Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Return to Gunnison Again

When our heat pump put a big dent in our Summer travel plans, we decided to head back to Gunnison. When we arrived in our favorite mountain valley town, we spotted a Winnebago Tour in our park that looked a lot like ours. (Except it had a working heat pump!)

Shortly after our arrival for our second stay in our adopted hometown this summer, the owners of Bullwinkle's twin stopped by to introduce themselves. Bill and Carrie are extended travelers who, as it turns out, we tried to meet up in Texas Hill Country a couple of years ago. We had been following each other's blogs for awhile and thought we were in close proximity. But, as often happens, our blogs were behind our travels and we missed each other. What a delightful surprise to find these fun folks here in Gunnison! We so enjoyed getting to know each other.

Actually, it's no surprise we hit it off with Bill and Carrie. Turns out we have more than our Tours in common. Our new friends travel with two kitties (and two dogs), too. This cutie is Tractor.

Our unexpected return to Gunnison also gave us more time for fun with friends Karen and Arvin.

We finally got our Jeeps together for an little off-roading above Blue Mesa Reservoir. We trekked through rain and hail on that fun journey. But, the views were worth it.

Grandsons Sam and Grady came along for the ride. Looks like Sam got a little Jeepin' practice in on the trail. He did great!

During our return to Gunnison, we also enjoyed catching up with Doug and Nona, who we got to know the night before we left last time. Doug, Nona, Carrie, Paul and I had a great hike on the Dillon Pinnacles trail.

Even in the least flattering light of the warm midday sun, the Pinnacles were impressive.

The trail offered sweeping views of Blue Mesa Reservoir, which is noticeably low this year. Last Summer, the full lake was an immense impressive sight. After last year's mild winter, we've heard reports that the lake is down as much as 35 feet, and it definitely shows.

We had so much fun on the Pinnacles hike that we did it again when fellow fulltiming friends Fred and Sharon arrived in town. We met these two fun folks near Zion National Park last Summer. They made a detour from their toasty travels to meet up with us and cool off in Gunnison. We really enjoyed sharing our favorite little town and its scenic surroundings with them. Thanks so much for coming our way!

Fred and Sharon's visit was well-timed. They arrived just in time to see the USA Pro Cycling Challenge come through town. We enjoyed the inaugural event so much last year. Once again, Gunnison stood tall and put on a party as the cyclists came to town.

On the second day of this rigorous week-long race across Colorado, 95 professional riders started in Montrose and "whooshed" through Gunnison as they made the turn to the finish in Crested Butte.

The next day, Gunnison hosted the start of Stage 3 of the race, also known as the Queen's Stage. The crowds gathered early to watch the riders sign in and walk along "autograph row" before the race.

Gunnison gave the riders an enthusiastic sendoff as they began their 130-mile ride to Aspen. The day's route covered two 12,000-foot mountain passes for a total climb of 9,623 feet. Incredible!

After the professionals left town, the kids hit the streets. Bicycle races were held for three age brackets. Sam and Grady were ready to roll.

Grady had a look of fierce determination during his heat. And, Sam was so fast he raced out of my camera shot. Way to go, boys!

After the race festivities, we took a drive with Sharon and Fred toward Crested Butte to scenic Gothic Road.

The cloud cover gave us a cool day and some very interesting reflections. We love this drive. It's different every time we visit!

The late wildflowers gave the valley floor a fading yellow glow.

Bits of autumn color are just starting to show. In just a few weeks this stand of Aspens will be ablaze in yellow. (We're thinking we might just have to be here for that next year!)

Our "surprise" month in Gunnison gave us many more moments that remind us how much we love this town. These ponies near the Palisades greeted us along several walks.

This crystal clear stream meandered along another path. Gunnison is a great town for walking.

It's a good thing we did a lot of walking, because we managed to visit our favorite eateries around town. We even squeezed in a couple of new places (for us, anyway). The pulled pork sandwiches at The Filling Station were "real good".

This month's visit did present a surprise or two, too. Early one morning we watched this hot air balloon pass just over the moose and make an emergency landing just two sites down. The pilot said he was running low on fuel and had to get down. Thankfully, he was able to do so safely. The whole ordeal provided a morning of free entertainment in the park.

As we were preparing to leave yesterday, a buzz worked its way through the park. "Mitt Romney is coming to town," our neighbors told each other. A quick check of the Romney web site revealed the candidate was somewhere far from here preparing for the upcoming convention. What was coming to town was Romney's bus, with folks on board stumping for local and state Republicans, and campaigning for Romney, too, of course. It's not every day you get to see a presidential candidate's bus, so we took a break from our pre-departure routine and checked it out. Regardless of your party affiliation, it was all pretty cool.

Bill and Carrie, who left for a couple of weeks then decided to return to Gunnison (And we're so glad they did!), participated in all the fun. After all the festivities, we readied ourselves to leave our mountain hideaway. We enjoyed a wonderful birthday dinner celebrating Paul's 55th at Twisted Fork, our favorite restaurant in town. I must confess I got a little teary on the way home. We really love Gunnison. We're going to miss it. But, we'll be back!

We made our way over Monarch Pass (for the FOURTH time this Summer) this morning and arrived in Loveland late this afternoon. With just a few miles to go on I-25, we spotted Air Force One landing in Loveland/Fort Collins for the President's appearance at CSU. (But, we didn't get a picture.) Wow! Two presidential candidate vehicle sightings in as many days. Such is life in a swing state!

We're back at DM, enjoying Don and Mary Ann's gracious hospitality for another night. Everything is set for tomorrow. If all goes as expected, the work will be completed tomorrow and we'll spend one more night here. Then, we'll head west with our freshly repaired basement air blazing. Good thing, too. It's hot in Kansas. We're gonna need it.

One of our fulltiming "to-dos" has been to spend an entire Summer in Colorado. Little did we know this would be the year. It wasn't where we expected to be, but Colorado has been a great place for us to be this summer, especially with our crippled AC. On this, our (fingers crossed) second to the last night in the Centennial State this year, we are grateful for the good times we've had this Summer. It's been fun.

To spend two months in Gunnison was a very pleasant surprise. And, we loved it. It made dealing with our heat pump maladies just a bit more tolerable. Thank You, Gunnison, for a wonderful time.

We will definitely be back!