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2001 - Mount Rushmore
2002 - Desert Ghost Towns
2003 - Eastern & Southern USA
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2010 - Destination Unknown
2011 - St. Augustine
2012 - Guernsey Ancestry Tour
2013 - Western Giants
2014 - Every Which Way
2015 - Mystery Tour
2016 - Double Trouble
2017 - North to Alaska
2020-22 - Trail of the Ancients

Been There Did That
2006 - Vegas Connection
2009 - Glacier National Park
2009 - Kelowna
2011 - Patched
2011 - Sprng Breakout
2012 - Spring Breakout
2014 - Las Vegas
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2014 - Fall Fling
2015 - Winter Shop Hop
2015 - Quilt Away
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2017 - Temple Square
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Valley of the Gods

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Desert Ghost Towns

Road Trip - 2002

This was our second road trip so we were quite comfortable about everything - so comfortable in fact that with car all packed (food, goodies, drinks, sun hats and gas all in order) we actually drove away from Karen's house before we realized we had absolutely no idea where we were going. We then pulled over on the side of the road and discussed it.

I had spent a couple years searching out desert ghost towns on my way to Vegas. Some were still inhabited, some deserted, and some nothing more than a bare field with couple of stones or a wooden marker to indicate that something used to be there. I had told Karen about these towns and it was decided that Ghost Towns would be on our itinerary for this year along with Monument Valley and Valley of the Gods.

We headed down I-15 for the better part. We did find a road looping around Salt Lake City but when we ran into delays from construction be had to get back onto I-15 to continue south.

Google Map of Trip

2002 Desert Ghost Towns Photo Album

Moab & Arches National Park
Arches National Park Slideshow

We left I-15 at Provo and headed toward Moab in the hopes of seeing what we missed on Highway 128 the year before. Once again, it was nearly dark when we got there so we scrapped that plan and headed directly to Moab on Highway 191.

We had a delightful surprise when just before Moab we discovered Arches National Park. We stayed in Moab for the night and explored the park the next day. We found a long, endless, lonely trail (the gate was open) that looked like it went to Klondike Bluffs and out to highway 191. Wrong.

After an hour of traveling along the trail which was actually a wash, a couple of guys on trail bikes stopped to chat with us. Their comments were "you wont go there in this car. It's a dirt bike trail" and "how's your gas?" Well....nearly empty!! So we hightailed it back to the main park.

Karen was sure we could have killed a cow and lived out there for a long time or at least until someone found us. A cow? There wasn't a cow within 500 miles of where we were.

As of 2008 when I am writing this, we still don't know what's at the end of that trail. Every other time we've been there the gate has been closed. I wonder why??

John Wesley Wolfe, a veteran of the Civil War, built the homestead known as Wolfe Ranch around 1898. The cabin is located on Salt Wash, at the beginning of the Delicate Arch Trail. Wolfe and his family lived there a decade or more. Native Americans first lived on this land, leaving behind petroglyphs still visible today. They a just behind the Wolf cabin.

Hwy 261

This was the year we discovered hwy 261 by a unexplained strange turn of events. We left the Moab area, traveled south on hwy 191 and stopped to pick up subs at Blanding.

About 5 miles past the hwy 95 junction, just south of Blanding, Karen noticed that hwy 95 connected to hwy 261 which looked like a good road and it would connect us to hwy 163 right at Valley of the Gods where we were going. We turned around, backtracked, stopped for our picnic, and headed west on hwy 95. Then south on hwy 261.

This portion of the hwy is a long flat plateau and it felt like we were driving at the top of the world - we were. Soon we started to see signs about curves, switchbacks, no vehicles towing, no trucks, and no busses and we knew we were heading into something very unusual.

When we arrived at the top of the Moki Dugway we couldn't believe the view overlooking the valley - and the road we had to take to get the bottom of it. We started down the road and the rest is history. This is definitely "our special road" and we have managed to go back to it every year.

Highway 261 Page

Valley of the Gods

We found ourselves at the base of Hwy 261 and the west entrance to the "Valley". Driving a Chevy Cavalier is not exactly 4-wheeling it, but we made it through the 17 miles of dusty roads, washed out creeks and fallen rocks.  The road had not been graded after the winter and a couple of vehicles were not as adventurous and turned back. I guess size isn't everything.  What's a little high-centering here and there?  A quick check of the muffler and undercarriage and we were on our way.

Valley of the Gods Page

Monument Valley and Goulding

Goulding Lodge

Our second trip through Monument Valley was just as spectacular as the first. Every angle of the sun displays a different colour. We stopped at Goulding Lodge hoping to get a room but had to continue to Kayenta as the inn was full. We stayed long enough to have supper and tour the museum and John Wayne cabin.

A popular lookout point is named in his honor as "John Ford Point." It was used by Ford in a scene from The Searchers where an American Indian village is attacked.

John Ford

Director John Ford's 1939 film Stagecoach, starring John Wayne, has had an enduring influence in making the Valley famous. After that first experience, Ford returned nine times to shoot Westerns — even when the films were not set in Arizona or Utah.

Monument Valley Page

Lake Powell and Page

This trip we took the northern route above Grand Canyon through Page. We stopped at the Marina at Lake Powell for a picnic and toured the interpretive center. One of the more interesting facts was the continuous receding of the water level in the lake.

Lake Powell on the Colorado River is the second largest man-made reservoir in the United States. More than 400 feet deep, 186 miles long and nearly 2,000 miles of shoreline, it straddles the border between Utah and Arizona. Upon completion of Glen Canyon Dam on September 13th, 1963, the Colorado River began to back up. The newly flooded Glen Canyon formed Lake Powell.

It took 17 years for the lake to rise to the high water mark, on June 22nd, 1980. Since then the lake level has fluctuated considerably depending on the seasonal snow runoff from the mountains.

The Grand Circle - Arizona, Colorado,
Nevada, New Mexico and Utah

Lake Powell is part of the Grand Circle which includes six national parks - Grand Canyon, Zion, Bryce, Capitol Reef, Arches and Canyonlands. Some other attractions in the area are Natural Bridges National Monument, Monument Valley, Bicentennial Highway, Glen Canyon, Meteor Crater, Petrified Forest, and Hwy 12 Scenic Byway.

The City of Page is one of the youngest communities in the United States. It is located in northeastern Arizona. The town began in 1957 as a housing camp for workers building the Glen Canyon Dam. In 1958, through a Navajo land exchange, Page was born. It became an incorporated town on March 1, 1975 and is now home to more than 9,000 people.

Colorado River flows have been below average since the year 2000, leading to lower lake levels. In the winter of 2005 the lake reached its lowest level since filling, an elevation of 3550 feet above sea level, which was approximately 150 feet below full pool. Since 2005 the lake level has risen 60 feet, to a seasonal high elevation in 2007 of 3610 feet above sea level. It is estimated the 2008 spring runoff may produce 50 more feet of water making the elevation 3630-3650 during mid-summer 2008.

Lake Powell 1995
Lake Powell 2004
Mileage to Lake Powell
Arches National Monument 285 Los Angles , California
Bryce Canyon National Park 151 Mexican Hat 151
Canyonlands National Park 271 Moab , Utah 280
Canyon Rims 277 Monument Valley 126
Capital Reef National Park 353 Natural Bridges 244
Grand Canyon North Rim 123 Phoenix , Arizona 272
Grand Canyon South Rim 139 Salt Lake City , Utah 420
Las Vegas , Nevada 281 Zion National Park 119

Las Vegas

This year we refereed the VNEA pool tournament in Vegas, so spent 10 sunless days inside the Riviera Hotel, constantly wishing we were on the road.

We did a small tourist afternoon at Liberace's museum and then a fast shopping spree (20 minutes) at the Outlet Mall on the west side of Vegas to buy attire for the evening banquet.

Fifteen miles outside of Vegas we found our first cactus tree and of course had to take a picture. Then we boogied into the desert and off in search of ghost towns.

Death Valley

Located on the border of California and Nevada, Death Valley is the principal feature of the Mojave and Colorado Deserts Biosphere Reserve. Millions of years ago, there was an inland sea where Death Valley is today, but as the area turned to desert, the water evaporated, leaving behind the salt.

We stopped at Furnace Creek where the National Park Visitors Center is located.  It was 125° F.  How anyone could live in this area without air conditioning is beyond me. We walked around a display of mule team and mining antiques for a few minutes but it was virtually impossible to breathe so we headed to the Gift Shop (and air conditioning). Of course, were forced of course to buy out the store.   We would have liked to stay longer and explore the area and made a promise to ourselves to return another year.  It was 2006 before we were back in this area again.

Death Valley 2006 Page

Temperatures in the Valley can reach 130° F in the summer, to below freezing in the winter. The National Climatic Center reports that Death Valley's temperature reaches 90°F 327 days a year while freezing temperatures occur on an average of 11.7 days each year.

Death Valley holds the record for hottest temperature ever recorded in the United States at 134°F on July 10, 1913. The lowest temperature on record is 15°F. Annual precipitation is 2.33 inches.

From Dante's View at 5,500 feet above sea level one can see the central part of Death Valley, Badwater Basin, which is the lowest dry point in North America at 282 feet below sea level.

Dante's View

Karen actually had to take me by the hand and lead me to the sign so she could take a picture - not to mention that she had to come back and get me unglued from it. That was a little too close to the edge for my comfort. Note my rigid body!!


Rhyolite is located 4 miles west of the town of Beatty, 35 miles from Furnace Creek Visitor Center, on Nevada on highway 374. Rhyolite was founded by Shorty Harris and E. L. Cross, who were prospecting in the area in 1904. They found quartz all over a hill, and described it as "just full of free gold".

The town immediately boomed with buildings springing up everywhere. One building the Cook Bank, was 3 stories tall and cost $90,000 to build. A stock exchange and Board of Trade were formed. There were hotels, 50 saloons, a jail, a red light district, stores, schools, a swimming pool, an ice plant, two electric plants, foundries, machine shops, and a hospital. With a population of over 10,000 at one time, Rhyolite was no small town.

The financial panic of 1907* took its toll on the town and businesses started to shut down. Production began to slow down by 1908. The town continued to struggle to stay alive hoping for a new boom that never came. By 1910 only an estimated 675 people remained in Rhyolite. The mine and mill were closed in 1911. By 1919, the post office had closed and the town was abandoned. The population had shrunk to fourteen by the beginning of 1920 and the last resident died in 1924.

The Bottle House, a house built from thousands of beer and liquor bottles by Tom Kelly in 1906, was restored by Paramount Pictures in 1925 for use in a movie. Recently rebuilt, it remains standing and complete.

* The Panic of 1907, also known as the 1907 Bankers' Panic, was a financial crisis in the United States. The stock market fell nearly 50% from its peak in 1906, the economy was in recession, and there were numerous runs on banks and trust companies.

At the edge of town there is an artistic display of forms made of everything from bicycles to farm machinery. It depicts every walk of life from miners to ghosts as in this picture. At first glance, it simply looks like a junk yard but once you get closer, it becomes apparent that an art group has put these creations on display.

Some of the walls of the Cook bank building (above) are still standing, as is part of the old jail, the the train depot, a caboose and the Bottle House.

Karen and I have been back to Rhyolite since this trip and noticeably the walls are crumbling. These buildings are now protected behind wire fences which was not the case on our first trip.


Goldfield is an unincorporated community in Esmeralda County about 170 miles southeast of Carson City, along U.S. Route 95. Goldfield was a boomtown in the first decade of the 20th century due to the discovery of gold. For several years it was the largest town in Nevada reaching a peak population of about 30,000 people in 1907. Between 1903 and 1940, Goldfield's mines produced more than $86 million. Gold exploration still continues in and around the town today.

The largest mining company left town in 1919. In 1923 a fire destroyed most of the town's flammable buildings. The old hotel and high school survived the fire. By the 1910 census, Goldfield's population had declined to 4,838 and in 1950 it had a population of 275. While a small permanent population remains in Goldfield, it is largely a ghost town.

Goldfield's famous former residents include Wyatt Earp and Virgil Earp. Virgil was hired as a deputy sheriff in Goldfield in January 1905. He died of pneumonia in October 1905, and Wyatt left Goldfield shortly thereafter. Author Jeffery S. Miller wrote the short story, The Witch of Goldfield in 2007, about Wyatt and Virgil Earp's encounter with a witch. Miller fictionalized the Goldfield fire, blaming the fire on a satanic witch who cursed the town and the Earp brothers.

Goldfield Hotel

The town's four-story Goldfield Hotel opened in 1908 at a cost of $450,000 and was reported to be the most spectacular hotel in Nevada at the time.

At the opening of the hotel, champagne flowed down the front steps. The rooms were outfitted with pile carpets, many with private baths, and the lobby was trimmed in mahogany, with black leather upholstery and gilded columns. It also featured an elevator and crystal chandeliers. The hotel ceased operations in 1946 but the abandoned building remains intact.


Jim Butler discovered silver at Tonopah Springs (an indian camp) in 1900, which sparked one of the biggest mining booms in the state. The first stagecoach, carrying 7 passengers, arrived in Butler on March 24, 1901. The camp consisted of seven shacks, a number of tents and a population of 60. Within weeks, the population had grown to 250. By 1902 the town was booming with over 3000 residents boasting a stagecoach service, competing newspapers, more than 30 saloons, and two churches.

The city was renamed Tonopah in 1905. By 1907 five banks, several theaters, numerous hotels, five newspapers, the Big Casino, a dance hall and a brothel were thriving in Tonopah.

Wyatt Earp was a resident of Tonopah from 1902 to 1904, running the Northern Saloon and helping out with the law every once in a while. Stages from all over the state arrived in Tonopah. In true western fashion, one was held up on the outskirts of town.

Tonopah's boom years ended during the depression. By 1947, the ore had played out. All the major mines had closed. The final blow came in 1947 when the Tonopah and Goldfield Railroad folded and its rails were torn up.

Mizpah Hotel

At dusk, Karen and I sat in the car in front of the abandoned Mizpah Hotel just looking at it - quiet - each in our own thoughts about days gone by, gun fights, gold mines, the glory days of the hotel - and ghosts.

Suddenly, there was a shadow in my peripheral vision that scared the hell out of me. I hit the gas, peeled rubber and took off - only to look back and see a stunned young teenager standing on the street staring after our fleeing car. No doubt, he was probably was going to ask if we need directions or something, and to this day he must figure we were just a couple of kooks - or worse yet criminals.

The Near Disaster (a little tale worth telling)

It was in Tonopah that Karen and I came close to having our first argument. It was dark, very dark, by the time we arrived and booked a hotel room.  We had to use a spooky back entrance to access our room - first through a locked entrance, then down a flight of stairs to a another locked door to get to our hallway. We went to our room, turned on the lights and I headed back up the stairs to get luggage. Karen didn't follow right away and I figured she was using the washroom.  I hauled all our luggage, coolers, coffee pots, cups, pillows, maps, shoes - you name it - to the first entrance.

I then hauled everything down the stairs up-down-up-down. Still no Karen. I was getting a bit "pissy" to say the least about this point. Then I had to put everything through the second entrance which, by the way, had a heavy metal door that insisted on closing by itself, and into our hallway. Still no Karen.

Determined, I proceeded to drag/pull/push/carry everything down the hall to our door which thank goodness I had left ajar and I used my foot to kick it open laden with as much luggage as I could carry in one sweep.  And there was Karen - sitting cross legged on the bed watching TV looking quite comfortable.  Before I could blow up, she started to laugh. (She later described me as looking like Jerry Lewis in his bellhop role as I crashed through the door.)

Stunned, the only thing I could think to say (once my gaping mouth closed and I found my tongue) was "What the hell are you doing?" I was in shock to see her sitting there - and laughing at me to boot!! There HAD to be an explanation. Before I could muster enough energy to blow a fuse, she said "OMG I thought you were in the washroom and here I've been sitting here bursting at the seams waiting for you to finish". To think - she was actually ticked at ME for making her wait! Well, OK. There WAS an explanation - the bathroom light WAS on and she really WAS in a lot of pain waiting to use it. There WAS a reason her legs were crossed (not to mention her eyes).

This is my story and I'm stickin' to it. You might have to visit Karen's 2002 Travels to hear her side.

We laugh (now) every time we think about that night. I think the story gets funnier by the year. It was a close one, though, but at the time I am posting this in 2008 we still have yet to have a disagreement on our travels.

Nez Perce National Historical Park

We continued following hwy 95 north through the south east tip or Oregon into Idaho and spent the night on the Oregon/Idaho border at Jordan Valley. Once we crossed into Idaho, we entered the Nez Perce area. Historical signs all along the route designated battle areas.

The Nez Perce National Historical Park, comprising 38 sites located throughout the states of Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington was established in 1965 to facilitate the preservation and interpretation of sites pertaining to early Nez Perce culture, the Lewis and Clark expedition, the fur trade, missionary activities, gold mining, logging, and the Nez Perce War of 1877.

We continued to follow hwy 95 through Coeur d' Alene and connected with hwy 3 at the Creston. The Fernie/Sparwood road was overrun with deer and elk. We were traveling through this area at dusk and had to drive about 30 mph for safety.

Next - 2003 Eastern & Southern USA


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