Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Million Dollar Highway - Ouray to Silverton, Colorado

On a map Highway 550 looks pretty innocuous and maybe even a good route to take between Durango and Ouray, Colorado... in reality its more like a thrill ride through nature.  It has twists, S-turns, curves, drop offs, climbs, rivers, sheer rock cliffs, lakes, old mines, red mountain tops and more.  It’s fabulous!  They just don’t make roads like this anymore.  This particular road, at least the 8 mile section of it between Silverton and Ouray, that is referred to as the MIllion Dollar Highway was blown out of the side of a mountain in the early 1920’s.  Some people say the Highways name came because it cost a million a mile to build, some say it’s the value of the gold tailings in the road, and some because of its million dollar views.  I’ll go with the views.

I have driven this road at least a hundred times but have yet to drive my RV on it.  I don’t recommend driving an RV this route to others either.  What would be thrill on a motorcycle or in sport’s car, in this case, becomes more of a white knuckle experience when you are 36’ and towing.  

People do drive their RV’s on this road, most that I have talked to only did it because it looked like the best route between Durango and Ouray and they didn’t know any better.  I followed a 5th Wheel on one drive that kept dropping its wheels off the road on the sharp curves and came within an inch of scraping his rig on the rock walls. 
The best way to enjoy this road is in a car, jeep or on a motorcycle on a beautiful Colorado blue sky day.  There is plenty to see along the route and the tourist towns of Ouray and Silverton make nice bookends for the trip.  The fall colors are fabulous along this route the last part of September.  If you get to the San Juans in Southwestern Colorado, I highly recommend taking a ride on the MIllion Dollar highway.  It’s a scenic route that you _will_ remember!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Truth in Broadcasting .. ???

I frequently flip channels as I watch the local news. As I watched this evening, I happened to catch the same story on three different major network channels out of Phoenix, Arizona. The problem was that each of the channels told a different story on what should have been a very cut and dry event.. the tornado touchdowns in Northern Arizona. The first report interviewed a National Weather Service person, which explained there were 4 tornadoes, 2 of which hit the Bellemont area outside of Flagstaff. One of those hit a Camping World store. The 2nd station did report, 4 tornadoes, 2 in Bellemont but said it hit a Mobile Home park. Camping World is not a Mobile Home park. The 3rd station reported that 4 tornadoes touched down _in_ Bellemont! I had to turn off the news at that point! How could a Phoenix station not even get where tornadoes touched down in their own state correct!?

In my experience with television reporters, I know that they edit what you say to make it more sensational. Radio and print tend to do the same thing. I have done interviews for newspapers and even national magazines where what they printed didn’t at all resemble what I said. The TV spots were edited just to one or two sentences that weren’t necessarily in context.

Most of what is printed or reported has more to do with sensationalism than truth. Consider the ‘Ground Zero Mosque’ that is neither a Mosque or at Ground Zero, but the media billed as the being both, so now that’s what the general public believes. A person with a radio or TV following can suggest that Obama is not a US citizen or a Christian without a shred of proof and millions of people blindly accept that as fact. I constantly get the ‘OMG the sky is falling and Obama is going to kill your grandma’ type emails that get passed along like wildfire without anyone ever taking the time to check the facts. I was in a church in St. Louis where the pastor suggested that Obama was not a Christian because he didn’t go to church on Christmas. He got a lot of amens and applause from his large congregation. Last I checked the New Testament, there was no requirement to go to church on Christmas to be a Christian. I did see that verse about judging your neighbor though.

Some where along the line we have become a fact-less nation. It is one thing when the media takes my story and embellishes it in the local newspaper with a circulation of 25,000 people. It is quite another when major news sources and public figures are allowed to broadcast untruths and half-truths without ramifications. Does it matter if viewers think the tornado hit a Mobile Home park filled with people in their homes rather than a Camping World with mostly empty RV's and a few RVs that had people in them ? A Mobile Home Park certainly has more of the 'OMG factor'. Does it make a difference whether viewers in Phoenix believe that there were 4 tornadoes in Bellemont when there were really two? Maybe not, but what else is being reported inaccurately? Don't we deserve accuracy in reporting? We as citizens need to do our part in educating ourselves on issues, but should it be that difficult to get an accurate tornado account? I think we should be able to have some level of trust that major media sources are reporting truthfully and accurately. Unfortunately, we aren’t there yet. Maybe our News outlets should carry disclaimers at the end of their broadcast saying "This Broadcast may contain fictional characters, events and stories. We make no claims to the truth or accuracy of anything we have just said".

Friday, October 8, 2010

Up, Up and Away! - Hot Air Ballooning in Colorado

On this clear, cool, crisp Colorado morning our pilot pulls the handle above us and the large flame fills our balloon with hot air to lift us off the ground. We head straight for a tree! I ask our pilot, Gary, how long he has been flying these things, as we grab leaves off the top of the tree. He looks at his watch and responds, “Oh, about 1 minute 45 seconds” .. he stalls .. “And 20 years”, he says with a smile. Our pilot, the owner of San Juan Balloon Adventures, is certainly a charming fellow with lots of stories to tell. As we rise higher over the town of Ridgeway and gain sweeping views of the Sneffels range of the San Juan Mountains, Gary points out some of the individual peaks and shares some of the history of the the town of Ridgeway.
My basket mates today are a young couple from Denver. He had just proposed and then surprised his bride-to-be with a Balloon ride. They are as wide - eyed as I. Our flight is an hour long but seemed to only take 15 minutes. The views of the mountains and the Ridgeway valley are fabulous. When the balloon isn’t being filled with more hot air, the silence is grand.

Apparently flying the balloon is NOT the hard part. The hard part is finding a suitable place to land. In our case, finding a friendly landowner, a suitable place and getting the wind to cooperate are the challenges. We find a friendly landowner and avoid landing in the back of a pickup with a little help from the landowner and a rope. We avoid their barn and land safely in their field. What a RUSH!

After packing up the balloon and heading back to our launch spot, we celebrate with a Balloonist prayer and champagne toast. We enjoy some snacks as Gary gives us the history of ballooning and more information about the local area.

I am not much of a morning person and our adventure started at 6:45 am, but I would certainly do this again. Great views, great trip, great pilot .. well except for that first tree thing!

My trip was booked by Switzerland of America Jeep Tours in Ouray, Colorado.


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