Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Road to (and From) Silkenfest

This year, the ISWS rented a dude ranch for our national specialty show (aka 'Silkenfest') - located in Granby, Colorado. Now...I'm all about trips to CO - always looking for an excuse. And this time was no exception!

Also no exception was the obstacles that kept getting tossed in our way! First off was the cost of staying for 2 people - $100 per day per person, including food. Well...that would have been super for one person, but not the two of us, considering we don't really splurge when going to shows (sleeping in the van on the way, eating gas station "food" or various junk). Since I would be footing the entire bill, including gas, there was just no way. I still haven't finished paying for the gas to Westminster (much less the hotel)! We also would not be guaranteed a room since we wouldn't be there for the entire time (4-5 days) - which just wouldn't wash since I need a ground floor room thanks to my lousy back and knees.

So I found a cabin to stay at about 20 miles away, which also had a little fenced yard which would be super-convenient for getting the dogs ex'ed. Vickie, who has Sylvi from us also planned to go, along with her husband. We were thrilled at the prospect of seeing one of our guys at the show that we didn't own!

Then...we couldn't get a petsitter. So Victor had to stay at the house while I went on the excursion. NOW it would be cheaper to stay at the ranch - and I was informed that there was a ground room available. was too late to cancel the cabin without great pains to my wallet (what's left of it). Sooooooo....on we go. Then I got an email from Vickie - something had come up at her husband's job, and they couldn't go. But then, she asked if she could ride along with me - that sounds good to me! All a bit last minute - but that tends to be how we roll anyway!

We started out after work on Wednesday evening and reached Amarillo at 3 in the morning after painstakingly driving the Zoibus at the posted speed limit (a VERY hard thing for me to do - but I wanted to see if it would help the mileage. It did...a little bit.) We bunked down for about 5 hours at a local motel and then left Amarillo, after a vital Starbuck's visit, around 9:30. I had opted for the flatland trip to CO - down Highway 287 all the way to Limon, as opposed to the Raton Pass route. A bit less scenic ( least as the pass is concerned...87 is pretty darned boring too, and the last time had too many construction areas with 40 mph limits and well as "Safety Zones", whatever the heck those are) but it would allow us to bypass CO Springs and/or Denver during rush hours.

We hit some threatening clouds near Springfield, although we didn't get much in the way of heavy rain. Just after the windmill farm we saw one heck of a lightshow. When we gassed up in Lamar, we learned that a tornado had gone over Springfield, which explained all the siren-blaring emergency vehicles we had seen in the middle of seeming nowhere.

Our next trip highlight was coming to Berthoud Pass - we watched the temperature drop as we climbed ever upward! We came to just below the treeline. The Zoibus handled it all pretty well too - which was a great relief, although I am not a fan of driving near ledges with big drop-offs. Little did I know...

It had been a long day, and hardly anyone had participated in potty-time that morning, so we opted to check-in to the cabin I had reserved and let the dogs take care of business in the little yard and then I would take Vickie on up to KMR (King Mountain Ranch) where all the festivities were. The drive from Grand Lake down to Granby then out to the ranch was a pretty easy stretch...until....we got to the "driveway" of the ranch. In all the posts about the location, this particular "road" (I use the term loosely at this point) was not mentioned! It was a 4 1/2 mile twisty dirt "road" that had recently had a barrage of rain (and before that, snow) and was apparently consisting of a good bit of clay. For the highest and longest-size Sprinter was a Slip-n-Slide. For a road weary traveler with a fear of heights at the end of a long was terrifying. We felt the Zoibus lose traction on several occasions after we had to zip through the big mud wallow just after turning off the pavement - heard later that some folks got stuck in the pit there.

the "road of near-death" to KMR

It took longer for me to travel up their "driveway" than it did for me to drive the almost 20 miles from my cabin. Nothing like a white-knuckle ride. Vickie had spotted a bald eagle flying low over the lake - I would have loved to have seen it, but was too busy trying to keep from plummeting into the lake itself in a poor impression of flight. As she checked into the ranch, I spent my time having a pure panic attack at the prospect of navigating the way down. I've got to hand some BIG credit to one of their wranglers/employees (Dave?) who graciously drove me back down to the civilized road and dealt with the crazy and nervously chatty flatlander.

The next day I allowed myself plenty of time to make the trip and have some time to settle before the show began. A bit unsuccessful as I had to get the manager/owner of the cabin to come pull out my van as it would not reverse (I had parked close enough to the cabin to not allow me to go forward) up a small incline. I later learned that diesel + high altitude + a touch of cool does not make for much in the way of power. I also learned that despite knowing more of what to expect on the ranch "driveway", I was still terrified, and this time managed to get the Zoibus sideways as it slid, which I thankfully managed to steer out of, despite the nose being pointed towards the ledge. At that very moment - I lost any notion of happy thoughts.

I did soak up as much of the cooler weather as I could though! The rings were outside and on occasion it was a bit too nippy - but knowing what awaited me back home (heat indexes upwards of 100 degrees), I enjoyed the occasional shiver.

Saturday after the show concluded, we opted to head back to the cabin and vegetate and prepare for the trip home the next morning. I allowed all the dogs to come hang out in the little yard, with the back door half open so that they could come and go. Most opted for a nap in the streaming sunlight on the deck, although luxury lover Tyler felt his place was beside me on the futon as I semi-consciously watched the little tv and attempted to once again find my happy (fail!). We munched on the food I had brought with me for the trip (chicken salad with grapes, marinated tomatoes, and wasabi slaw, and a few other items), failing to find a pizza delivery option after a mouth-watering commercial. The folks next to us were intrigued by the dogs and we had a nice visit - sounds like they may be interested in getting a Silken someday! Such irresistible little dogs!

the back deck and its beautiful view

Morning came too soon, and we got everyone pottied, loaded and packed and did some tidy-up (inside and out) before dropping the key off at the office. I had opted for the interstate route home in the hopes of knocking off an hour or two...if we didn't doze off from boredome - it's not the most exciting of drives. While nearing Salina, KS we could see the threatening skies to the south. We didn't get rain until near Wichita, but in Oklahoma the skies burst and the winds really kicked in. It got to be too difficult to handle the Sprinter with the wind blowing the rain sideways - and the wipers could hardly keep up with the deluge. Near the exit for Enid (or some town beginning with an 'E'!) we pulled off into one of the truck parking areas, with some other cars coming in behind us. After about 30 minutes or so, we continued on our way, and we hit more heavy rain in Perry but the wind was much more manageable. Once we hit Oklahoma City, the roads were dry. Vickie took over the wheel again about 30 minutes from the state line as I was starting to completely fade. We got to her house about 4:30 that morning, and I arrived in McKinney 30 minutes later, just in time for Victor to wake up to begin the morning dog routine. After waking up the dogs from "road mode" and getting them out to do their business, I promptly passed out.

Another year's specialty trip come to an end.

always a winner in my eyes - Tyler

Here are some related links:

My online gallery for the trip - LOTS of pictures of the scenery. Vickie learned the art of "drive-by photography" while I navigated Berthoud pass, as well as witnessing my snapping of pictures at 70 mph

Mountain Lakes Lodge - the place where I stayed. I want to go back, it was so beautiful and comfy!

King Mountain Ranch - the beautiful dude ranch where Silkenfest was held. The staff were wonderful and the scenery breathtaking

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