Welcome to the UltraEscape

No home, no car, no worries. On the road since 1996, a TechNomad couple share their travel secrets and adventures.

Four Days at Sheration Mountain Vista Resort

Avon, Colorado

When we set out from Cheyenne this morning it was a beautiful sunny day. However, by the time we reached Denver and headed west on I-70 dark clouds obscured the mountain tops.

We began to climb, neon signs warned of fog ahead. We climbed higher, up and over the 10,000 foot plus passes, snowflakes began falling. Snowmaking machines were spewing out additional snow at the ski resorts we passed. The mountain tops were obscured.

Suddenly, we dropped down into the Vail Valley, the sky turned a beautiful bright blue and the sun came out of hiding. By the time we arrived in Avon we were well below the snowline.

Our destination, The Sheraton Mountain Vista Resort, in Avon, CO was a surprise. We had received a special invitation to stay earlier in the year. We were assured it was not a ploy to get us to a time-share presentation. When we asked why the special offer we were told it was simply to get us to visit and tell others about the resort. We fell for it.

We received a VIP check-in and were told of all the fine activities in the area, advised of special restaurants and locations were we could receive discounts and about other points of interest. And then the pitch came. If we would go to a presentation we would receive additional bonuses. We declined.

Our unit was very nice with a balcony overlooking the mountains complete with a BBQ grill, a push button fireplace and Jacuzzi. The kitchen didn’t have a stove but the convection microwave served us well. And we availed ourselves of the stacked washer and dryer and spent time at the City Market selecting special treats to enjoy during our stay.

Because we were staying for several days I pulled out my French easel and acrylic paints. The view from our unit was beautiful with the snow covered mountains in the background and the fall colors in the foreground. I thought I would give it a try while Dan worked the stock market on the wireless internet.

We spent one day touring the area via automobile. We visited Beaver Creek Ski Resort and drove along the Eagle River to the nearby town of Edwards. Here we strolled along the Eagle River Valley hiking and biking trail and checked out the quaint shops.

Another day we wandered down to the Eagle River trail from our unit. We stopped to take pictures of the many statues dominating the numerous round-a-bouts.

Along the trail we admired the ski-lifts overhead, colorful trees in their autumn glory and watched the fly fishermen tossing out their lines. Even though our resort had an excellent fitness area complete with several indoor and outdoor hot tubs, I always enjoy walking outdoors.

All to soon, it was time to hit the trail again. Today we head for Moab, UT.

Kicking up our heels in Cheyenne

Cheyenne, WY.

Our first stop after hurriedly leaving Deadwood, SD was Cheyenne, WY. Here we enjoyed a short layover while waiting for the weather to clear before crossing the Rocky Mountains.

Although it was cold, windy and rainy we ventured out discovering the Mall, various restaurants and a movie theater.

Travel Tip: When attending a movie in a mall theater it is better to park near the theater entrance. We made the mistake of parking at another entrance assuming the mall would still be open after our movie. We were wrong. We ended up walking in the cold misty rain completely around the outside of the mall back to our car. We needed the exercise but it sure was cold!

The following morning we spent a short time touring the downtown area, passing the capitol building, a dominant structure on the Cheyenne skyline, in addition to being historically one of the most important buildings in the State, the train depot and rail tower.

We loved each of the eight foot tall cowboy boots that have been carefully painted by local artists to show Wyoming's and Cheyenne's history that are scattered around the area. It's always a treat to discover something new when traveling. Kicking up our heels in Cheyenne.

Deadwood and Turkeys

Deadwood, part 2

Last night we overheard the rumor of an impending winter storm. This morning we awoke to over 2 inches of snow on the ground. The weather report calls for more snow over the weekend. We cancelled our reservations and decided to get out while the roads were still passable.

Our cart was full of suitcases, computer equipment, coffee supplies and our cooler as we left the comfort of our hotel. Across the parking lot the Subaru Outback rental was covered in snow.

Now I know I packed the gloves somewhere, but they were not to be found.

So while looking and feeling a little foolish, I stuck my hand in my green and blue winter boot and began clearing several inches of wet snow from the car. Finally, I was able to see through the windshield and move the car to the protection of the overhang, covering the hotel entrance for loading. Not an easy task, as car is packed with our camping supplies that we have yet to use.

After a quick stop for gas, which surprisingly had gone down in price to below $3.00, we cautiously headed out through the Black Hills south on Hwy 85 bound for Cheyenne, WO.

The roads were wet and sandy but not covered in snow. The snow piles along the roadside indicated a plow had passed recently. There were only a few flurries in the air as we wound our way through the gulches, along the river and up over the passes. The pines trees were weighted down with heavy snow and occasionally as the temperature rose; snow fell in front of us from the power lines that crossed over the roadway.

The winter scenery was spectacular. Snow covered mountains, bare bluffs, green pine trees heavy with snow surrounded by the bright yellow of aspens and cottonwoods still showing their fall colors and tall, golden grass sticking up through the white snow. It made it worth the rush of packing up and hitting the road earlier than planned.

We were traveling through a peaceful snow covered valley when I noticed something odd. Over near the tree line were many black objects that stood out from the white background.

“Tree stumps”, I thought at first glance. Then it dawned on me that they were moving. With the fanning of a large tail, I was able to identify a large flock of turkeys. I turned to Dan exclaiming in surprise, “There’s a flock of turkeys in that field”!

Up ahead of us the road climbed and turned sharply to the right. Just as I spoke, another flock of large turkeys decided to waddle across the road. Suddenly, a car rounded the curve; the turkeys took flight scattering in every direction. The panic stricken birds flew directly across the road in front of the car heading for the safety of the shoulder.

I can't imagine what the driver thought as he was suddenly in the midst of the flock flying at windshield height. One large fat bird frantically flapping it's wings could not get enough lift or speed to avoid the car's grill. It was hit and went tumbling to the side of the road. The driver apparently unfazed continued traveling down the road. He was past us before we could fully take in the scene.

That was our first experience with a hit and run. You just never know what to expect around the next curve. Happy travels.

Play and Stay in Deadwood

Deadwood Territory
National Historic Landmark
Part 1

The town of Deadwood, South Dakota, a historic landmark is currently being restored to it's former glory. The cobbled streets are lined with gaming halls (80) that date back to the Gold Rush of 1876, offering games of chance, food and liquor.

The town, down in a deep gulch with a river running under it; and surround by the beautiful black hills is full of history with lots to see and do.

We arrived late in the afternoon and spent the evening walking from establishment to establishment trying our luck. Overall, we felt the games returned enough to make it fun, while not breaking the bank.

We visited Kevin Costner’s casino, the Midnight Star, then explored the Lucky Nugget Gambling Hall, the original location of Wild Bill Hickok’s shooting and interpretive site, and home of the historic Eagle Bar and brothel. At the Buffalo Bodega Complex, I dined on Buffalo prime rib. We ended up at the Silverado, associated with the historic Franklin Hotel, where we discovered an electronic “Let it Ride” table with computerized dealer’s and seats for five players. What fun!

The following morning we discovered that from our hotel, the Comfort Inn Gulches of Fun Resort we were able to access the 110 mile Mickelson Trail. The trail was the originally site of the Burlington Northern railroad line that took trains from Edgemont, SD to the northern Black Hills and the gold mines in the Deadwood Area. The line was abandoned in 1983. It became the states’ first rails to trails project.

The crushed limestone and gravel trail, designed for hiking and biking, turns into a paved pathway as we near the trailhead located in the town of Deadwood. It’s an easy walk. The trail travels downhill into town, winding along a rushing river once mined for its gold. Shuttles are available for the return trip.

High on a hill over the trail, we spot a siren. The town, originally named by prospectors for the piles of deadwood that littered the river, is prepared to alert it's citizens in the event of a flood. We learned later that the main roadway is build over the river. In the evening it is not unusual to see deer wandering along the path browsing on the fall foliage.

After a quick stop at the historic post office, where we viewed a mural created by a local historian, we headed to the old depot. Now the location of the visitor’s center, the historic building houses a museum touting the history of the area. We picked up a brochure for a “Boot Hill” tour.

Boarding the open-air, Boot Hill tour bus in front of the Buffalo Bodega, cowboy boots hanging from the windows, our guide relates tales of days gone by as we drive through town. Our tour takes us to Mount Moriah Cemetery, the resting place of Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane. Our guide, stands before Wild Bill’s stone where some enterprising vandal left an offering of whiskey bottles, separating the facts from fiction.

From the cemetery, located on a steep hill that towers over the town, the view is outstanding. In the distance, the historic Homestake Mine is visible. Our guide warns not to mispronounce the neighboring town of Lead. “It’s lead into the ground to the gold,” he says, “not lead, as in a pencil”. Good tip.

The next morning as we drink our coffee, enjoying the view of the tall hills behind the hotel, we are surprised to see the first snowflakes of the season. We ignore the early warning as the sun comes out heralding another beautiful fall day. We extend our stay in order to receive our mail.

More on our adventures in Deadwood in the next posting.

Weather Aborts Camping Plans

Fall Trip from Gould City, Mi to Deadwood, ND

As we departed the Upper Peninsula of Michigan heading northwest on US2, we had high hopes for our plan to camp. However, knowing we would get a late start on the first day, and rain was expected, we resigned ourselves to a hotel in Rhinelander, WI. located on Hwy 8 for the first night.

Then, when checking the weather for the following evening, we found the estimated low temperature was to be 30 degrees. Hmm, the sleeping bags might be rated that low but then again maybe not. Rain was still a possibility. We settled for another evening in a hotel near Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN. Could be memories of drying a tent in an up market hotel in Seattle influenced our thinking!

Next to our Minneapolis-St. Paul hotel, we spotted a Gander Mountain outdoor store. We walked over to shop for additional supplies: a coffee press for fresh coffee, a propane heater for the tent, a grill for the propane stove and bags of self-lighting charcoal. Now, we felt better prepared for cold weather.

More cold weather and rain were in the forecast, dictating another hotel evening for Fargo, ND. Oh, well. We entertained ourselves by walking around the nearby mall and going to see a movie instead of sitting before a raging fire.

Well, the weatherman got it right. More rain accompanied by a cold front blew in overnight. Even viewed through a light mist, the Great Plains area is beautiful. The rolling hills covered in tall, brown grass conceal roaming buffalo, herds of cattle, and racing antelope are easily seen from Interstate 94.

We decline an invitation to visit a buffalo farm with a large statue of a buffalo, as advertised on the last billboard. We spot the huge statue of Salem Sue, world largest Holstein cow on a distance rise as we speed by and enjoy the tall, metal "Ducks in Flight" sculpture as we quickly pass.

Finally, the clouds are breaking up and the sun is peaking out. It is still cold. We are resigned now to put off camping until we reach the southwest. It’s another hotel night in Dickerson, ND. Then it is on to our first planned layover.

We depart the interstate and head south on Hwy 85. The sun is still trying to peak out between the clouds, the wind is strong and the rain has stopped. We spot a herd of pronghorn settled in a shallow area next to the road, antlers high, quietly watching the cars pass. Small ponds of water are overflowing with geese.

Occasionally, we spot hunters outfitted in bright orange, walking across the plains with riffles in hand. The vastness of the plains is hard to describe. We have been driving through the vast area of grass covered, rolling hills for three days.

And then, there they are. Far in the distance we spot the looming black hills, just as impressive today as to the plains indians who named them years ago. Tonight we begin a few days rest in Deadwood, SD.

Travel tip: We always remain flexible in our trip plan and travel only a few hours a day.

The Joys of Walking

A walk is not only good for keeping you healthy; it’s good for the soul when done in a natural setting.

Bang. The screen door springs closed behind me as I escape. Wood smoke drifts in the air from a nearby chimney. My cheeks sting from the nip in the air brought on by a recent cold front; I begin walking.

In the pastel blue sky, the sun plays peak-a-boo between the gray and white puffy clouds; the scattering of homes still standing in the small ghost town are cast in sunlight and deep shadows as I pass. It’s only two long blocks until I reach the old gravel lane that leads out of town. (see posting, Life in a Ghost Town, September 2008)

My pace picks up as the asphalt ends and the wet gravel crunches underneath my feet. The old two-track road follows the fence line of a farmer’s field, the knee-high grass waving gently in the wind to the left, with overgrowth and hardwoods on the right.

Directly ahead the road takes a sharp turn to the right leading into the woods. With each step I feel lighter, my cares drifting away.

A shallow ditch separates the road from the piles of old, gray stone that mark the property line. Barely visible through the tall, brown weeds, old hand-hewed wooden poles, still strung with strands of ancient barbwire lay drunkenly scattered on the ground.

I smile as I notice that hidden among the weeds are a few hearty wild flowers, blue bells, yellow dandelions, and the stately, white heads of Queen Anne’s Lace.

Suddenly the silence is broken. Startled, I come to a dead stop, my heart pounding rapidly in my chest. Quickly looking around I discover it’s only a flock of small brown wrens scurrying from tree to tree, chirping merrily as they celebrate the recent rain. My pace picks up again.

Honk. honk. Overhead a flock of Canadian Geese head south.

Stepping around the occasional mud puddle, I spot fresh deer tracks. Their trail is clearly visible through the weeds. Next to the path, large areas of weeds are packed down under a few old crab apple trees, laden with bright red fruit. Most likely a favorite resting place. I kick the occasional apple left from their foraging out of the way as I continue down the lane.

At the corner of the property I make a sharp right turn and head into the woods. Ahead, the road rises gently only to fade in the distance.

Lining the old road are stately hardwood trees, their leafy limbs reaching out across the road to form a natural arch that blocks the sun. Indeed, from my perspective it looks like a tree tunnel, so aptly named by our grand daughter during a recent visit.

My breathing becomes faster and more difficult as I continue my current pace up the small rise.

With arms raised, I suddenly spin joyfully and stretch upward reaching for the colorful leaves that drift down, only to have them dance away and be crushed underfoot. I continue to crunch noisily down the trail at a fast pace, constantly scanning the area, peering between the tree trunks, enjoying the changing scene.

While reaping the health rewards of my daily walk, I’ve watched the dark green “tree tunnel” slowly evolve. With the approach of fall, deep reds, bright yellows and rusty browns are slowly beginning to dominate the landscape. Some trees are already bare, preparing for the onset of winter and the pine trees are heavy with cones. (see photo, top of page)

Suddenly, from the corner of my eye I see movement. I stop, delighted to see three small deer browsing on the undergrowth. I decide to get closer hoping to get a picture with the camera I always carry in my pocket.

Startled, alerted by my footsteps, they raise their heads and their large dark brown eyes stare suspiciously at me. Then, with a flash of white tails, they bolt for safety, racing across the road in front of me, leaping over another old fence line and disappearing into the depths of the forest.

Darn. I was to slow. Tucking the unexpected moment away I begin walking.

I heave a sigh as my thoughts wander. This will be my last walk down the trail for the season. The fall chores are done.

Thirty-six, quart-sized jars of canned tomatoes and ten, pint-sized jars of stewed tomatoes are stored away. Twenty small freezer bags containing two cups each of freshly made venison mincemeat are in the freezer waiting to be thawed for the next batch of cookies. Enough strawberries have been crushed and turned into freezer jam to last until summer. It’s time to hit the road again.

The walk takes about 45 minutes to complete, passing a pasture of grazing cattle, an old barn, eventually turning right again onto a gravel county road, down a long hill and with another right turn onto the main asphalt road back into town.

The main road skirts the site where my old elementary school once stood. Over the summer the community worked hard to revitalize the site. Bright yellow swings, a green and red merry-go-round and wooden teeter-tatter once again proudly await the arrival of children freed from the confines of school.

Newly constructed picnic tables dedicated to family members and wooden Anarondack style chairs, several child–sized, sit scattered under the hardwood trees of the small township park inviting impromptu picnics.

The walk has cleared my head, increased my heart rate and hopefully prepared me for the increase in physical activity we anticipate on our upcoming trip. Slightly breathless, with rosy cheeks and cold hands, I arrive back at my childhood home ready to pack up for our next adventure.