Tuesday, May 31, 2016


The food of life itself. The most magical creation of man’s culinary history. Far surpassing the hamburger, hot dog and fried chicken. Pizza. Or, at least, so says I. And the best, for me, is the Neapolitan. A style that originates in Naples, Italy, the Neapolitan is perfect chewy dough with simplicity of ingredients for the basic and essential margherita, thin dough, cheese, tomato sauce, basil. Flash baked in a super hot oven, it comes out with tasty burned flecks of crust and bubbling cheese. It is sublime. Back home, we have a great place of this style in Ca’ Momi restaurant in downtown Napa. And, here in Vernal, perhaps our biggest surprise in this Utah town of 10,000 folks is Antica Forma. Third place winner in a recent, Neapolitan Society endorsed pizza competition. First place went to a shop in Naples, 2nd went to a spot in NYC. Third? Here in Vernal. Go figure. Oh yes we have indulged. I have one take home now in the freezer. Bet I put a slice in the toaster oven before I finish writing this…Before we leave this area I plan to load the freezer a bit more. I have a happy weakness for this food when it is done so well. 

Fantasy Canyon

Fantasy Canyon
About 30 miles south  from Vernal, Utah is a most unusual series of geologic formations.   Fantasy Canyon is set in the midst of a very sizable producing natural gas field with rigs everywhere. Unique to the world in the nature of the way the rock has eroded,   Fantasy Canyon is a Bureau of Land Management site and quite small at 10 acres.  It is an oasis of bizarre natural sculpture amidst the coarse,  barren landscape associated with drawing resources from the earth.   The best way to describe this is via photos as they do a good job of relating the experience. 

Monday, May 30, 2016

Dinosaur National Monument

The story is, 156 million years ago there was a period of severe drought and many dinosaurs came to a river that was here, in what is now the Uintah Basin of northeast Utah. There was not the water they expected and they keeled over dead from thirst. Then, the rains finally came in monumental fashion and these giant lizard carcasses were buried in sandy silt. Then buried again and again as seas formed and dried leaving more deposits. Then there was more drought and deserts formed with sand dunes. Then more geologic prestidigitation occurred and the sand was turned into sandstone. After all this, our tectonic plates were pushed into each other and were forced upward, raising this land into its mountainous present day state. Meanwhile, the dino bones were fossilized into stone. Then erosion worked in some areas to expose these long buried bones. And there you have Dinosaur National Monument, just outside us here at Vernal, Utah. The first bones were discovered in 1909. A near perfect spine section sitting half exposed on the top of a ridge. Excavation began and so many near complete skeletons were found that they now populate a who’s who list of our country’s finest natural history museums. The Monument has a visitor center which includes an exposed wall of the excavation they call the quarry. Dem bones, dem bones are everywhere. It is mind boggling to gaze upon and think of that ancient life form. The ones that gobbled plants and the ones that gobbled them and gobbled each other.  Dinosaurs. A fascination for many, in particular, young males. I loved them as a kid. The cornball 1950’s movies where they used lizards and blew the image up on screen superimposing actors in what is pathetic technology by today’s standards. Loved them. Our son was crazed by the dinos as a very young lad, asking one Christmas for, “A lotta-lotta dinosaurs”, as his #1 gift request. And did he receive a box full of plastic mold dinos? Of course. Besides the fossils, DNM is an area of great beauty. We also went to another section of the monument that has no bones but is the area of the convergence of the Green and Yampa Rivers. Two significant rivers joining in an area of deeply cut canyons. An easy 2 mile round trip hike provided many views. Mountains, canyons and vast expanses. And it is Spring so there are many wildflowers. We have ended up stranded from our “big tow truck” experience in a very nice area. 


Friday, May 27, 2016

The Big Tow Truck

The Big Tow Truck

An ongoing issue with our experience so far has been this electric jack stabilization system in our Vilia. It is designed to facilitate the process of arriving at camp, unhitching the 5th wheel from our bull on four wheels, (the heavy duty ford diesel pickup that pulls this rig), and setting up camp...and it goes like this… position the RV in our site , raise Vilia to where I can unhitch and pull the Ford away, then go through the process of getting the rig level. Level is key to camping comfort and proper function of the RV refrigerator…  then get the slide out compartments extended.  Connect fresh water and electric.  Then some of the housekeeping set up items, Toss out the few area rugs, change the kitchen from travel mode to living mode, etc. And we’re good. Then make it as easy to fold up, reconnect and head on out at the end of the visit. It did work that way for a bit. Then a variety of problems began to go wrong with the one button auto level feature of the jacks. I was able to use the manual mode and use a bubble level. I could work the jacks individually to get the bubble centered, close enough. But the one button auto level would not function. The problem was a consistent error code would come up for the left front jack, disabling the auto mode.  The maker, lippertcomponents.com, is typical of the RV industry and has terrible customer service. Their attitude is, customer does not understand how to properly operate the system it is unlikely there is an equipment problem.  Then, on our arrival to the KOA at Vernal, Utah, we had a complete mechanical failure as this left front jack collapsed in front of me, clunking to its base as I was raising it, about 3,000 pounds dropping 3 inches as I stood next to it. Left front is where the control panel is located. Not happy, I enjoyed a very different conversation with Lippert. The,( their faulty!), jack was putting strain on the electric motor that drives it. That caused the jack to ask for more power from the two 12 volt batteries our Vilia has and the imbalance of draw messed up the electronic brain that controls the system. Then the inherent problem with that bad jack came to finality, it collapsed.  The Big Tow Truck came thanks to AAA and winched us up so I could shim up the bad jack to get ourselves approximate to level. I have encountered a local RV guy, young man, who has a passion about the industry and has devoted his young life to really doing it right. We seem to be in very good hands. The manufacturer agreed to replace the part free, even though we are well out of warranty. I had to argue that I initiated calls about the error message when we were within warranty. So, long story short, eh? We expect to be back on the road by Thursday, June 2. Meanwhile, we get to live and be a tourist to some of the surprises we have found out about Vernal, Utah outside the fact that it is Dinosaur Central! More on that coming.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Mt. Sopris near Aspen

Cathy and I agree, this is our favorite mountain ever. Located above Carbondale, Colorado, between Glenwood Springs and Aspen in the Roaring Fork River Valley, it is a lone giant of a mountain. It defines mountain for us. So grand, so dominant of the landscape and so darn commanding. The pictures say some but not all of this land mass. You really need to be there.

Colorado Reflections

Colorado Reflections
It looks like our mechanical issues with the RV, our Vilia, are resolved. We are hoping. We want to resume the flow of our travels. One flow we would like to extend, but won’t, is our time here in Basalt with visits up the road to Aspen and visits down the road to Carbondale and its great Mt. Sopris and Glenwood Springs and its hot springs and the beauty of Glenwood Canyon. But, it is time to move on. I spent a college summer in Aspen in 1969. It was a sensational time there. The town was really coming on but had not yet succumbed to the impact of mega wealth and Hollywood, as it clearly has today. But it is still such a great town. The area has fantastic natural beauty. My summer of ’69 experience was why, when Cathy said, early in our relationship, she was thinking of Denver Univ for her Masters, I said that I’d go there too. It was in our early relationship years, and I think my enthusiasm for Colorado shocked Cathy a bit. We ended up living in metro Denver from 1973 to 1986. We really lived the state, travelling and seeing then revisiting so many of its places and sights. I started my career there, in 1975, working for a wine and spirit wholesaler. By 1977, I was in a position with them where I was travelling the entire state, helping the “rural” sales reps with their sales and coverage. I lived and loved Colorado so especially during that time. I really got to know the state in a unique way, working with local business owners and hearing their stories. Then there was the scenery, of course. So it is with some melancholy that we move on. To NE Utah, then to Wyoming for the Tetons, Yellowstone and Thermopolis. Thermopolis? You ask? Yes, it is a town on the way from Denver to Yellowstone that we had stopped at briefly on a trip when our family was young. We have loved the memory of the town’s name and want to revisit. But that is weeks away. Now, I look at the local mountains and reflect on our time here just now and our history in this state. It is indeed a special place and we will return to it, to the front range area, (eastern slopes), and Denver and many old friends for late summer.


Maroon Bells Aspen

Maroon Bells Aspen...one of the most gorgeous places on earth....in Sept 1976 when I was 8 months pregnant we camped right next to the lake (you can no longer camp there...in season you can't even drive there, you must take a shuttle). We woke up to a dusting of snow on the Bells...and our neighbors gave us frest trout to have for our breakfast! Fun to relive that memory!

Good Morning Utah, Again

Southern Utah was a sizable element of our early stages of this adventure. We stayed long touring the Big 5 National Parks that stream along the southern parallel of the state. We are in Vernal, Utah, just over the Colorado border in that notch Utah has in its northeast. We came here for Dinosaur National Monument but have found a town with nice surprises which will be noted as we experience. The geography here is remarkably diverse and unique. Which is a good thing, as we have had another mechanical issue and will be laid up here longer than planned. More to come on that...
After being graced with many amazingly colorful sunrises and sunsets in the desert climate of the southern part of the state, it was enjoyable to see a more northern type of morning sky here.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Grand mesa

We are spending some extra time in Grand Junction due to a need to have one of our RV slide-outs repaired. It looks to be a part replacement and appears like it will be resolved tomorrow, May 16, 2016. Yea! Who needs delays on Vilia Adventures?
We have gotten to know  GJ better than we might have. It is a good town. Lots of community involvement. They love their baseball and have a long history with the game. Local high school baseball is on the evening news here, in depth. The class system is more obvious here than in many places. There are lots of run down folks and the street corners are well occupied by the sign holding public. It is always sad to see. I hope mankind finds a better way to care for this, often mentally impaired, segment of humanity at some point in our development. Early on in our travels, we decided we were not to just visit places, but to live them. If we have the opportunity to explore, as we have had in GJ, we avoid main roads and Google the back way. With that, we have seen some of the solid middle class of this town. Nicely cared for yards in blocks of good time western single story houses.  Our first house in Denver in the 1970’s was one of the same. 840 square feet. We loved it.
Then, as you get out of town, the wondrous natural beauty and sweeping views are commanded by the well off folks who have built their “Ponderosas” on hillsides to the west, beneath Colorado National Monument and to the east on either side of Grand Mesa.
We had gone up the east side of the Mesa on an unsettled weather day, when we were staying at that Bald Eagle populated state park, but Saturday was too terrific a day so we drove the loop, climbing the Mesa from the easily accessed Eastern side, right off I-70, then cruising the flat elevation, descending the west side some 30 miles south of Grand Junction. All in brilliant sunshine and nice temps. The top of this, the world’s biggest flat topped mountain, Grand Mesa, still holds four to five feet of water rich, dense pack snow as of this date. It is the watershed that allows the Grand Valley below to grow some of our nation’s best peaches along with other fruits and some quite nice wines.