June 17 – 19
We left the Oakleys’ cabin around noon on June 17th. I took the RV down the hill with some trepidation, but the snow was gone and the driveway wasn’t slippery, so we drove out with no trouble. At Dinah’s recommendation, we took the north-eastern route back to Denver: Route 277 north to I-90, then south into Wyoming to I-25, heading toward Colorado. We spent the night at the KOA in Billings, Montana, the first KOA in the U.S., established as recently as 1962. Our campsite was right on the Yellowstone River, which we saw in Yellowstone Park, east of the continental divide. It empties into the Missouri River, thence to the Mississippi and ultimately into the Gulf of Mexico. We ate a pancake breakfast offered at the campground, then left about 8:30 AM, mountain time (10:30 EST, which I continued to keep on my clocks).
The drive into and through Wyoming was impressive for the geology. Buttes and cliffs, escarpments and mesas, loomed above largely barren scrublands. Arroyos cleaved dry, dune-like hills, creating small, sandy canyons. It was a landscape of sand and naked, raw rock, with pitiable scrub-like life forms bravely clinging to the dry, nutrient-poor ground that could scarcely be deemed soil. We seemed to chase shadows of clouds cast across the empty landscape. In the southern part of the state, all elevated formations were flat on top, no doubt shaved off by glaciers and eroded by wind and what rare torrents of water might pour from occasional clouds, creating a surreal table-land as far as the eye could see.
I had intended to try to reach Boulder, Colorado that evening, the home of a couple, Jim and Rachel Bender, whom I had met on a trip to Peru. The drive took longer than I thought it would, so, south of Casper, WY, I called the Benders, saying we probably wouldn’t make it that evening. But Rachel (apparently misunderstanding where I said we were) assured me that we weren’t far from Boulder. So I kept on driving, and we did make it to their house that evening, albeit after an exhausting twelve-hour-long drive. We just parked, went into their house, said “Hi,” had a drink of water, and then immediately went back out to the RV and went to bed.
The next day, the Benders took us on a tour of Boulder, particularly the University and the Center for Atmospheric Research, which was very interesting. A huge computer occupies much of the basement; it crunches data on weather and atmospheric conditions, and provides information to the national weather service. I would like to have spent more time there, but was having breathing difficulties and didn’t feel much like walking. I believe the altitude was bothering me. Blake enjoyed spending time with the Benders, who have grandchildren about his age. Rachel played games with him, and Jim explained things to him at the atmospheric research center. They also took us by their church; its roof is completely covered with solar panels!
That evening, we drove south to Denver and parked at the Flying J (gas station that caters to trucks and RVs) in Aurora. The next morning, we got up early so that I could check in at 8:00 AM at the National Jewish Health clinic (NJH) in Denver, where I would be subjected to a week-long series of tests and examinations intended to determine what (if anything diagnosible) has been causing the serious worsening of my respiratory condition.