It’s time to take off and leave the heat and humidity behind in search of cool temperatures and pretty fall color. This year our final destination is Bob’s 50th High School reunion in Los Angeles. As we planned the trip, we arranged for a week (or so) in Southwest Colorado, a week (or so) in Southern Utah, and a week (or so) in California before heading down to LA.

Our friend Marty Brennaman called his last Reds baseball game so we dressed alike and listened as we drove west!

Leading up to our departure, we were fortunate to see the Ken Burns “Country Music” documentary and loved it so much! If you haven’t watched, DO IT. We weren’t able to finish it at home, so we watched the final episodes from campgrounds on our long trip to Colorado. 

As we passed through Missouri we stopped in Marceline at the old historic Santa Fe depot, where my dad, my brother Yale, and my sister Susan all worked during their long careers with the railroad. It is now a museum dedicated to Walt Disney, as it is his hometown. But I literally had goosebumps stepping into the depot, and it had nothing to do with Disney but all to do with my family’s history there.

Imagining my family stepping into this building to go to work!

We stayed overnight in Missouri and Kansas (Prairie Dog State Park) before making it to Heaton Bay Campground in the gorgeous Centennial State, as Colorado is known.

We both LOVED driving across the northern Kansas prairie.

Full hookups and a lake view at Prairie Dog State Park — but we didn’t see a single prairie dog!

Heaton Bay, site 33 – nestled in those beautiful trees.

As you’ll see from all our many pictures, the aspens are absolutely bursting with color on all the mountain sides. We stayed two nights at Ridgway State Park so we could enjoy full hook-ups before the upcoming boondocking in the San Juan Mountains. On our first morning in Ridgway, we drove down the Million Dollar Highway so we could get the lay of the land before towing the June Bug down to Silverton. It is a spectacular and nerve-wracking drive WITHOUT a trailer behind us! But Bob was certain we wouldn’t have any problems, as we saw many 5th wheelers and trailers making the trek.

Ridgway State Park, site number 267

Scoping out the campsite we’ve dreamed about. Will we snag it??

We also took a scenic drive into the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, another worthwhile trip and only a short distance from Ridgway.

Black Canyon of the Gunnison

Black Canyon of the Gunnison from the south rim

Black Canyon of the Gunnison – can you see me?!

The Gunnison River, waaaay down in the canyon

Vera is such a great traveler

Sunset at Black Canyon of the Gunnison

The Million Dollar Highway rivals Glacier’s Going-to-the-Sun Road for excitement and awe, and has such beautiful views. We were able to take video and photos and stop at some of the overlooks while we just had the Super Truck. We knew that once we started towing it would be impossible to pull over and look.

Towing June Bug on the Million Dollar Highway

We towed the June Bug on the Million Dollar Highway, following a big heavy truck all the way!

I’m a bit of a scaredy-cat when it comes to heights and big drop-offs, so I figured if I leaned over to the middle of the truck it would help keep us on the road! I’ll admit it may have irritated Bob a little bit to hear me gasp so often! In fact, my back got tired from tensing up and leaning all the way over for so long. By the time we hitched up and towed the June Bug the next day, I wasn’t nervous a bit. I knew Bob was confident, so I was confident!


Coffee, creek side! It was chilly but the views made up for it.

Our new back yard at Anvil

Anvil Campground is glorious and remote

Bob and I had scoped out a free campsite along a stream near Silverton, and dreamed of being lucky enough to snag it. We drove along a dirt forest road and Bob stopped the rig at the entrance to the “campground” so I could walk in to see if the perfect spot was still open. YES IT WAS! It’s impossible to say how happy I was to see we had the place to ourselves. The campground is called Anvil Campground and directly across Mineral Creek is the Sultan Campground. There are several little spots to camp for free, but we feel like we scored the very best spot.

After we made camp and settled in, a few other campers came along, but it’s so remote that none of them were intruding on our paradise! We could barely see another beautiful Airstream across from us, and the owner Brek strolled over and we chatted across the creek. We invited him to come over for a sip of whiskey by the campfire, which we NEVER do. But our chat was absolutely delightful and we just enjoyed good conversation until the stars came out and blew our minds. The Milky Way, you guys. The sky is so completely dark here that we were just amazed at the stars.

Just around the corner in the Kendall Campground

Today we went into Silverton, drove up a forest road, and saw the town from up high. We were able to see the Silverton/Durango trains pull into town! When I texted my brother Yale that we were going to photograph the trains, he called us “foamers”, the name railroaders call people who obsess over trains and stand by the tracks taking pictures and videos. Today Bob and I were FOAMERS, for sure.

Above Silverton, waiting for the first train to pull into town

Kendall Campground, just around the corner from Anvil

We had hoped to ride the narrow gauge train down to Durango and back, but we were unable to sort out what to do with Vera for such a long day away. So I guess we’ll be coming back to Colorado!

This campsite is so wonderful (and FREE!), and with LTE signal, I think we’ll just stay here until we move into Utah in a few days. But that’s for another post altogether. Keep following along!

Steely Van Great Southern Trip
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