Announcing KosherSherpa.com

Over the last 19 years of intermittent RV travel, I’ve been contacted a number of times for help with RV trip planning.  I’ve helped dozens of people plan their RV adventures, and recently planned two entire trips, complete with itineraries and camping locations.

Now it’s official!  I’ve created a website for the Kosher Sherpa at www.KosherSherpa.com:

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In addition to RV trip planning, I’ll be leading a guided RV tour this January.  “Banditos at the Border” is a one-week guided RV tour of Southeastern Arizona.  There’s something for everyone on this trip, from guided mine tours to re-enacted Old West shootouts to ghost towns.

I’m really looking forward to sharing the joys of RV travel with other families!  Head on over to www.KosherSherpa.com and check it out!

Summer 2017, Day 27: The Eclipse of 2017

In the morning we were rudely awakened by shouting Walmart employees collecting scattered shopping carts. Overnighting at Walmart is certainly convenient but doesn’t usually lend itself to a restful night. It was 6am and the sun had yet to rise, yet the temperature was already in the mid-70s with humidity around 80 percent.

Welcome to Southern Kentucky.

After breakfast, we repositioned the RV to a gravel stub off the end of Walmart’s access road. Being out of the Walmart lot itself, we could now unfurl our awning in an attempt to slow what would be an inevitable rise in the cabin temperature. Our generator is only powerful enough to power one of the RV’s two air conditioners, so the best we could hope for today was reduced humidity inside the RV and a temperature a few degrees cooler than the 95 degrees forecasted outdoors:

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The partial eclipse was scheduled to start shortly before noon, so we set up our folding chairs, prepared the binoculars (for totality only), and donned our eclipse glasses. I also set up a small telescope with a solar filter affixed to the end of the telescope and a photographic adapter that allowed my DSLR camera body to mount directly to the back of the telescope, With the flip of a lever, I could direct the telescope’s light either to the eyepiece or the camera.

We were ready.

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Our reposition to Kentucky paid off, with completely clear skies forecasted for the whole day. At noon, we watched through solar glasses and telescope as the Moon began its slow crawl in front of the Sun. Totality was scheduled for around 1:30pm, and by 1pm the air temperature begin to fall and the sky started to darken slightly. It wasn’t like sunset because the sun was still overhead, rather it was as if we was looking through increasingly dark sunglasses. Note the sunspots: 

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The effect became extremely pronounced in the last ten minutes before totality. The temperature had fallen from 90 to about 80, and the sky somehow felt heavy, as if the darkening celestial sphere was pressing down on us.

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In the minute or so before totality, the sky darkened rapidly, as if the Sun was being controlled by a heavenly dimmer switch:

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In the seconds before totality, we viewed the Sun without the solar glasses and saw the “engagement ring” effect as the last sliver of the Sun desperately peeked around the Moon:

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Then totality.

We all gasped as the sky went twilight-dark and bright stars and planets sprung to life in the sky. Set on the sky’s dark blue background was the black hole that was the Moon:

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Spreading out beyond the Moon’s edge was the Sun’s white Corona. It stretched away from the Moon like a cotton ball being pulled apart:

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In the binoculars and the now-unfiltered telescope, we could see red prominences protruding rope-like from the Sun’s concealed surface:

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It was the strangest two-and-a-half minutes of my life. At that moment, the Sun had ceased to exist. It was as if creation itself had been profoundly and permanently altered. I was deeply moved by experience, and had to blink back tears as I looked through the binoculars.

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As if unwinding a vast celestial mechanism, all the events we witnessed minutes before repeated themselves in reverse. The Sun’s edge, impossibly bright, forced itself past the Moon’s concealment, creating a second “Engagement Ring” effect:

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The light level rapidly “came up” as if at the end of a play and the Sun began to move away from its temporary prison. The light level slowly increased and Walmart employees and shoppers went back to what they were doing.  I desperately tried to hang on to what I had experienced, to force into my memory all the strange sensations I had experienced only minutes before.

Views of the sun after totality:

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The sun, projected between gaps of leaves onto the ground, creates crescent-shaped highlights:

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The end:

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It’s late afternoon now. The Sun is now completely free of the Moon’s temporary embrace. We have another few days to travel until we return to New York. We will visit and experience natural wonders and locations of historical significance, but I suspect they will all pale in comparison to the 150 seconds of miracle we experienced today.

In what has been called the “golden age of American eclipses”, today’s eclipse is a preview of two more cross-country eclipses in 2024 and 2045. In less than seven years, the Moon will once again conquer the Sun, this time over the skies of upstate New York.

We decided to stay here for the rest of the day so I could write an article for Mishpacha Magazine about this trip and our eclipse experience, due Wednesday.

See the alternating light blue line on the trip map for today’s drive.

Summer 2017, Day 22: Bent’s Old Fort NHS, Amache, Sand Creek Massacre NHS, Monument Rocks

Good morning from Walmart:

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Our first stop was Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site.  Like Fort Union Trading Post, which we visited on Day 10 of this trip, this fort was built in the early 1830s to facilitate trade with local Native Americans.  The current fort is a recreation built by the NPS, built out of adobe like the original:

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The grave of a wagon driver:

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The original fort had a variety of animals:

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A peahen and her chicks:

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Our next stop was the Granada War Relocation Center, also known as Camp Amache.  Built during World War II in response to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Amache was one of ten Japanese American internment camps used to imprison over 100,000 US residents of Japanese ancestry, two-thirds of whom were US citizens.  This is the fifth internment camp we’ve visited:

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It’s always sobering to explore these camps.  It’s frightening to think how quickly constitutional rights can be stripped away.

Only one building remains of the over 500 buildings once here, most of them barracks:

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The foundations of the barracks remain:

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Remains of the water reservoir:

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Roads, now empty, extend in all directions:

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The vault for the coop store is only building still standing:

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Standing inside one of the barracks:

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Our next stop was Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site.  It was here in 1864 that US Army massacred a Native American peace camp.  Most of the dead were women and children.  One of the survivors of the massacre, Chief Black Kettle, was later killed by Army forces at a peace camp at Washita, which we visited on Day 974.

The visitor center was one of the smaller ones we’ve visited.  It’s little more than a contact station, with no exhibits:
 

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After walking the grounds and reading the interpretive signs, we continued east, crossing into Kansas:

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Our last stop of the day was Monument Rocks, one of the Eight Wonders of Kansas:
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We enjoyed the changing light as sunset approached:

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We continued east to overnight at a city park in La Crosse, Kansas.  See the alternating light blue line on the trip map for today’s drive.

Summer 2017, Day 21: Picket Wire Canyon Dinosaur Tracksite

We woke up to a warm day in Eastern Colorado:

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Here at Picket Wire Canyon, there are wild sunflowers everywhere:

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We unhitched the truck and drove to the trailhead for the 12 mile round-trip hike in the canyon:

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As we walked, we startled dozens of grasshoppers to flight.  They’re pretty big, and all the swatting slowed our progress:

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The canyon is dotted with abandoned homesteads:

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Ants create strange cones of debris around their holes, maybe for flood protection?

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There are remarkable variety of grasshoppers here:

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Another canyon dweller:

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Ruins of a 19th century church and cemetery:

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A Dung beetle taking home his prize:

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The “rock” on the left is a recreation of a dinosaur fossil found here:

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At last we arrived at our goal for today, the Purgatoire River track site.  It’s the largest dinosaur track site in North America.  Portions of the track site were discovered as recently as 2014:

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The tracks are so well preserved that it’s easy to imagine this meat-eating Allosaurus roaming the area, hunting for prey:

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Glad they’re not here now:

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We had to ford the Purgatoire River to see the rest of the tracks.  The river was flowing fast enough that I was worried we would be swept off our feet:

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This side of the river has tracks left behind by the massive plant-eating Apatosaurus.  It was neat to follow the tracks and imagine these lumbering beasts wandering the river bank:

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This interpretive sign shows the tracks as seen from the air:

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We made our way back across the river.  I used a branch as a brace to prevent being knocked off my feet by the current:

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We spotted this Horned lizard on the way back:

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We picked up the pace on our return trip.  Thunderstorms were closing in on us from behind with sporadic lightning, and we were the tallest feature on the trail, so we wanted to get back to the truck before the storm reached us:

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We got back to the truck as it started to rain and drove back to the RV:

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We drove north to La Junta, Colorado to overnight at the Walmart there:

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See the alternating light blue line on the trip map for today’s drive.

Summer 2017, Day 20: Driving the Alpine Loop

Surprisingly, after yesterday’s climb of Uncompahgre Peak, we were able to walk without pain.  We hitched up the RV and said goodbye to our roadside campsite:
 

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We drove down to Lake City and south to an RV park that rents Jeeps.  We got a black one:

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Today’s goal was to drive the Alpine Loop National Back Country Byway. Portions of the road are singletrack and have switchbacks too tight for our truck to navigate, which is why we rented the Jeep.  We are driving the route clockwise:

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The route started out easily enough:

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We took a short detour into fabulous American Basin:

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As we continued up toward Cinnamon Pass, the road became more challenging:

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Looking back down the switchbacks we just drove up:

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Looking down from Cinnamon Pass:

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We continued down to the ghost town of Animas Forks, Colorado:

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The old ore mill:

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The town was an active mining community from the 1870s to 1920:

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We looked around some of the buildings:

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It started to rain as we wrapped up exploring the town:

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From Animas Forks, we continued up towards Engineer Pass.  Looking back down towards Animas Forks:

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Some of the switchbacks were steep, and we had to be careful to avoid rolling over:

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We arrived at Oh! Point, an overlook at the end of a narrow ridge:

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Lots of folks were here:

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Views from Oh! Point:

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We continued on to Engineer Pass:

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Driving down from Engineer Pass, we passed some old mining structures:

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This mining site was recently destroyed by an avalanche:

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After returning the Jeep, we hitched back up:

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We drove north to Gunnison, then east, passing brilliant rainbows along the way:

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We continued east out the Rockies to Pueblo, then father on to a dispersed camping location south of La Junta, Colorado.  See the alternating light blue line on the trip map for today’s drive.