Off the Grid  Retirement at our remote log cabin in Colorado

Saturday, August 12, 2017

A Quick Trip to the Snowy Range

Last weekend, when we had company, we decided on the spur of the moment to drive up to the Snowy Range. It's the closest place we know of to get "up close and personal" with true mountain peaks. This time of year though they aren't quite as "snowy" but still beautiful.

This is Medicine Bow Peak, (above) where in 1995 a United airlines plane crashed right into the side of the mountain, killing all 66 passengers plus the crew on board. In those days it was the most deadly airline incident ever to be reported. Airplanes were not pressurized back then and the plane was supposed to have kept to an altitude of 10,000 (the peak is at 12,000) and fog blanketing the top of the mountain was suspected to be the culprit, although no one really knows. 

We stopped at the top and took the short walk to Lake Marie (the spot where numerous dog photos have been made!).

(Note: This photo was taken on our last visit in July)

The flowers were plentiful, unlike the visit we made in the spring hoping to catch all the spring alpine flowers in bloom only to find them lacking. No so on this visit.

On our way back we ate lunch in the tiny town of Centennial, Wyoming at the Old Corral. Such a fun western atmosphere and really good food — we'll be eating here again.

All in all, a really nice little day trip.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Dinosaur Fossil Cabin

Did you know that just a little bit north of Laramie lies one of the greatest and most well-known, important fossil beds for dinosaur bones in the world? It's Como Bluff. I've long wanted to see the Fossil Cabin which lies along the old Lincoln Highway route and was once quite the tourist attraction. We passed it on our way to Casper for the dog shows late last month, and finally stopped by this historic road stop on the way home.

The cabin is reportedly made from 5,796 dinosaur bones! I didn't take time to count them, however.

It was a sad little place as it is now, deserted and forlorn, falling into disrepair. Haunting, really. It must have been a bustling tourist attraction in its day back in the heyday of the highway, complete with a gas station. You could fill up your car with gas and fill up on history all at the same time.

You can read more about it here.

Monday, August 21, 2017

The Total Eclipse of the Sun

sing along with me!

<snip>Then you flew your Learjet up to Nova Scotia
To see the total eclipse of the sun <snip>

"You're so Vain", Carly Simon

Well, today we attended one of the greatest free shows on Earth, thanks to the dear old Moon and the Sun being in the same place at the same time, and we didn't have to fly our Learjet anywhere! All we had to do was get up and leave the house at 6:00 a.m., drive 2.5 hours north in light traffic, take out our chairs and wait for the show to begin.

We could not have found a more tranquil and peaceful spot to set up on except for maybe our back yard. But, in our back yard we could never have viewed the totality of the eclipse and stared directly into the sun. How many people can say that they've stared right at the sun?

Plenty of cars drove in afer we arrived, but they just drove straight past us. There was a higher ridge further on that we could see where a lot of cars were parked, and I assume they were heading there. In the above photo you can see the road snaking back the way we came from, about 20 miles in on Little Medicine Road off Highway 487.

I whiled away quite a bit of time searching for cool rocks and came home with a bag full.

 

When it started it just looked like a tiny bite had been taken out of the sun. It was really cool to watch the progression. I was surprised to find that when there was only a sliver left of the sun it was still very light even though the light was very eerie and like nothing I've seen before. I felt like I was going slowly blind although I can't describe it to you. And, here I am talking about how it looked around us and not through our glasses. Not like normal setting sun kind of light at all. More like a 360-degree sunset.

When totality finally arrived and we could take off our special glasses and look at the sun directly (when I took the first photo above), it looked like the moon had a very special quivering aura. The photo I took makes it look more flaring than it actually was, but that's just the lens. Words cannot describe the eerieness of the silence (except for those people on the far ridge cheering and whooping). It was not completey dark as we had expected it to be, but more like deep twilight. 

We had about 2 mintues of totatily where we were. For those few minutes it seemed like the Earth stood still and everything held its breath. Before we knew it the sun started to peek back out from behind the moon and it was time to put the glasses on again. It was very cool to imagine all those other people across our nation seeing the same thing at the same time. A true bonding experience!

The line of cars coming back was almost comical, but the traffic flowed smoothly and went along mostly at 70mph, with a few slow moments like below on approach to Medicine Bow. But the police in town were on top of it and directed the flow of traffic back onto Highway 287 seemlessly. Good job Medicine Bow!

We weren't going to go but I am so thrilled that we did. It was indeed TOTALLY magical.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Ten O’Clock Musings

 

NOTE: I wrote this a couple of weeks ago and debated about whether or not to publish it, but here it goes! I've got several blog posts pending so I hope over the next few days to wrap those up and get them posted. Laziness.

Okay, it's late and I can't sleep. Sometimes I lay there and thoughts run through my head and they won't leave so I have to write them down. I did that quite a lot when I lived in New Jersey and had my blog, but it hasn't happened in a long long time.

I find it interesting when we have company to visit and seeing what they make of where we are living and how we live. So far every one of them as asked us if we have a land line (for phone) when their cell phones don't work right up here unless they have Verizon, for which we have a booster here at the house. Uhm, that would be a no. We are "off the grid" and have no services.

They don't much wonder about our little solar-charged-battery-operated house either because in the summer months it hums along without much thought to most people. We don't stress about electricity as much as we used to either since our new array of solar panels, new batteries and the like were installed just before we moved. We know because we live here that we can't operate multiple big usage things at the same time, such as the vaccumn cleaner and the power sucking microwave. Not that we use the microwave for anything but warming things up, melting things, and the occasional emergency defrost. We never cook our food by nuking it.

Our range and fridge are powered by propane. Even the range has nothing that uses electricity. Now to be honest, our range has been problematic since the day we brought it home. It's from Canada, what can I say? They recently agreed we had a lemon (the broiler does not work; the oven might light if we are lucky, only to go out 15 mintues later which might require another 15 minute wait before it will light again) and sent a replacement range which we just put in today, so fingers crossed. It's pretty though in all its stainless steel glory, even our neighbors think so. Well, pretty is as pretty does goes the old saying.

They don't think about water for their showers either which we take much longer showers in the summer than in the winter because of the electricity that the water pump uses to pump the water from the well.

They also can't believe that we don't have "streaming." The only "streaming" going on around here is when the dogs go in and out of the stream that trickles from natural springs that flows through the old aspen, spruce and fir woods in the bottom of our property.

We do have satelite TV and internet, although our internet is limited. Our band-width is limited (unless it's from the hours of 2:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. when we have unlimited access and also when we are asleep), so I don't watch all those videos people post on Facebook. If I want to do a blog post I upload all the photos before 8:00 a.m. 

Pretty much, I think that they believe we are certifiably crazy. Especially after seeing our drive in to town.

Yes, the roads are dirt and at most times washboarded which shake your vehicle to death. But ... we see and encounter the most amazing things on the way. Eagles are very common, both balds and goldens. Various hawks, vultures, cows, antelope, deer, badgers and the ilke. The other day we were coming back from town on the way in that has fencing. An antelope was trotting down the road  toward us and when it saw us, it panicked (like they are prone to do, such skittish creatures) and tried to jump the fence. Antelope cannot jump, they usually go under wire fencing, but in this case this particular stretch of road is not antelope friendly and has an extra row of wire at the bottom so that they can't really go under it. The antelope got caught trying to jump the fence and had one hind leg caught up and was struggling to free itself. We backed up, got out of the truck (Rick grabbed a padded blanket we had in the back) and went over to the fence. I saw that its hind leg was twisted in the barbed wire and couldn't visualize how we were ever going to free it, when after several hard tugs of the leg, the antelope finally freed itself and bounded off. Just another day! Or how about the day we saw a badger family waddling across the road and stopped to take a photo (from the safe confines of the truck) and Daddy badger tried to take on the truck and went for our tires.

Friends of ours often wonder how we cope with being "in the middle of nowhere" meaning that we are not close to a city. Rick and I have lived a pretty lush life in my opinion. We lived for many years overseas in three different countries, experiencing things most people have no clue about and travelling a lot. We've wined and dined in some of the best restaurants in France and met Paul Bocuse along the way.

I can be that woman who dresses up and goes to posh events in New York City, the Oscars (while staying at the Beverly Wilshire) or I can be the real me who doesn't put on makeup every day, gets smoky sitting by a campfire and can enjoy the simple things of life. I suppose I am probabaly a little bit of both of those people but I prefer the unfancy side of me. I don't have to have the fanciest of cars, the biggest of houses, designer clothing and all the material things that people seem to strive for these days (I mean really, who needs a car that is so snobby it doesn't even have a spare?). 

All I can say is that we are happy and where we need to be at this time in our lives, and that's all that really counts.

Thermal Runaway

You may remember from earlier posts, that we have a small shed across the driveway from the cabin where we keep our winter provisions. It has a chest freezer for meat. A second propane refrigerator for overflow from the one inside. And, this summer we installed a propane dryer for drying clothes. I worked, last summer, to get the shed insulated and critter proof, with plenty of shelves for storage. This article talks about the provisioning step.

The shed worked well throughout the winter. The heat from the propane refrigerator and full insulation helped keep it warm. Yes, there were a few times when it got very cold outside that we had a few items freeze. So, this winter, only "dry" goods and other items that can be frozen will be stored there. It would be nice to have some source of heat just for those cold days. After all, the freezer and refrigerator tend not to run when the ambient temperature is that cold, so generate no heat to warm the shed.

We have the opposite problem in summer. Even with all the insulation, the inside of the shed gets warm. Sometimes very warm. That causes the refrigerator and freezer to run more. And, the more they run, the warmer the inside of the shed becomes. And, the warmer it becomes the more they run! Thermal runaway results! We don't use the fridge for much in the summer, so I could just turn it off. But, we do use it for beer and wine.

To fix this issue (somewhat), I purchased a solar powered attic fan. It consists of a 70 watt solar panel that powers a 12 volt fan mounted in a 12" diameter housing. I replaced one of the passive vents in the shed with the fan. When the sun is shining (and likely warming the inside of the shed), the fan comes on. The fan speed varies with the intensity of the sun. The fan then pulls air through the shed, blowing the warm air outside and pulling cooler, ambient air inside.

70 watt solar panel that powers the fan.

The fan from the inside of the shed.

The fan vent cover from the outside along with the wires from the solar panel.

I haven't permanently mounted the solar panel yet. It just sits horizontal to the ground on the stack of snow tracks for the Polaris Ranger. It gets sun from first thing in the morning until late afternoon. The fan makes some noise, but I'm pretty happy with the situation. I can just unplug it for winter.

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