The last day at the Kelly’s we had another great breakfast and Robin insisted in cleaning the windows of the camper. Hopefully the screen pictures Jamaliah takes are a bit clearer. She also gave us quite a lot of healthy food to take with us in the camper. They are great hosts and we had a fantastic time there.  Thank you again Rich and Robin for your generosity and hospitability.  Looking forward to seeing you both in Holland. 

We were on the move again.  It was first to Colorado Springs for an oil change at Jiffy lube. In Boulder nobody wanted to do it because we had our own oil filter and they can only use their own parts (Liability). It was no problem here.  From there, it is not much further to the Royal Gorge Bridge and Park where we camped on a park campground with a view down into the valley. The area is becoming dryer and the trees shorter. In between the pines there are very old juniper trees.

The next day we visited the hanging bridge over the gorge of the Arkansas river. It is a tourist attraction. In 1929 somebody saw the business potential and had the highest suspension bridge in the world built over the gorge to attract tourists. The bridge still stands and next to it is a gondola and zip line over the gorge. In the valley below on one side there is a train line (now only for tourists) and on the other a damaged wooden pipeline which was used to bring water to Canon city around 1900. After several gondola rides, crossing the suspension bridge and a Burger with Fries we drove on following the Arkansas river which winds its ways through the mountains to its headwaters. These headwaters are a series of lakes. Some of them are dammed. The water level is low because there was not much snowfall during the winter. We crossed the Monarch Pass (3441 m) going down to Gunnison where we camped just outside the town at a free recreational camp site. During the night the temperature dropped dramatically and it was 2 deg inside the camper in the morning. Fortunately we got the heater working again (it has been working on and off). The skies are clear on this side of the mountain. It still takes to 12 noon before you can take off your sweater. In the evening once the sun sets it cools off fast and sitting outside without a campfire is not pleasant.

Yesterday we drove further east through the Rocky Mountains and stopped at the Black Canyon. Rich had recommended this stop and it is well worth it. We drove up and around the rim of the canyon and made many stops at the lookouts and at the end of the road, a walk to the end of the ridge where you could look towards the low green irrigated valleys with snow camped mountains in the distance. This canyon is black with colourful bands of pegmatite’s and gneiss waving though the black granite walls. You can descend into the canyon but cannot walk or canoe upstream through it. At the beginning of the gorge, the river is dammed and the water diverted through 5 mile tunnel to irrigate the prairie. The green fields can clearly be seen from the top. In the evening we camped just outside the park next to an American/German couple. This free campsite is under the trees in the rocky pine/juniper forest. The sites are not level so we were struggling to find a good spot, despite the levelling green plastic bricks we had bought some time ago. After sunset we joined the neighbours at the campfire and exchanged stories about our and their trip through Iceland. They had some magnificent daytime drone footage of the volcano outburst we had only seen during the night in the fog and rain. They also gave us some tips for things to visit on our way south west.

It was not too far to Grand Junction (junction of the Colorado and the Gunnison rivers). The landscape is dry and the rivers have cut away at the mountains. Particularly at Grand Junction, the Colorado river has cut through the red colour sandstone to create the Colorado National Monument. Our “America the Beautiful” pass gave us free access. We bought this pass in Alaska and it is valid for 1 year in all US national parks. Since park entries vary from $20 to $35, you quickly recuperate the $80 that the pass cost. At our first attempt to enter the park, we heard a weird scratching sound coming from underneath the camper. It felt like something was wrong with the rear brakes. We found no stones but one of the break disks was very hot. We drove back into town and were lucky to find a garage open on a Saturday. They were willing to have a look but did not give us much hope. One of the right rear brake pads was worn out and steel was scraping on steel. The other pad was hardly worn.  Obviously the hydraulic system was not functioning well. After some lubrication the cylinder worked. One of our spare brake pads was installed and we were all good to go again. What a relief that we could get it fixed so quick. It was getting late when we re-entered the park and so we drove straight to the park campsite. Again we were lucky to get a spot (with a view down into the valley)  since this is one of the main attractions in this area and fills up quickly in the weekend.