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Archive for October, 2005

Will Emma post?

It is a learned skill to instantly be at home wherever you go. Even for experienced travelers, it can take a day or two to get comfortable with a new place. We’re pretty well set now, and Denver is starting to feel like home. Emma says, “We’re having fun here!” which is about the highest praise you can get out of a five-year-old. (She went to tour a candy factory today, so little wonder …)

Rather than go on about the nice day I had, I’m going to try to get Emma to do a little blogging tonight or tomorrow. Suffice to say I had a lovely walk after work, watching the sun set over the Rockies, and I took a lot of photos which may appear on our photo album tomorrow.

By the way, you may notice down on the left side of this page we’ve added a “Subscribe” link. If you subscribe I believe you will receive notifications when I post. It won’t add you to any spam lists. Give it a try!

Computers in the Airstream

It’s not all fun and games. Today the morning has started cold (40s) and the sky is cloudy, which puts a damper on my plans to go for an extended bike ride. Plus, there’s work to be done. We are burning a 30-lb propane bottle every five or six days due to the overnight lows in the 30s, so I’ve got an empty bottle to fill, and I might as well do that errand on a day when the weather is not great.

But what I want to talk about is the computers. We travel with a pair of Mac laptops, which are the nerve center of our work and communication. Most of the time they require no maintenance, but the reality of computing life today is that a 30 or 40-megabyte system update or “security update” arrives every few weeks. Try downloading that over a cell phone. Even my Internet in Motion system would take hours to download something like that.

Also, occasionally friends or magazine contributors email me files which are just enormous. To protect myself against hour-long downloads, I have set my email program to tell me when an email is greater than 500 kb (half a megabyte). It gives me the option whether to download it, delete it, or save it for later. Most email software will do this for you.

At this point I’ve got two huge emails sitting in the box, awaiting downloading, and a few system updates, so …

Off to the local cybercafe! Most of the time we use Panera Bread for their free wifi, but today there is a place called The Daily Grind just three miles down the road. I brought both laptops, bought a Spiced Chai Latte ($2.60), and settled in with the newspaper while the laptops downloaded their updates and mega-emails.

This is one of the reasons I recommend that anyone who wants to travel with a computer, buy a laptop. I see many Airstreamers with full desktop systems set up in front, and I know why: they are cheaper, have bigger screens and keyboards, and are more expandable. But I couldn’t live without a laptop. You can’t haul that big tower into the cybercafe to download a system update! And I like to work outside under the awning when the weather is nice.

And finally, I should acknowledge that some people should never have a computer in their RV. If you work on a computer all day, and want to get away for just a few days to relax, my advice is to leave the computer at home. Sometimes you just have to unplug, and leaving the temptation behind might be the best strategy.

Since we full-time and I have no choice about bringing my computer, I make a point of putting it away in a closet when I’m taking time off. Out of sight, out of mind. Another small advantage of the laptop, if you care to look at it that way.

Tips for new weblog visitors

A lot of people have been visiting this weblog in the past couple of days, so let me give you some tips on how to get the most out of it.

First off, we’re still developing the site, so a few features are not fully operational. Our Gather essays are just getting started, for example. The Store is not running yet, but will be soon.

We plan to add a webcam in the next month or two, which will show current pictures of where we are, and sometimes what’s going on at the trailer.

We also are trying to figure out how to add a map so you can see where we’ve been.

Of course, I’ll be adding a lot more pictures and blog entries as we travel. Bookmark this page: and check it every day or two. That’s how often we will be updating it. Eleanor plans to start contributing blog entries soon, so you’ll hear from her as well.

If you have a question for either of us, just click the “Comments” link at the bottom of any daily blog entry. Fill out the form and I’ll get an email with your comments. After I read your comments, they will show up on the weblog for other people to see. If you want to comment privately, just tell me in your note and I’ll make sure it doesn’t get posted on the web.

Enjoy! Feel free to ask questions anytime, and let us know if we might cross paths. We love to hear from you!

Campin’ in Cherry Creek


I like this place. Cherry Creek State Park is an oasis right next to Denver, in Aurora. It’s a few thousand acres of land and reservoir with bike trails, camping, wildlife, and yet very convenient to everything that the Denver area offers. Beautiful landscape. This is sort of Denver’s version of Central Park in Manhattan.

It’s odd to be able to hear the I-225 highway just outside the park, but in here see mule deer and great horned owls. We spotted both last night on our half-hour walk before sunset. I’ve never seen a great horned owl before, and its gentle hooting reminded me that I heard one in the pre-dawn hours the night before when we were camped in Nebraska. For me, that’s the best possible sound to hear outside my window in the night. I love owls.

Mule deer, on the other hand, strike me as sort of ugly. But they were thrillling to Eleanor and Emma anyway. And in this park, they are nearly tame. You can see them everywhere, and they don’t run away at the sight of humans.

It’s also peculiar to me to encounter a state park with full-hookup campsites. In Vermont, none of the state parks even have electricity. Here, the campsites are paved with pink concrete pull-throughs, and as a result it attracts the biggest of the big 5th wheels and Class A motorhomes. With our 30-foot Airstream we look positively tiny.

Today I must be realistic and work a full day, and probably also Saturday. Fortunately, we have excellent Internet and cell phone service here, and the post office is just 5 miles away. It’s a good spot to catch up on work.

If the weather holds (meaning, no snowstorms) we will stay through Halloween. We have friends all over this area and relatives in Colorado Springs. The time will pass quickly.

Where should we make our next stop? We need to be in Eugene OR by Nov 10, but between Nov 1 and Nov 10 our time is our own. We need a nice place to stop, with electricity, and relatively safe from snowstorms, between here and Eugene. Any suggestions?

Nebraska at dawn

This morning, Emma wanted to take her camera out as well (she has my old digicam, a Kodak DC280), so we both dressed up warmly and went out at sunrise. It felt like low 30s outside. Everything was steaming: the lake, the exhalations of the cattle, even the cowpatties “¦ To the west, a nearly full moon was still high in the sky above our Airstream. To the east, the sun was rising over a huge open prairie scattered with cattle.

They are more skittish than the friendly eastern dairy cows I’m familiar with. One spotted me with my camera and gave the alarm, and they gathered up their calves and trotted away, mooing to each other all the while.

I’m not sure what was better ““ the wonderful scenery, or the fact that Emma (and later Eleanor) was out there at dawn, in the cold, enthusiastically snapping pictures with me. This morning makes the trip worth it, and we’re just getting started.


This post reaches you from our home for the next nine days, Cherry Creek State Park in Denver CO. I’ll post about it tomorrow. By the way, since we crossing time zones occasionally, my posts will always reflect local time.

Lake Ogallala State Recreation Area, Nebraska

It’s easy to say that Nebraska and Iowa are just big cornfields, boring to drive, nothing to see. If you are in a hurry and rushing down I-80 at the posted speed limit of 75, that could seem true. The GPS shows nothing but a single red stripe pointing straight ahead, hour after hour. The same cornfield seems to appear after every small rise. In the backseat, the kids are fidgeting, in the passenger seat the spouse is re-reading the road atlas in hope of finding a short cut to something interesting.

But in truth, this area is loaded with fascinating western stories. From mid-state to the western border with Colorado, I-80 follows the Mormon Trail, the Oregon Trail, and other pioneer routes to the west. It is also a bastion of railroad history: stories of the Union Pacific are predominant, with numerous museums and exhibits honoring this famous railway strewn along the long straight highway.

Just north of our route was the Sandy Hills region, which I would have liked to explore. Early settlers noted the sparse prairie and sandy soil, and moved on. They wanted cropland. But later settlers realized it was prime country for raising beef cattle, with grasses everywhere and plentiful water on the surface and below ground. Sandy Hills is now the center of Nebraska’s famed beef production, and a (reputedly) a scenic area in its own right.

As we drove west, the sky was mostly overcast, which made for dull windshield time. But in the last hours of our drive, the sky broke up and the setting sun began to create incredible landscapes of light. Black cattle became startling contrasts to illuminated corn and prairie. Golden aspens flecked the grassy plains, and the little hillocks everywhere started to take on richer dimensions than they had just a few minutes before. For the first time, we started to see that we are now in the West.

We turned off the interstate to head to Lake Ogallala State Recreation Area (SRA), and Lake McConaughy SRA in western Nebraska. This pair of lakes was formed by a long dam, which we are now parked directly below. The sun was setting as we arrived, so our view was limited but still fantastic. You drive over the dam, with a reservoir of water less than 100 feet below to the left, and to the right a sheer drop of perhaps 300 feet.

I could only imagine the sight our Airstream made as it glided along this strip atop the dam, all the clearance lights glowing, reflections of the dramatic blue-orange twilight sky along its sides. This is “big sky” country. It’s beautiful.


I would like to stay here for a couple of days to take photos. Ten feet behind our site is a small lake below the dam. Across the fence from the campground is a yellow field with black cattle roaming. The huge stone dam looms over us less than a half-mile away, and there are tall mature trees overhead. Best of all, there’s hardly anyone here, so it’s quiet and peaceful.


But practical issues intrude: one cell phone works, the other is “roaming.” The Internet in Motion box is roaming too, so we can’t get online. And unfortunately I do need to do quite a bit of work. So we must move on. I’ll post this from the road later this morning, as we drive the final leg to Denver.

But it is still dark out as I write this. We have crossed into Mountain Time and we all woke up early. We have a few hours to enjoy the sunrise and walk around with the camera. Before we go, I’ll to capture a few good pictures for you. I want you to get a sense of the inspiration the western landscapes give me.

Council Bluffs, IA

A friend of mine wrote me to say how lucky we were to be in Council Bluffs. Apparently the Union Pacific Railroad Museum is a mecca of sorts for railfans. We didn’t have time today to drop in, because of errands, but we did have time to drop in on the local Airstream dealer (Outdoor Recreation Center).

Don Bowerman was a great host for us, while we waited for some systems checks on the new trailer. A long-time Airstreamer and lifetime WBCCI member, Don has retired from a long career in police work and now sells Airstreams. Needless to say, he’s got a few stories to share.

Being an Airstreamer, Don naturally invited us to his house for pizza. And being Airstreamers, we of course accepted. (We can’t turn down hospitality.)

We’ll be sorry to leave Council Bluffs tomorrow, but we need to get out to Denver soon, so we’ll be hitting the road tomorrow morning. There’s still a chance to see the UP Railroad Museum, but I don’t know yet. We’ll wing it.

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