Blog Entry #7 August 24 to 27, 2013 – Start of Park-to-Park tour; Denver to Thermopolis

Saturday August, 24, 2013

As previously reported, we reached Denver, Colorado the evening of August 23rd.  Following the suggestion of Lee Whiteley, the fellow who, with his wife Jane, documented the original Park to Park Tour in their book The Playground Trail, we stayed on the southeast side of Denver; out of the inner city congestion.  Saturday was to be a layover day for taking care of needed tasks.

First orders of business for me that Saturday were

  1. Get the Jeep lubed – it had been almost 2,000 miles since I greased the chassis just before we left Cary, NC.  The recommended lube and oil change interval in 1950 was 1,000 miles.  I figure that with less dusty roads, and improvements in lubricants and metallurgy, 2,000 miles for a thorough lube job and 4,000 for an oil and filter change was perfectly sufficient.  Personal experience with the Jeep had shown this to be the case.
  2. Get a haircut – I had meant to take care of this task before we left Cary, but it had fallen off the priority list.






The haircut came off without a hitch – just as handsome as ever. I wish I could say the same for the lube job.  Late Friday afternoon I spent a good hour trying to line up an appropriate place to get a 1950 vehicle maintained.  The only “service station” that I found within practical range did not answer the phone – found out later his garage door was broken, so he was not in a position to help me.  Although previous experience had not been good using a franchise auto repair establishment for this kind of work on an older car, in desperation I made an appointment to take my Jeep to one such place that Saturday morning.  Here is the scenario:

  1. 8:30am: I apprehensively show up as arranged.  “Sorry, but we are shorthanded, and will not be able to work on your car until 10 or 10:30 when more technicians arrive.  Why don’t you come back then?”
  2. 10:15am: I show up “Not sure how to enter this work request into our billing system, this could take some studying….”
  3. 10:30am: “You cannot drive the car onto our service rack; one of our technicians will have to do it.”
  4. 10:35am: “Sorry sir, but none of our technicians knows how to drive a car with manual shift on the column; but one of them is willing to try.”  Finally one of the old-timers from the parts department comes out to the service bay; and with a little refresher as to the proper lever position, gets the Jeep safely on the rack.
  5. 10:45am: Technician “I have never used a grease gun before, but I think I saw someone do it once.”
  6. Finally, a very courteous and patient young service person managed to scrape together the equipment to complete the lube job, check the transmission, overdrive, and differential oil levels; and through some creative manipulation of plastic parts improvised an oil dispenser to lubricate the generator and distributor bearings.
  7. I was so happy to have accomplished the task without injury to the Jeep or myself that I actually drove off without paying (later called in my credit card number from the safety of our hotel room.













The balance of Saturday and Saturday evening was spent paying attention to unfinished personal and company business.


Sunday, August 25, 2013 – Starting the Park to Park Tour!

7:30am: Snuck down to the Jeep to disassemble and clean the carburetor’s idle circuit in an attempt to solve a rough idle problem.  Helped somewhat, but decided that I might have to wait until we returned to sea level before I could properly remedy the problem.  Denver is at 5,000 feet above sea level, which affects the air/fuel mixture ratio – something that is handled by carburetor modification for those who reside in the mountains.

9:30am: Packed the car and off we went to share a sumptuous brunch with Lee and Jane Whiteley, who as I mentioned previously, wrote the book that inspired the documentary that drove Jean and me to take this epic trek.  We had a great time sharing stories.  Lee presented us with a color copy of a rare map originally produced for the 1920 Part-to-Park Tour.  We presented to the Whiteleys a reproduction set of the early 1920 window decals for each of the 12 National Parks, which I had made using illustrations from the Whiteley’s website.  Lee also came armed with highlighted maps to guide us on the first leg of our journey.


Jean with Lee & Jane Whiteley after brunch in Denver, Colorado


Dan & Jean starting the Park-to-Park tour at Overland Park

After brunch, the Whiteleys escorted us to Denver’s Overland Park, now a public golf course, which as a camp ground in 1920, was the official starting point of the 1920 Park-to-Park Tour.  We said our good-byes, and off Jean and I went on the official start of our own Park-to-Park Tour.  The first part of the journey led us up Federal Avenue through the whole of Denver’s Westside.  It provided an informative view into the diversity of that city.  We enjoyed the experience, but welcomed the breakout into the suburbs and finally the countryside.


View of Denver looking east from Federal Avenue – Bronco’s stadium on the left

Lee’s suggested route lead us down lesser traveled by-ways and finally up a winding and undulating (often simultaneously) Route 7 which works its way circuitously up to the town of Estes Park, a tourist haven at the base of Rocky Mountain National Park.

We spent the evening in a ‘60’s era log exterior motel after having a tasty Nepalese meal that consisted of ground chicken and vegetables stuffed into wrinkled skinned “dumplings” that resembled Star Trek’s Lt. Commander Worf’s forehead and might well have been alien egg pods from some science fiction movie.  Anyway, they were very tasty.


Lodge in Estes Park

Monday, August 26, 2013 – Rocky Mountain National Park

Recalling a brief tour that Jean and I had taken of the Park when we were younger (the mountains were taller then), and noting that the Jeep struggled to make it up the grades to Estes Park the previous day, we stowed all for our luggage and electronic gear at the Lodge office before attacking the assent into the Park.  I also stopped at the local NAPA auto part store (never can pass one up) and purchased an extra jug of 50/50 antifreeze solution in case the jeep overheated on the way up and coolant needed replenishment.

We did quite well; electing to enter at the northern entrance to the Park as the least vertically challenging.  We made a big splash (small one actually) when we stopped at a lookout near the top of the climb and the resting engine emitted a soft mist which supplemented that of the surrounding clouds.  I had improvised a coolant overflow reservoir from a plastic pop bottle and some wire ties to catch any antifreeze escaping the coolant system.  No harm done – as long as no one mistakes the antifreeze containing pop bottle for a Mountain Dew.  Come to think about it, they are quite similar…

After reaching the Alpine Visitor Center at 11,796 feet above sea level (+ one’s own height) where we had a warm drink and looked at tourist stuff, we descended, leaving the Park through its southern entrance.  It was an exhilarating experience for both of us (more so for me, as I am aware of all the 63 year old parts on the Jeep that could fail without notice and send us hurling over the edge…).



Ernest Hemingway in the Himalayas – or maybe Dan at the Rocky Mountain National Park visitor’ center


Jean at a lookout in Rocky Mountain National Park


Road out of Rocky Mountain National Park with Long’s Peak in the background – note the sign

Anyway, we survived, gathered up our gear at the Lodge and headed north on a three day journey to Yellowstone National Park and our eventual rendezvous with our daughter Jeanette and family who are planning to fly out from Raleigh to join us for a few days in Jackson Hole and Yellowstone National Park.  Can’t they take the hint – we drove 2,000 miles in an old jalopy risking life and limb just to have some private time – – – just kidding.

Stayed in Laramie, Wyoming Monday evening.  I spotted this convenient motel on our way into town and suggested we check it out.  Was I proud of myself when I learned that they were having a special offer of a $49 rate!!  But when I returned to the car to inform Jean of my wise business transaction, she was less than pleased.  In my intense effort to close the deal I had failed to notice the dilapidated sign, the cracked entrance way, the stained carpets……; well you get the idea.  I could ignore all that for $49, but apparently she was not so forgiving.  We did survive, and to the best of our knowledge, have no strange insect bites or intestinal aliments – yet observed.


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Left the hospitable confines of our $49 room (did I mention that the room was only $49??) and headed north and east to a scheduled stay in Thermopolis, Wyoming.  Not surprisingly, Jean made this evening’s accommodation arrangements.   The trip to Warm Springs covered a lot of rolling prairie with scrub brush and rock out-croppings.  We had lunch at a little restaurant in Casper, Wyoming with virtually no windows.  Not sure if that was to keep outsiders from seeing what was being served or to keep customers from displaying dismay at the food.  Wasn’t half bad, actually.



The highlight of the trip to Thermopolis was the 15 mile winding trip on Route 20 down Big Horn River Gorge with its tall craggy stone walls and railroad tracks sharing the route with the river and our roadway.  Beautiful trip in, and being down sloping, an easy ride in our power challenged vehicle.


Traveling north on Route 20 in Big River Gorge just south of Thermopolis, Wyomong

When Jean said that we would be spending the evening in Thermopolis I thought “hot dog – “Therm” means “hot” and “opolis” means “town” – so I was expecting there to be a hot time in the old time tonight.  No such thing; just a quiet town with some hot springs dispersed around the area.  Never-the-less, I will try to enjoy a night’s rest with semi-trailers cruising by the window of our “rustic” suite and the nostalgic sound of an occasional train whistle to sooth me to sleep.  Did I mention the room rate was…


Blog Entry #6 August 19 to 23, 2013 - On the Road Again! Kentucky to Colorado
Blog entry #8 August 28 to 30, 2013 – Thermopolis to Yellowstone

2 Responses to “Blog Entry #7 August 24 to 27, 2013 – Start of Park-to-Park tour; Denver to Thermopolis”

  1. bob L says:

    Dan and Jean,
    Thanks for the updates. Enjoy Jellystone, my favorite all time park. Spend some quality time there enjoying the geography and the animals. Be sure to stay inside the park. Any park hotel desk can help you with any of the accomodations. Be sure to reques the $49 specials.
    Bob L

  2. Great blog! Saw your house visitor, Fr Charles, at the airport this morning – he was looking relaxed and ready for his travels.