelter of Camp 5

News just in from the Kiwi Team……….. Later start than planned, tents full of mist and low cloud but
all clear now with flaps open…….. must have been the Fosters !!  Good progress over the Pass and
slow and steady along Lower Balcony. Hillary step tricky but all team members over……. now at the
base of the South Col……. whose bloody idea was this ?

The Kiwis use the beak to scramble over the Eagle

Along Balcony and over the adverse slippery Hillary step to the daunting
sheer cliff of the South Col

Tough going up the Col……… a lot more water than expected…… bloody awful boots!……. no grip……
thank God for pitons and good old rope !

Skillful climbing from the New Zealanders to make the top ledge 

Finally made it over the first ledge………. Summit in sight……….. storm rolling in…….. must rest……
will try for summit in the morning…….. low on beer !

…… almost there !

Day 2 with Disney and we avidly await their departure to see their chosen route, which so far, remains
unknown apart from Team Leader Doc. From Camp 3 they cross back over the Fjord and scale the
Eagle Pass…….. but what’s this?  ……… from the head of the Eagle they are going straight up !!  yes,
they are going to take on the “Parton Cleavage” ……. a giant fissure between two mammoth rocks……
well it could work as dwarfs are bigger than gnomes …….. and if they slip and fall? ……. what a nice
way to go!

Happy, and who wouldn’t be, is up first using the “Jack  and the Beanstalk ” technique with Sneezy
and Dopey acting as hand and foot holds until he reaches the crack. From there using his bulk he
can secure pitons in the soft rocks for others to follow.

Doc’s well thought out plan has them over “Dolly’s Rocks” and the “Cleavage” and they try for Camp 6
as the storm clouds gather. However, the intense efforts of Sneezy humping Sleepy up the Falls has
paid its price and despite a superdwarf attempt they cannot get him onto the final ridge. With nightfall
and wind and rain approaching they elect to bed down at Camp 5 and wait for morning.

A superdwarf effort from Sneezy in the gathering gloom as the storm
rolls in

Day 3, nothing from the French or the Kiwis but Team Disney are in radio contact. They say the worst
of the storm has passed and Doc has reviewed the team and making his decision as to who will
make the first attempt on the summit. Sleepy woke up suddenly during the night and is now confirmed
with a chronic case of insommnia. Bashful has finally come out of the closet and admitted he is gay.
Sneezy has contracted a terrible head cold to add to his other malady. Happy is grumpy as he has
been told he will not be on the final ascent. Grumpy is even more pissed off than usual as he has been
left in charge of the restless talkative Sleepy.

No ! I’m not Happy you dimwit……. I’m Grumpy !

Final pairing for the summit attempt confirmed as Team Leader Doc, and the humper and dumper
Dopey.

At first light the duo set off for the summit and after treking along the ridge they arrived at a simple
mound denoting the highest point. With the wind still howling the American flag was planted and
Doc took the salute while Dopey gave a “high 5” and hummed the anthem.

Team Leader Doc takes the salute as the American flag flies over the
Eagle

Some time later, with improving weather, the scene was re-enacted for the World’s press.

” Team Disney summit the Eagle”

TONY DOWN     Director

No gnomes or Dwarfs were harmed during the making of this epic documentary

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THE OLD AGED PENSIONER

THE OLD AGED PENSIONER


THE OLD AGED PENSIONER

The clock ticked over and the magical number was recorded and 65 goes into the books with all it’s benefits! …. now at last I can get half price ski lift tickets, order off the back of the menu, park in senior
citizen slots and claim my bus pass…….. just a minute ……. I’m the bus driver!

Joy of joys, a bigger magnifying glass for the workshop, a stronger set of “readers”, less teeth to
brush, more notepads (lest we forget), zimmer frames and hoverounds everywhere, and a ton of
walking canes to fall over.

Well I suppose there is some good news in so much that having paid into a very small pension fund that was started when I retired from the RAF it has finally matured and is supplimenting funds. Staying
on that side of the Atlantic I’m now eligible for my UK Old Age Pension as I’ve paid National Insurance contributions since the age of 17!! Yet another load of forms and hoops to jump through but the deed
is now done and cemented after I sent them my “original” birth certificate to prove who I was and that
I’m still alive and kicking and paying UK taxes.

With any luck this new found income will allow me to mount my worthy charger once more and ride
into battle on the Ahrma circuit in 2012 (before the World ends) and get back to some serious arse
kicking after the one year trials sabatical!

So beware, you varlots, Sir Antony rides again and is much determined to vanquish all ye foes
aboard his trusty mount of “No Excuses” and his number two horse of “Bullet” who may yet be
given her head. Let the jousting begin!

“No Excuses” charges on at the Battle of Milliken

“Bullet” brushes all aside in the Sands of Sandia

…….and lest we forget there is another beast, currently resting in a Denver stable, which may also see
the light of day in 2012, none other than “Superglitz”. Last crusaded at Sandia in 2008 by Grand Master
Mick Andrews this all conquering mount may return to the Battlefield where it reigned supreme.

Let the Red Cross strike fear into all

Superglitz wins the “Grail” in 2006

TONY DOWN  

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FIRST ASCENT

FIRST ASCENT

Posted by Tony Down at 8/19/2011 1:45 AM Categories: uncategorized

FIRST ASCENT    During the summer of 2011 many experienced teams of climbers have descended upon Dolores, the “Katmandu” of SW Colorado, to see if they could be the first to climb the Eagle Falls.

A sudden blizzard at the CC Base Camp delays operations
Of course the climb is considered far too difficult to attempt in full winter and with spring run off in the mountains August is perhaps the preferred month although there are risks of summer monsoon rains.

A team leader shelters from the “cats & dogs” of a summer monsoon
The Falls were recently opened to the public on 25th June and since then have been in full flow with many advanced expeditions arriving to plot possible routes over the gnarly rocks. First reports indicate this will not be an easy climb and so far two avenues of attack seem to be clear favorites.
From Base Camp all routes favor a trek under the gently sloping terrain of the “Bismark Plateau” where they can pass behind the main falls and cross to the other side of the fjord and then negoiate the fast flowing water before reaching  Camp 2.
Passing “Travelocity” the purple route crosses behind the  Bismarck Falls  before gaining Camp 2 on the far side of the fjord  A fairly flat crossing of the sandstone boulders and crevasses leads to the slippery and treacherous ascent over the Eagle Head Pass with it’s fast flowing torrents crashing down on all that try to cross. For those that make it a welcome respite on the relatively dry zone at Camp 3 at the base of the North Wall.

From Camp 3 the current teams favor different attacks to reach the summit with the French team planning on a direct assault on the North Wall while the New Zealand Expedition prefer the longer climb passing along Lower Balcony before clearing the Hillary Step and then scaling the tricky South Col.
Breaking news just in ……… we have just heard that a US contingent is entering the race with a team from Disney sponsored by cartoon favorite Snow White ! We await their arrival with interest. Father Christmas may send a team from the North Pole as they are in “low season” and have been practicing on rock overhangs and sheer walls without their traditional ice and snow hazards.

The North Pole Team show plenty of skills  Preparations are well under way with supplies arriving on a daily basis. Base camp is a sea of tents and activities with much testing of equipment and tentative exploratory treks to the Bismarck Plateau.
From the Cozy Comfort Base Camp teams were able to view the summit, which today was clear, and assess the massive challenge they face assuming they can clear either the North Wall or the South Col.

The Summit is finally clear of cloud
With water cascading down the falls and low cloud and mist over the “Eagle” teams decided on an exploratory trek to the rear of the falls to see if it was possible to make Camp 2 via the hazardous, but dry, Back Passage. Another untried route, but sherpas say it could be done if the cliffs can be scaled to gain access before the long repel into the Bismarck Plateau.

The “Eagle” shrouded in low cloud and spray

The unknown of the Back Passage

The French are first at the “Butt Massive” but state it was “trop difficile!”  With the French failing to find a route up the Back Passage they concentrated their efforts  on finding a way to Camp 2 via the Bismarck Falls and Plateau. By nightfall Jacque and Claude returned to Base Camp well pleased with their endeavours.

Jacque and Claude pose for a photograph at Camp 2

Claude guides Jacque down the lower reaches of Bismarck
Sir Edmund and the NZ Team set off for their attempt at the Back Passage claiming the  route requires more traditional skills for which they are famous. A long trek through the rock jumbles brings them to the base of the “Butt Massive” otherwise known as the “Back Passage” which was caused by a shifting of the Macdonald’s tectonic plates resulting in the obese overhang so often associated with Macdonalds.

Sir Edmund leads the team through the boulder field
The New Zealanders work their way down the “Plumbers Crack”
Sir Edmund directs the team up the Back Passage  Meanwhile back at the Cozy Comfort Base Camp we wait for the other teams to arrive  and will keep you up to date with any serious attempts on the summit.
TONY DOWN

 

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ANOTHER DAY, ANOTHER MESA

ANOTHER DAY, ANOTHER MESA

ANOTHER DAY, ANOTHER MESA

With some persuasion, I was eventually sent to the “other” Mesa on one of my “Off” days to learn to
drive the tram. Wetherill Mesa is on the other side of the Mesa Verde National Park and is certainly the
area less travelled by the the hoard of summer visitors, although it is becoming increasingly popular.
It is however home to Long House which is the second largest cliff dwelling being only one room less
than Cliff Palace on the other Mesa which has 151 rooms.

Long House at Wetherill Mesa

As part of the recovery program post the major recession 3 purpose built trams were given to the
National Park Service and Aramark is the operator, hence we get to drive them. The Park Service’s
answer to the Bullet Train operates at a cracking 15mph along a purpose built tram road some 5
miles in length. The road is now begining to break up and is just wide enough for the single tram to
pass so we have a crossover point where the incoming tram has to wait until the outgoing arrives
and then we are clear to go back to the start along the narrow one way road.

The trams are bio-diesel, a two car design seating 30 in the back car and 17 in the front plus the
Park Ranger and the driver. These trams take the tourists out to the Long House tour every half hour
between 1000 and 1600 and then we run a couple of “sweepers” to collect people before a final run
at 1730 to close the park.

The National Park Service 15 mph Bullet Train

The rear car is a foot wider than the front

Driving one of these is a bit trialslike as on nearly every corner, of which there are many, its all about
front wheel position to keep the back car on the road, and to make it even more fun on each of these
corners there is an under road culvet which is marked by two big posts hammered into the dirt on
both sides of  the road acting as section markers or a skiers slalom gate !

Approaching the uphill right slalom gate

The wider rear car just goes through….. see lower mirror!

Usually the first morning run is straight forward dropping off all the passengers at the Long House
Trailhead and then a gentle 5 mile meander through the park looking at all the wildlife of which there
is plenty including a 50 strong herd of wild horses who came up onto the Mesa after the 2000 fire and
have been there ever since.

Wild and free

At the water hole

My favourite horse, not that I’m a horse person, is a gorgeous roan stallion who I call “Hot Chocolate”.
The old stallion died last winter so there a four younger ones looking to take over the job. HC tends to
be just on the outside of the herd and gets chased off on a regular basis by a rather scruffy battle
scarred black male who clearly doesn’t like him.

“Hot Chocolate”

Other wildlife includes a multitude of squirrels and chipmunks and birds a’plenty. A very young
Kestrel landed in front of the tram and rolled over a couple of times from the impact, he then flew into
a tree and immediately fell out! Second attempt at the tree was better but his balance was poor.
Clearly this was Day1 of flight training and the “first solo” wasn’t going too well. About an hour later
he was gone.

The baby Kestrel takes time out after crashing on his first solo

Other things flying in the park this week were the Medivac Chopper who was called when a woman,
with a history of seizures had one!  Of course no medical bracelet or necklace and she didn’t have
her medication with her. Within 40 mins of the attack the ambulance had her out of the area and on
the chopper, all for only $12,000 on top of her $3.00 tour ticket! As they say you can’t fix stupid and
she was lucky we had someone on hand to kickstart her after her heart stopped 4 times.

The chopper lands near the waiting ambulance

all aboard for a $12,000 ride

While I enjoy driving the tram the Tour Bus still remains my favorite task but it seems I’m getting type
cast over here!

TONY DOWN

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PETROL, PETROL, EVERYWHERE

PETROL, PETROL, EVERYWHERE


PETROL, PETROL, EVERYWHERE

This years project complete

With the waterfall all completed it seemed that my summer tasking on major projects was done……. and then after another 10 hour driving shift I refill the Beemer and arrive home for
a couple of beers in the shade garden. ……. what’s this ?…….. a smell of petrol ?…… well
maybe I overfilled it ?……… no puddles so forget it and attack those welcoming beers.

Next day the same smell of gas but as nothing is apparent put it down to residual smells on
my gloves. Day 3, and riding home I’m getting a sensation that my right foot is getting WET !!
….. and then a slight burning sensation as he fuel has penetrated my sock and is now burning
my skin.

Inside and consult the Oracle “Google”, prompted by an earlier email from a blog reader
who also has the same Beemer, and sure enough there is the factory recall notice to tell me
the high pressure fuel lines and their quick disconnects are likely to fail spraying fuel onto the
riders right foot !

Consultation with a local Beemer man, who has the replacement parts, gives me the low
down on the subject and it seems the male portion of the connection fails or fractures and
can be eaten by the local crap fuel we are forced to use. Answer fit a metal part!

Well of course BMW in their wisdom and good customer relations will do the work if you
take the bike to them. Nice idea but my nearest dealer is 200 miles away in Grand Junction
and would you be foolish enough to ride 200 miles with high pressure fuel being sprayed
around all over the engine ? Well of course not so I would have to put it in the trailer and
tow it up there for an 8 hour trip + whatever time it would take them to fix. Therefore the
easy answer is to buy the upmarket parts from my local Beemer man, who can’t do the
recall as he isn’t a dealer, and do it myself.

These quick disconnects are obviously on the right hand side of the bike and under the tank
and burried in the bowels of the engine room under all the fairing. How to get in ? Easy if you
have the workshop manual but a bit Sherlock Holmes if you don’t. First undo all the crash
bar coverings including the chromed plastic bit that got broken when the bike fell over on the
Napa trip on the ghastly California cart track roads. Small “gotcha” with the puddle light as
that has to come off to boot!

Now for the main fairing but first remove the glove compartment cover where yet another
bolt lives! Now remove the right side turn signal, the wing mirror, and the moveable lower
air screen, and finally the side fairing itself.



Mirror, turn signal, lower screen, crash bar bits and the broken chromed plastic

Full right side fairing

At last the quick connectors are revealed and a quick start up shows one to be toast. Well
I’m replacing both but one at a time so start with the culprit. The disconnect is hardly
necessary as its broken off inside the female portion and requires the old screw in bolt trick
to remove the offending plastic and its O ring. With that removed now time to remove the
BMW crimped pipe clamp.

The broken quick disconnect

New units fitted, restart, no leaks, so happiness in the form of a few beers is on the Friday
night horizon after refitting nearly all of the right side of the machine.

New metal connectors fitted

All the Torx bolts and the puddle light

TONY DOWN

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WATER, WATER EVERYWHERE

WATER, WATER EVERYWHERE

WATER, WATER EVERYWHERE

The biggest and most awkward 400lb river rock…. but I had to have it !

Another day closer to the deadline for the waterfall and some progress on the next load of mega
rocks. Donny from across the road turned up with a tractor of sorts and we managed to haul some
big mothers back to the site.

The 800 pounder that will be the main front center piece

On reflection one is too big so that will be deposited in the lawn fir tree bed and I’m hoping tomorrow
we can lift the biggest one with chains and then gently lower same into place as the frontespiece
which will give all the necessary height. The pillars and cottonwood chunks have been removed to
make way for the tractor and if my measurements are correct  3 of these big rocks will form the front
and then it will be time for the plumbing.

Of course natural rock and natural waterfalls flow where they wish so to try and make rock behave is
not an easy task. I may have to resort to a little cheating and put a few beads of clear silicone on a
couple to control direction…… I’m sure it can be done, just not quite sure if I can do it.

While all the mega rock planning is going on wheelbarrow loads of river rock keep getting deposited
to cover all the holes between the big ones and once the plumbing is done I’ll be looking for a few
more tons to cover  the backside of the structure.

Other tasks for the day include an oil change on the Beemer (bus driver’s transport) filling in my UK
old people’s pension application and thinking about the weekly ritual of mowing and strimming which
could be deferred until Thursday night.

The day starts well with another Cadi load of rock and more washing of rock. Next up the Beemer oil
change and after a few referrals to Google I have the technique fine tuned and all is well now that I
have a Beemer oil filter wrench.

Donny turns up and the mega rocks are lifted and steered into place. With that all done time to think plumbing and off into town for the extra bits that I need. I get a bit of a runaround at the hardware store
but after dealing with dummies I finally get what I want and I’m back at the coal face armed with
stanley knife and screwdriver. By 2000 I’m done, the water flows, and its time for a beer and some
food.

Donny arrives with the mini tractor to tackle the “big one” with chains

All the front rocks in place

The back pillars are done and the 1000lb sandstone lump gets pushed in

Still enough room to work on the plumbing

Only problem was on splitter 4 where the pump lift can’t quite deal with my design but no worries I
will design a lower fall to take care of the problem. The splash trap seems to be working well and
most of the water is finding its way back to the lower pool.

Testing, testing…. the exposed pipe on the right needs adjustment

Now with 3 days to party time I only have to fine tune things and in fill….. and NO MORE mega heavy
lifting!

Another 0330 up to drive the 0500 Shuttle and finally back around 5 after a visit to a friend’s memorial
tribute in the Hollywood bar which should have kicked off at 4 but the son never turned up so it was
back to working on the pool and falls. A bit of struggling trying to get one of the falls right but after
several attempts at the jig-saw the pieces came together and it flows and looks natural.

The new look “Bismark Falls” with frog topping

What will become “Eagle Falls”

Dusk over “The Falls”……. time for a beer !

A butt crack of dawn start again on that Shuttle but more work on the pool completed after another
load of Cadi rock. Finally completed the in fill and all seems to be balanced and looking good. One
day off now to fine tune all the gaps and finish off the non water side. Time to start thinking pot plants
and where they will go. Noah has got the boot in favor of frogs so some adjustment to the whimsical.

Party Day -1 and counting so time to wrap up with yet more river rock and do the final accounting.
Down to 4 seasons for the required plants and they seem to have had a bad year of it and not much
is left that will go with the planned decor. Some grasses and sages are found and a few ground
cover rockery/alpine plants finish the job off.

The backside of the project needs extending again to accommodate the huge rock and a “masker”
is found to cover yet another visible red spot from the original selection process. The last of the river
rock is washed, bucketted in, and suitably scattered.

Edge needs to be extended ….. again!

Suitable black masking rock covers the red dot

New edge all filled in

A few more adjustments to the falls and the “perfect stone” is found, and it fits, for the new renamed
“Eagle Falls”. One of the frogs gets a job holding the dragonfly light and everybody else is located
amid the rocks.

 A bit Mt Rushmore, the Eagle head rock is found

Frog armed with dragonfly

A well read frog

“Swing…lo”

“I see they finally sunk the Bismark”

My “free canvas” now has the Louis XIV holes for the pot plants and by 2130 with lawns mown and
water flowing I’m finished on contract, and on time, and well within budget !  Now what would this
have cost if it had been contracted out to a landscaping company …… $10K  ?      $20K ?

10-20 tons of assorted rock                                     FREE

Pump, hoses, splitters and clamps                      $130.00

Whimsical frogs                                                        FREE

Plants various                                                            $80.00

Sweat equity                                                               Untold !

Working waterfall, on time, happy wife                 PRICELESS

 Party day, final clean up of residual junk, a few left over rocks, weed the side of the drive where the
rocks had been lurking and my task here appears to be done even if I’m as sore as hell and can
hardly move. So to recap, from this…………

The fish pond from the last 10 years



Start again

to this……. The new look with 6 waterfalls

……  and they all work

The backside all filled in and planted up



The ” action” side

I think I’m done with this project!

TONY DOWN

  

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