Good to Have a Plan “B”

In my last post, I mentioned a problem with our awning. The pin that the upper eye on the gas strut mounts to came off. I temporarily installed it and secured it with wire. I needed a new clip washer to complete the repair.

Tuesday was our last full day in Santa Fe. While Donna went out for a run in the morning, I took the Spyder to Home Depot to see if I could find what I needed. No luck finding an actual clip washer. After searching around, I came up with something I thought might be workable. The pin is 3/8″ diameter. I found internal toothed lock washers and selected a package to fit a 5/16″ bolt. I figured I might be able to force the under-sized washer over the pin and the teeth would grip it.

5/16" internal toothed lock washer

5/16″ internal toothed lock washer

I tried to force the washer over the end of the pin by fitting a 3/8″ socket over the washer and tapping it with a hammer. The stainless steel washer was too stiff, I couldn’t get it over the pin. I used pliers to bend the teeth slightly, opening up the inside diameter of the washer. A few more taps with the socket and it was on. Then I used a punch tool and tapped the teeth firmly against the pin.

Washer locked down

Washer locked down

This locked the washer in place. I’m fairly confident it will hold the pin. It took longer than it sounds, but in the end it was job done!

I downloaded another novel by Kyle Mills from Amazon to my Kindle Reader. This is my third book from this author – he writes a great story but the Kindle editing and formatting leaves a bit to be desired. There are typos and missing punctuation at times.

On Wednesday morning, I had much to do. I secured everything in the trailer and loaded the Spyder. I checked our tire pressures and put away the tire covers. I filled the fresh water tank and dumped and flushed the holding tanks. I worked for nearly two hours before I was ready to light the fires in the Cummins ISL diesel engine. We pulled out of Los Suenos de Santa Fe RV Park right at 11am. I usually prefer to hit the road earlier than that, but we were only going to Albuquerque – about 60 miles away.

Our first stop was at the San Felipe Truck Plaza in San Felipe, New Mexico – about halfway to Albuquerque. We’ve only covered a little over 200 miles since I last filled up in Raton, but we have run the generator a lot since then and I will be running the generator in the next few weeks. I like to have the tank topped up when I know we’ll be using the generator. Diesel fuel at the truck plaza was $2.19/gallon. That’s the least expensive fuel price we’ve had since we hit the road.

Our destination was Jessica Rice’s parents’ home in the North Albuquerque Acres neighborhood near Sandia Heights. Our plan was to dry camp on their property for a week until we move to the Balloon Fiesta Park. I had looked at the property on Google Earth and it looked large enough, but I thought I would have to back into their driveway or else I wouldn’t be able to turn around and maneuver.

When we arrived, we saw Jessica’s dad Bruce in the driveway. I stopped in the street and got out to look things over. The street was narrower than I expected. When I stepped out of the coach, I noticed that the edge of the road dropped off immediately into a ditch. I also found the weeds along the ditch were full of goathead stickers and my bare feet in flip-flops collected several. Ouch!

After looking the situation over, we decided we needed to go to plan “B.” The narrow road with no shoulder coupled with posts on each side of the driveway entry would make it difficult if not impossible to get into the driveway. Even if I made it into the driveway, there was less room than we thought there would be. I think Bruce was surprised at the size of our rig. Bruce felt bad about us having to go somewhere else, but it wasn’t his fault.

It’s always good to have a contingency plan when we’re going to an unknown dry camping place. We were invited to join Bruce and his wife Casey along with Brad and Jessica and Jessica’s brother Bruce and his wife Julie for dinner at the elder Bruce’s house around 5pm. Donna had baked pear gingerbread before we left Santa Fe in the morning to contribute to dinner. We left the gingerbread with Bruce and headed over to the Sandia Resort & Casino.

This was our fall-back option. We knew we could park overnight at the casino which is only about five miles from Bruce and Casey’s house. After some tight maneuvering in the casino lot, we found ourselves in nearly the same spot we occupied last year.

Donna took her laptop into the air-conditioned lounge in the casino and used her phone as a hot spot to get some work done. It was 87 degrees in the coach! Around 4pm, we rode the Spyder and made a stop for a quick cold one at Albuquerque Brewery which was near Bruce’s house. This is a small brewery making good beer to style. We met the brewmaster who is also one of the owners. We had a nice chat and enjoyed a pint before we headed to dinner.

Casey cooked up a large pot of southern New Mexico-style green chile enchiladas. These are different than the usual rolled enchiladas. It’s more like a green chile chicken stew served over a fried tortilla and it was absolutely delicious. The eight of us enjoyed the meal and conversation and had a great time. Casey gave Donna some of the leftovers and also a couple of servings of adobada (sometimes spelled adovada) which is a red chile marinated meat – most often pork or chicken but could also be beef. I’m not sure what’s in this dish, but I’ll find out for sure today. If it’s half as good as the green chile enchiladas were, it’ll be a treat!

We were having such a good time, I didn’t want to interrupt the flow by taking photos, so no pictures from the dinner party. It started to sprinkle as we were leaving but we managed to outrun the storm. Back at the coach, I covered the Spyder before the lightning, thunder and rain hit.

This morning it’s clear and sunny. We’ll move to an RV park on the west side of town called Enchanted Trails RV Park. I’ve booked a week there, then we’ll move to the Balloon Fiesta Park as planned.

 

*Just so you know, if you follow one of my links to Amazon and decide to make a purchase, you pay the same price as usual and  I’ll earn a few pennies for the referral. It’ll go into the beer fund. Thanks!

Trouble with Fasteners

Sunday went pretty much as planned – I watched a lot of TV. First up was the Formula One race from Singapore, then it was NFL action for the rest of the day. Before I got through the race, we had a problem though. I was putting the awning out when I heard a sharp snap followed by a loud bang. I could see the rear support arm wasn’t extending like it should.

Upon inspection, I discovered that the pin the upper end of the gas strut is mounted to had come off. The pins used on the awning supports are held in place with thin clip washers with a serrated inner circumference. These are forced over the end of the pin and grip it, holding it in place. Well, the clip washer had broken off, allowing the pin to come out.

Upper gas strut mount broken

Upper gas strut mount broken

To get the strut back in place and insert the pin, I had to compress the strut. This is easier said than done, the pressure in the strut is amazingly high. With a little ingenuity, I was able to extend the awning support arm and lever the strut in place. Then it took several attempts using a large screwdriver as a pry bar to align the upper strut mount with the holes in the awning support and insert the pin. Once I got the pin in place, I temporarily wired it so it wouldn’t back out. One of the spacers is also missing, but the wire job kept the strut in place.

I need a bigger hammer

I need a bigger hammer

Temporary wire job

Temporary wire job

After I got the awning back in, Donna took advantage of the nice weather and walked to Sprouts to do some food shopping and also walked to Ulta. Then she rested her shoulder and read a book – one of my favorites – Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.

On Monday morning, we were a little more ambitious and went to the Genoveva Chavez Community Center here in Santa Fe to play pickleball. We played for more than two hours and I think I got nine games in. I played much better than I did on Friday as I lost some of the rustiness from going months without playing. Donna’s shoulder issue is on her left shoulder. She’s right-handed so playing pickleball was okay for her.

I had another project in the afternoon. Our toilet seat cover is deteriorating. The toilet seat and cover are made from molded pressed wood particles and covered with a urethane finish. The urethane is flaking off in a few places and I can see raised areas where it’s separating from the pressed wood.

Old toilet seat cover

Old toilet seat cover

I ordered a new seat and cover from Amazon on Saturday. Tracking showed delivery to the RV park Monday afternoon – how do they do that? I walked up to the park office and asked about the delivery. I was told nothing came for me. I saw a flat box in the corner and walked over to look at it – sure enough, it had my name on it.

The new seat and cover are similar to the old one, but it has a soft-closing feature. When you lower the seat or lid, some kind of friction device lowers it slowly so it’ll never bang shut. Getting the old parts off and installing the new one was harder than it should have been. Obviously the seat and cover were put on the toilet before it was installed in the coach. I didn’t want to remove the entire toilet to change the seat so I had to be a contortionist to get to the mounting nuts behind the toilet. It took a little time and effort but I got it done.

New seat and cover installed

New seat and cover installed

I have a gripe about the new cover though. Typically these are installed with nylon bolts through the mounting tabs and nylon nuts underneath the toilet to clamp the mounting tabs in place. Some whiz-bang engineer thought it would be wise to come up with a new way to accomplish this. The new nylon bolts have a circular shoulder with a groove around the circumference. The mounting tabs have plastic fingers that are forced into the groove when the mounting tab cover is snapped in place. These plastic fingers and groove are what holds the seat and cover to the toilet.

What were they thinking? Bolts, washers and nuts are clamping devices. The age-old method of using them as such to hold the seat works fine. With the new method I have problems. When the soft-closing feature has the cover slowly lowering, the leverage it has puts a large force on the mounting tabs. One of the tabs has popped out of the groove in the bolt several times already. Using the shoulder of the bolt to create a friction fit of the fingers in a groove is just plain stupid. I reinstalled the offending bolt this morning, we’ll see if it holds or if I have to come up with something else.

We’re expecting a high in the low 80s today. The weather guessers say there’s zero percent chance of rain. I’ll go to the hardware store and see if I can find a suitable clip washer for the awning – we’ll want to shade the coach with the awning today. Tomorrow we’ll leave Santa Fe and move to Albuquerque where we’ll be for the next 19 days.

 

*Just so you know, if you follow one of my links to Amazon and decide to make a purchase, you pay the same price as usual and  I’ll earn a few pennies for the referral. It’ll go into the beer fund. Thanks!

 

Found in New Mexico

We’re still working with WordPress to resolve the subscriber issue. Unfortunately a bug in the last WordPress plug-in update stopped the e-mail notifications for subscribers. Hopefully they’ll get it worked out soon. I apologize for the inconvenience.

On Friday morning, Donna and I rode the Spyder to the Genoveva Chavez Community Center a couple of miles away from Los Suenos de Santa Fe RV Park. This is a great facility – it includes two indoor swimming pools, an ice skating rink, basketball courts and pickleball on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Visitors pay seven dollars for a day pass.

Seven dollars each to play pickleball is a little steep, but we wanted to play. We got several games in over the course of two hours on the courts. A couple of the regular members remembered us from when we played here last year. It was a fun time and we’ll play again on Monday.

Donna took advantage of the day use pass by walking the trail back to the center later in the afternoon. She rented ice skates for three bucks and skated. At one point she became distracted by some kids horsing around and caught her toe point and fell. She continued skating and was able to walk home, but hurt her shoulder – it seems like soft tissue damage around the labrum. Her range of motion in her left arm is limited. Hopefully ice and rest will allow it to heal.

On Saturday morning, we headed down to the Santa Fe Railyard District for the farmers’ market. At this time of year in New Mexico, you’ll find green chile roasters everywhere. There were a few at the market – the aroma is mouth-watering.

Green chiles roasting over a propane burner

Green chiles roasting over a propane burner

This is a great farmers’ market with lots of local fare. Some of the produce is typical of most farmer’s markets – the usual fresh vegetables.

Colorful array of tomatoes

Colorful array of tomatoes

Other items are uniquely New Mexican. Of course there are the afore-mentioned roasted green chiles and Donna found something called chicos. Chicos are tender corn cooked in a horno – a bee-hive shaped outdoor oven. After the corn in the husk is cooked for about 12 hours in the horno, the corn is sun-dried then shucked. The kernels look like large unpopped popcorn. They have a smoky flavor and are used in traditional New Mexico stews.

Donna's take from the market - raspberry ginger jam, pea shoots and sunflower sprouts (in the plastic bag), caraway gouda cheese, organic pears, goat kefir (this will be my first time trying this!), a chicken and green chile pot pie, green chile BBQ rub, and chicos

Donna’s take from the market – raspberry ginger jam, pea shoots and sunflower sprouts (in the plastic bag), caraway gouda cheese, organic pears, goat kefir, a chicken and green chile pot pie, green chile BBQ rub, and chicos

I’ll have the chicken and green chile pot pie today while I’m watching football and Donna plans to make a pork stew with the green chile rub and chicos tomorrow night.

Speaking of food, last night Donna made a spicy basil and bok choy chicken stir-fry for dinner. It’s been a while since we had stir-fry and it was delicious.

Basil chicken stir-fry

Basil and bok choy chicken stir-fry

As I’ve said many times, life on the road doesn’t mean you have to eat out or have hot dogs over the campfire every night. We enjoy home-cooked complete, nutritious, delicious meals pretty much every day.

The weather is nice today – the forecast calls for a high of 75 with sunny skies. In spite of that, I’m looking forward to a couch potato day. I have the Formula One race from Singapore this morning and NFL football for the remainder of the day. I hope I do better in the football pool this week – I signed up and prepaid for the season and send my picks in via e-mail. If I happen to win, I’ll collect my share when we are in San Diego a month from now.

 

 

Wild Hogs and Young Guns

We left the Santa Fe Elks Lodge just before noon on Wednesday. Our destination was only about eight or nine miles away – the Los Suenos De Santa Fe RV Park. This park is a little pricier than we usually pay, but we love the location. I’d mapped our route on Google Maps before we headed out. I hit a snag at the first turn off Old Pecos Trail. I’d planned on taking West Zia Road to Rodeo Road, but there was a sign prohibiting vehicles over five tons on that road. We weigh more than three times that.

That’s why I like to use our Rand-McNally RVND 7720 GPS – it’s specifically programmed for RVs. I input our weight, length, height, amount of propane on board and other factors. It stores this information and uses it every time it suggests a route. I don’t have to worry about being overweight or encountering a low bridge or overpass.

I continued on Old Pecos Trail and hit Rodeo Road. It only added a mile or so to the route. We stayed at this park last year and knew they had long pull-through sites. The pull-throughs are 70 feet long but relatively narrow. I remembered it being difficult to maneuver into the sites – you have to make a sharp 90-degree turn off a relatively narrow road and enter the site between two concrete barriers. Whoever came up with this design doesn’t understand that 70-foot long sites are intended for big rigs. Threading your way between concrete barriers is unnecessarily risky.

When we pulled up to site 76, there was a truck in the back-in site behind it, preventing me from swinging wide enough to enter our site. Donna and I agreed the best course of action was to make a loop of the park and back into the site from the front side. There aren’t any barriers on the front end and the road is wider there. I was able to back in the trailer in one shot, only pulling forward a bit to straighten it out. Much better than trying to get past the concrete.

You're supposed to enter the site between these concrete barriers

You’re supposed to enter the site between these concrete barriers

A few rain drops fell while we were setting up, but it wasn’t a big deal. Later I relaxed and read a book. Donna made lemon chicken with creamed spinach and brown basmati rice for dinner.

Lemon chicken with creamed spinach and rice

Lemon chicken with creamed spinach and rice

On Thursday, we woke to bright blue skies and the promise of nice weather ahead. We rode the Spyder about 20 miles out to a small town called Madrid – it’s not pronounced like Spanish capital (mah-DRID), locally it’s called MAD-rid. The town has a population of less than 200 people. The main street is lined with art galleries, jewelry and gemstone shops and four restaurants – we thought there were five, but I’ll get to that.

Madrid Main Street

Madrid Main Street

We walked and looked at the shops. Donna was tempted by some clothing, but we didn’t buy anything. In 2007, Madrid was the setting for a movie co-starring Tim Allen, John Travolta, Martin Lawrence and William H. Macy called Wild Hogs. A building was converted into a diner for the set. The diner was run by Maggie, played by Marisa Tomei and about half of the scenes shot in Madrid were inside or in front of the diner. When we drove through here last year in our coach, we saw Maggie’s Diner, but the streets were too narrow to park our motorhome so we didn’t stop.

This time we walked to Maggie’s thinking it would be fun to have lunch there.

Maggie's Diner

Maggie’s Diner

It turned out that Maggie’s Diner is just a movie set, not a real diner. It looks like a diner inside, but all of the booths and counter space are filled with T-shirts and other memorabilia. It’s just a touristy gift shop in reality.

Wild Hogs poster at Maggie's

Wild Hogs poster at Maggie’s

We walked back up the street to The Hollar, a southern-style restaurant and found a table on the patio there. I had an excellent smoked brisket sandwich while Donna had the stacked shrimp which was sauteed shrimp stacked in layers of cheesy grits and fried green tomatoes with a lavender bechamel sauce. Donna said it was delicious.

On the way back, we made a short detour to another small town called Cerrillos. It’s hard to believe today, but in the 1800s, this was a booming mine town and the hub of activity in the area. By 1900, the mines had shut down and the town dwindled. In 1988, a western movie co-starring Kiefer Sutherland, Charlie Sheen and Emilio Estevez called Young Guns was filmed here. The old hotel and saloon where many of the scenes were shot is still standing.

We made one more stop at Santa Fe Brewing just outside of town. We sampled a beer then Donna bought a few beers-to-go. She brought home a six-pack of IPA called Happy Camper, a six-pack of Imperial Java Stout and a bomber bottle of sour ale for me.

After we came home, I made a trip to old downtown Santa Fe while Donna caught up on some work. Since Donna bought me cowboy boots in Cheyenne, I’ve become a real fan of western boots. I love the fit and feel of them. I have a hankering for another pair and I’ve been looking at smooth ostrich skin boots. Ostrich skin is a soft yet durable leather and can be found in a few different varieties such as full quill which is full of dimples from the quills, smooth quill which has a few of the quill marks and ostrich leg which requires several pieces sewn together to make a boot.

In the old town area there are a few western boot shops. I stopped at Lucchese Boots. They are a well-established boot maker in Texas making western boots since 1883. I tried on a pair of full quill ostrich boots there and they were unbelievably comfortable. But they were way out of my price range. The boots in this store were priced from about $1,400 to over $4,000 for off-the-shelf boots. Custom orders are also available. The next two shops I looked at were also handmade boots that could be bought off-the-shelf or custom-made bespoke boots could be ordered. Again, way more than I’m willing to spend. I tried on a pair of boots at one shop that were handmade and priced at $1,900. They were horrible for me. The insoles felt lumpy and they didn’t fit me well at all. It goes to show, boots are a personal item and spending big bucks doesn’t guarantee a good fit.

I’ll keep looking – maybe I’ll end up buying myself a birthday present when I find the right boot.

Today we’re expecting a high temperature in the low 70s. It’ll become partly cloudy in the afternoon. A passing afternoon shower is always possible here, but the forecast looks good. Donna and I are going to the community center to play pickleball this morning – we haven’t played in months! Other than that, I have no plan for the day. Maybe I’ll get ambitious and wash the Spyder.

 

 

 

Manby Hot Springs Adventure

We had fine weather on Monday and went out to explore. I worked out a route on Google maps that would take us on a loop to a few sights we wanted to see and bring us back to the Taos Mesa Brewing Taproom.

We rode through town around 11am and hit NM522. We took this state road to a county road marked B-007 which would lead us to the trailhead of Manby Hot Springs. The county road was paved for the first few hundred yards, then became a gravel road which quickly deteriorated into a rutted dirt road.

County road B-007

County road B-007

It was treacherous on the Spyder – we have less than five inches of ground clearance. I continued slowly and picked lines to keep us out of the deep ruts. I felt like the road was better suited for a mountain bike! The road was unmarked, I had to stop a few times and find my location on my smartphone before proceeding through intersections.

It took a while as I was only going 10-15 mph, but we eventually found the trailhead above the Rio Hondo River.

Rio Hondo River below trailhead

Rio Hondo River below trailhead

It was about a mile from our parking spot to the hot springs next to the river. The trail was steep and rocky in a few places, but it was mostly fairly easy going.

View of the Rio Hondo about half way down the trail

View of the Rio Hondo about halfway down the trail

Supposedly the movie Easy Rider used these hot springs as a setting for the swimming scenes at the hippie commune. I guess things can really change over the course of 45 years – the movie was filmed in 1968 – but the springs aren’t nearly as large as the pools in the movie.

Rock cairn by the Rio Hondo

Rock cairn by the Rio Hondo

Donna soaked in a pool that was supposed to be about 97 degrees but she said the water didn’t feel that warm.

Donna magically disappears in the hot spring

Donna magically disappears in the hot spring

We hiked about 30 minutes up the trail back to the Spyder. I decided to take a different route out of there. County road B-007 became Tune Road – according to the map – there weren’t any signs. If we followed it, it would take us to US64, about four miles down the dirt road. This turned out to be a better route. It wasn’t rutted, but I still had to keep our speed down due to the washboard surface. There were a number of nice, large adobe homes along this road. A UPS delivery truck passed us on the way out. I can’t imagine driving a UPS truck on these roads day after day.

We followed US 64 west to the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge. There’s a rest area on the southwest side of the bridge and several vendor tables along the roadside with native jewelry, gems and rocks, pinon nuts and spices. This is a popular stopping place to take in the view of the gorge from the bridge.

Rio Grande Gorge Bridge

Rio Grande Gorge Bridge

Rio Grande Gorge

Rio Grande Gorge

We walked out on the bridge. The bridge has a concrete sidewalk on both sides and viewing platforms in the middle. We took a selfie by the platform on the south side. It had an emergency phone with a direct connection to a suicide hotline! There have been a number of suicide jumps off this bridge.

Rio Grande Gorge viewing platform

Rio Grande Gorge viewing platform

We continued on US64 a few more miles to the radical Earthship Biotechture community. This is a supposedly self-sustaining community with functioning dwellings incorporating passive solar energy, thermal mass construction and integrated water systems. Water comes from rainfall, there are no wells here. Indoor gardens supply food sources.

Earthship

Earthship

Passive solar heat

Passive solar heat

Another Earthship

Another Earthship

Rain runs off the steel roof panel and down the channel on the right

Rain runs off the steel roof panel and down the channel on the right

The run off from the roof is directed to a catch basin and drained into a filtration system

The run-off from the roof is directed to a catch basin and drained into a filtration system

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Thermal mass construction

Thermal mass construction

It’s a real oddity in the middle of nowhere. They have been here since the 1970s.

We rode back to Taos and stopped at the Taos Mesa Brewing Taproom. We had a late lunch/early happy hour with a really good wood-fired grilled pizza and a few samples of their excellent beer.

As we were getting ready to leave, a few raindrops started falling. We were able to take a back road and outrun the rain shower instead of sitting in traffic in town as the rain came down. Later, Donna went out for dinner with her friends, Kenton and Ricky Pass. I stayed home and watched Monday Night Football – it was double-header night.

On Tuesday morning, we prepared for the road and headed out of Taos Valley RV Park at 11am. We planned to find a boondocking spot for the night before we check in at Los Suenos De Santa Fe RV Park on Wednesday. We changed our plan on the fly a few times. We considered stopping in Espanola where we hit US285, then thought we would go on to a casino near Santa Fe. Espanola sits at an elevation 5,600 feet above sea level – we dropped down from 6,800 in Taos. We eventually decided on the Santa Fe Elks Lodge.

The description said there were two acres of RV space, no hook-ups. Plenty of room for big rigs. I usually look at Elks Lodges on Google Earth to confirm the best entry and where to turn around if necessary. I didn’t do this since we made the choice while I was driving.

I missed the first driveway but there was a second driveway 200 yards down the road. Another motorhome was behind us and followed us up the driveway. As I approached the lodge, I had to choose – stay right and drive in front of the lodge or go left around the lodge through a parking lot. I chose right since I wasn’t sure if I could get turned around in the parking lot. The motorhome behind us went left.

He made the better choice. I ended up making a tight left turn past the lodge where the road narrows and there were trees overhanging on both sides. In hindsight I should have gone straight and turned down the first driveway – then I could start over. But I didn’t. I tried to cut the turn as deep as possible but still ended up with tree branches on the left side of the trailer. I’ve driven over 6,000 miles with the big car carrier trailer without incident. Now, after the last two stops, I’ve put scratches on both sides of it! Dang!

We hung out at the lodge and had an uneventful night. In Santa Fe we’re back up to an elevation of 7,200 feet above sea level. Today we’ll move to the RV park for a weeklong stay in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The weather forecast looks favorable with the temperature in the 70s and a 20% chance of passing showers.

Spatchcocked Chicken in Taos

So, what’s a spatchcocked chicken you ask? Read on and I’ll get to it. We headed out of Eagle Nest Lake State Park around 11am on Saturday morning. Our route took us south then west on US64 through the Carson National Forest. A few miles past the junction to Angel Fire, we began climbing on a narrow switchback road with a speed limit of 25mph. I may have hit 30mph on the short straights, but you wouldn’t want to take the hairpin turns any faster than 25mph – maybe even 20mph in a motorhome.

After a couple of miles of this, we hit the summit over 9,000 feet above sea level. Having a turbocharged engine is a great advantage at higher elevations. Normally aspirated engines lose power as you gain altitude. The thinner atmosphere doesn’t provide as much oxygen – modern fuel-injected engines sense this through the oxygen sensor in the exhaust and adjust the amount of fuel injected accordingly. Less oxygen requires less fuel and power output drops.

Having a turbocharger or supercharger can mostly overcome this by compressing the incoming charge of air in the intake system, thus providing more oxygen. But there are always limitations. The Cummins/Holset turbocharger on our Cummins ISL engine is supposed to reach full-rated power up to 9,000 feet above sea level. It wasn’t quite there – the drop off was only really noticeable on the gauges – judging by seat-of-the-pants, not so much. Where I usually see the boost pressure top out at 24 psi, it only produced 22 psi at the higher elevation. Also, after deceleration, when I stepped on the accelerator, I could see a puff of black sooty exhaust. I don’t see this usually – it’s from a rich fuel mixture on initial acceleration due to the lower boost pressure. Anyway, we made it over the summit without any issues and dropped down into the Taos Valley.

We checked into the Taos Valley RV Park which sits at an elevation of 6,955 feet above sea level. Taos, New Mexico is a small town with a population of about 6,000. It’s an artsy community with an historic downtown area. The economy is mostly driven by tourism and outdoor recreation.

On Friday night before we left Eagle Nest Lake State Park, we watched an old movie – Easy Rider. Many of the scenes, including the jail where the main characters, Wyatt and Billy, meet an eccentric attorney were filmed in Taos. By the way – the attorney named George Hanson was played by an unknown-at-the-time actor named Jack Nicholson. He took the part for union scale wages which were $392/week at the time. The rest is history.

Taos Valley RV Park boasts long pull-through sites for big rigs. We found our site, number 39 was about 70 feet long allowing us to leave the trailer connected. However, the sites are narrow. They skimped on concrete by laying down two strips of concrete where the wheels are instead of a full concrete pad. The landscaping is native with creosote bushes lining the narrow sites. It was impossible for me to make the turn and line up in our site without scraping the side of the trailer on the stiff, brittle creosote branches. This left marks on the trailer – grrr.

Typical Taos Valley RV Park pull through site

Typical Taos Valley RV Park pull-through site

After we settled in, I set up the Traeger wood pellet fired smoker/grill. Donna defrosted a spatchcocked chicken she bought at Trader Joe’s in Colorado Springs.

Trader Joe's spatchcocked lemon rosemary chicken

Trader Joe’s spatchcocked lemon rosemary chicken

Spatchcocking fowl is an old preparation method dating back to the 1700s. It’s basically a method of butterflying and flattening the bird to allow it to roast quickly and evenly. This is done by removing the backbone from the bird, then flattening it. Some people open it up after removing the backbone and split the cartilage in the breast to make it flatten easier.

I started roasting the chicken skin (breast) side down.

Breast side down on the grill

Breast side down on the grill

The chicken was already marinated so there wasn’t much in the way of preparation. I had the Traeger set at 375 degrees. It was windy and this increased the cook time. When the internal temperature reached 130 degrees, I flipped the chicken and set the Traeger to high – 450 degrees. This crisped the skin. I pulled it off the grill when the internal temperature of the breast meat hit 160 degrees.

Nice and crispy

Nice and crispy

I have to say, this is my new favorite method for roasting a whole chicken. The white meat was juicy and so tasty. The skin was crisp. I’ll need to buy new poultry shears and learn to spatchcock a whole chicken myself. Donna served it with steamed broccoli and roasted fingerling potatoes with kalamata olives. The roasted olives were a nice salty addition to the potatoes.

Spatchcocked chicken with roasted fingerling potatoes with kalamata olives

Spatchcocked chicken with roasted fingerling potatoes and kalamata olives

I paired it with an IPA from Marble Brewing – they proudly claim it’s “Punctiliously brewed in ABQ, New Mexico.” It was a citrusy IPA that was quite tasty.

IPA from Marble brewing in Albuquerque

IPA from Marble brewing in Albuquerque

I bought the beer earlier in the day when I made a run on the Spyder to Smith’s grocery in town. I’m used to answering questions about the Spyder in parking lots or gas stations. This time there was another rig that garnered more attention than the Spyder. I think the passenger attracted some of the attention.

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It was an old BMW motorcycle with a side car and a dog for a passenger.

On Sunday, I hung out and watched the Moto GP race from Misano, Italy, then settled in for NFL football. Donna took the Spyder to the Devisadero Trailhead. She hiked up the 3.7 mile trail to the peak at 8,304 feet above sea level.

Sign at Devisadero peak

Sign at Devisadero Peak

Donna's selfie at the summit

Donna’s selfie at the summit

View of Taos from Devisadero

View of Taos from Devisadero

It looks like we’re in for another fine weather day. Temperatures should be in the upper 70s with little chance of rain. Donna is putting together a list of things to do today – we’ll do some sightseeing, visit a natural hot springs and check out the local brewery.

 

 

Eagle Nest Lake Trail

I mentioned in yesterday’s post that Donna hiked to the bakery at Eagle Nest village. She had an interesting early morning hike. The water in the lake was glassy. She took several pictures – I like this one from a high vantage point on the trail looking north toward the village.

Glassy water with reflections of the mountains

Glassy water with reflections of the mountains

Looking at this photo of the trail, you can see the variety of terrain in the area. There’s sage covered flatland favored by the prairie dogs, large meadows with rolling hills, pine covered mountainsides and bare peaks above the tree line.

Terrain varies

Terrain varies

Our neighbor told me he spotted elk in the meadow across the lake from us. I’m guessing they are bedded down in the shade of the trees on the mountainside in the afternoon and come out into the meadow in the evening. I haven’t heard any bulls bugling though.

On Donna’s hike she encountered deer – a young buck and a couple of does. She also saw a flock of white pelicans on the lake, but they were too far away to capture a good photo.

Deer by the trail

Deer by the trail

After breakfast, I had work to do. The night before, while I was watching the Broncos-Panthers NFL game, our generator hour meter turned over 1,000 hours.

Generator panel inside the coach

Generator panel inside the coach

That meant it was time for service. I like to perform preventive maintenance on a regular schedule. Onan recommends oil and filter changes every 150 hours and air and fuel filter changes every 500 hours. I had a gallon jug of Chevron Delo 400LE 15w-40 oil in the trailer and I had oil, air and fuel filters as well.

I figured it would be best to get the job done here in the park where there aren’t any rules against it. Many private RV parks prohibit working on your rig in the park. Draining the oil is easy, but removing the oil filter is always a chore. It’s hidden behind a trap door, mounted horizontally behind the generator shroud. I can’t see the filter – I have to remove it by feel. Of course, it was too tight to remove by hand. Every time I do this, I tell myself I need to buy a new oil filter wrench. The strap wrench I have is a real pain to fit into the small area where the filter is.

Onan doesn’t make it any easier with their filter design. Most oil filters are dimpled around the cap of the filter housing. This allows a cap-type filter wrench to grip it. The Onan filter is smooth – no dimples for a wrench to grip.

Cummins - Onan oil filter

Cummins – Onan oil filter

I wrestled with the oil filter for half an hour before I got it off. Installing the new filter was fairly easy – again I was working blind and had to screw it on by feel. After re-installing the drain plug though, I discovered a problem. The gallon jug of oil I had in the trailer was only half full. I’d forgotten that I used it to top off the oil in our Cummins ISL diesel engine. I needed three quarts of oil for the generator, but I only had two. I carried on and changed the air filter element. The old element did its job well – the intake tract was clean as a whistle.

Old and new air filter elements

Old and new air filter elements

I poured the two quarts of oil into the generator, then filled the empty jug with the waste oil. After a quick clean-up, I took the waste oil to recycle and rode the Spyder to the NAPA store in Angel Fire. They didn’t have Delo 400 oil in quart containers, only gallon jugs. I thought I would be paying too much for the oil, but I didn’t have a choice. I got lucky – the gallon of Delo 400LE 15w-40 was on sale and I bought it for $14.00 including tax!

After I returned, I topped off the oil level and fired the generator to check for leaks. Job done and now we’re good for another 150 hours of run time. I didn’t change the fuel filter – I made the mistake of trying that once before and ended up with diesel fuel running down my arms all the way to my shoulders. I’ll have it done next time we have the engine serviced at Speedco.

After cleaning up, I rode my mountain bike over the same trail Donna hiked. I took a picture of the lake from the same high vantage point, but I was looking east across the lake.

View from the trail

View from the trail

I rode to the far side of the village and back – about four miles. The trail was fairly treacherous on a mountain bike – I had to keep a constant watch for prairie dog holes. Some of them were up to a foot in diameter – dropping a front wheel into one of these wouldn’t be fun.

I’ll end this post on a sad note. On September 6th, I lost another friend. Andy Sigler died suddenly and unexpectedly. Andy was the bass player in my friend Gerhard Rauch’s band, Backtrack. I spent many hours in Gerhard’s basement learning songs with Andy, Gerhard and the rest of the band. Andy was truly a kind and gentle person. I can’t recall one instance of him losing his temper or even getting the slightest bit angry at all. I’m glad I had the chance to meet and get to know Andy. I learned about Parrot Heads from him – he was an active member and attended many Parrot Head events. He’ll be missed by many for sure.

I need to get out and do my usual pre-road checks. We’ll kick the tires and light the fires later this morning and head over to Taos, New Mexico for a few nights.

By the way – there’s glitch in the latest WordPress update that’s not allowing e-mail notifications to go through. I’m hoping we can get it fixed soon.

 

Angel Fire Vietnam Memorial

It’s so quiet and peaceful here at Eagle Nest Lake, we decided to extend our stay two more nights. Donna hiked down to the Six Mile Creek day use area on Wednesday. Later we rode the Spyder to Angel Fire. We had pizza for lunch at the Angel Fired Pizza place and I needed to stop at a hardware store. Google maps showed Lowe’s right next to the pizza restaurant.

Lowe’s turned out to be a local grocery store – Lowe’s grocery. I found a lumberyard that’s also a True Value hardware and bought Gorilla glue for a project I needed to attend to. The support for the hanger pole in our closet broke. There’s a lot of weight on the pole from our clothes and some of the bumps on I-25 were pretty harsh.

Broken hanger pole support

Broken hanger pole support

I applied the glue and then screwed it back in place. I added cross screws for additional strength. I hope it holds up. Otherwise I’ll need to redesign the attachment. Our friend Dave Hobden had to rework his – he posted about it at UrbaneEscapeVehicle.

On Thursday morning, we woke to clear blue skies and the promise of a sunny, warmer day. I tried the panorama function on my Samsung Galaxy smart phone in an attempt to capture the beautiful view of the lake.

Panoramic view of Eagle Nest Lake

Panoramic view of Eagle Nest Lake

Here are a couple of signs by the visitor center giving a little information on the area. Click on the photos to enlarge if you wish to read them.

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Donna said she thought she heard coyotes yapping in the distance before sunrise. I didn’t hear a thing. The nights are very dark and absolutely silent. I wouldn’t be surprised to find coyotes in the area. There’s an abundance of food sources for them – rabbits and prairie dogs are constantly on the move in the campground.

Ozark the cat amuses herself all day sitting in window sills or on the door step watching the prairie dogs.

Prairie dogs and their holes are everywhere

Prairie dogs and their holes are everywhere

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The park is home to a large prairie dog colony.

In the afternoon we rode the Spyder to Angel FIre. On the way we stopped at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial State Park. This was the first major Vietnam Memorial in the United States. It was started by Victor and Jeanne Westphall after their son, Marine First Lieutenant David Westphall was killed in an ambush along with 15 other soldiers in Vietnam on May 22, 1968.

In the ’60s, Victor and Jeanne purchased the 800-acre Val Verde Ranch and intended to open a resort. After David was killed, they built a chapel dedicated to his memory instead. This grew into a five-acre memorial site. Over the years, they sold off the ranch land to fund the memorial, which Victor mostly built himself. The chapel was completed in 1971.

Amphitheater behind the chapel

Amphitheater behind the chapel

The memorial is now operated as a state park and is open year-round with no admission charge. It’s the only Vietnam Memorial State Park in the country. In 2014, New Mexico governor Susana Martinez announced the addition of 10 acres of adjoining land south of the chapel had been donated and is designated to become a rural veteran’s cemetery built to federal standards.

Sculpture of a soldier penning a letter

Sculpture of a soldier penning a letter

One of the most widely recognized aircraft of the Vietnam War era was the Bell Iroquois UH-1 helicopter – popularly known as the Huey. In 1999, the New Mexico National Guard brought a Huey to the memorial. This Huey served with the 121st AHC and is maintained by current and retired Guardsmen.

Bell UH-1 "Huey"

Bell UH-1 “Huey”

From the high ground of the memorial, I could see the runway at the Angel Fire airport. I was struck by the length of the runway – you don’t see runways this long at most small general aviation airports. Then it occurred to me – Angel Fire is 8,400 feet above sea level. On a hot summer day, the density altitude could easily exceed 10,000 feet. It takes a lot of airspeed to generate enough lift to take-off in this thin atmosphere. That means a long take-off run before the plane can rotate and also means touching down at high speed when landing. Thus the long runway.

That's a long runway

That’s a long runway

We continued on to town and found the Enchanted Circle Brewing Company.

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Angel Fire is a town of only about 1,200 full-time residents. But it’s a popular winter ski resort and has over 500 acres of ski slopes. Its mild summer climate brings mountain bikers and hikers, golfers and hunters come to the area in the fall. Hopefully this brings enough customers for the 20-barrel brewery with a 50-seat tasting room. The brewery opened in April of this year. The owners had the vision and built the place, then they advertised for a brewmaster! That’s right, they built it then they hired a brewmaster to create the beers.

We found their beers to be very good. I had a few small samplers then settled on the Glory Hole IPA. Donna had a plum sour then had a pint of stout.

Brews on tap

Beers on tap

Donna had tempura battered veggies and I ordered hand cut fries with house made tartar sauce to go with the beer. It was worth the ride to town.

Today looks like another beautiful day with clear blue skies. Donna headed out at 7:30am and walked along the lake trail to the Eagle Nest village. She bought pastries at the bakery there and just returned with them, so I guess it’s time for breakfast.

Site 16 at Eagle Nest Lake

Site 16 at Eagle Nest Lake

We’ll spend one more night here, then move on to Taos, New Mexico tomorrow.

 

Eagle Nest Lake

We got a late start leaving the Elks Lodge in Colorado Springs. Donna wanted to go for a run in the morning. While she was out I puttered around and cleaned the HWH hydraulic leveling jack rams with WD-40. By the time we filled the fresh water tank and dumped and flushed the holding tanks, it was after 11am.

Our first stop was just a few miles down I-25 at the Walmart where I picked a couple of cases of drinking water and Donna bought a few groceries. Then we hit the road in earnest. A few miles down the interstate – near the field where Brad landed the Heart’s A’Fire on Saturday at the Mesa Ridge exit, there was a bad accident blocking the northbound lanes. It was a visual reminder to be alert and drive defensively. A smashed car was being loaded onto a flat-bed truck and a high-cube type delivery truck was lying on its side across the lanes. Traffic was completely stopped as the State Patrol directed all northbound traffic onto the off-ramp.

We’d decided to head down to the Cimarron Canyon area in New Mexico. Our route took us down I-25 about 160 miles to the New Mexico border at Raton Pass. This pass is part of the old Santa Fe Trail in the eastern Sangre de Cristo Mountains and has an elevation of 7,834 feet above sea level. On the south side of the pass, we encountered rain.

We stopped in Raton for fuel at a small truck stop. The pumps weren’t the high speed nozzles I’ve become accustomed to at Pilot/Flying J. It was just a standard automobile type and it took about 20 minutes to pump 63 gallons of fuel. I can usually fill up in five minutes or less using two high-speed nozzles.

About 10 miles south of there, we left I-25 and hit US64. This took us past the NRA Whittington Center and through the town of Cimarron. Donna found sites at Cimarron Canyon State Park that appeared to be big enough for our rig. She phoned the ranger and he told us we should check out the first campground – it had the longest sites. The State Park system here uses Reserve America for its reservation system. One of the issues I have with Reserve America is it doesn’t allow you reserve on the same day as you arrive – you must make reservations in advance.

Not all of the sites in New Mexico State Parks are reservable though. They keep a number of sites in each park available for what they call “walk-ups.” We were counting on snagging one of these. Since it was day after Labor Day, we expected most of the campers would have gone back to their workaday lives.

Before we got to Cimarron Canyon State Park, Donna found another park about 10 miles further down US64. It was called Eagle Nest Lake State Park. She hadn’t seen this park before and it isn’t listed on our Rand-McNally RV GPS. We decided to take a look at Cimarron Canyon, then proceed to Eagle Nest Lake and make our choice. Eagle Nest Lake sounded good – long pull-through sites with lake views.

The sites at Cimarron Canyon weren’t too appealing. So we continued on to Eagle Nest Lake (map). The entrance to the state park has a visitor center and a self-serve kiosk for day use and camping. At the stop sign, the sign above the kiosk warns not to enter the park without paying first. Here’s the thing – the self-serve kiosk at the entrance is about a mile from the campground. When you fill out the self-serve form, you’re supposed to enclose cash or check and drop it into a lock-box. So far, so good.

I filled out the form, then the last blank said to enter your site number. What? How could I know my site number if the campground is a mile away? Even if I’d been here before and knew what site I wanted, how could I know if it was open or if another “walk-up” had already taken it? The visitor center was closed, so we drove to the campground and made a couple of loops to check the sites out. We decided on site 16 – a 62-foot-long curved pull-through that easily fit our 64 foot rig. It also has our door facing the lake. Nice.

I drove back to the park entrance, Donna wrote our site number on the form and dropped it in the box. We paid for two nights but will likely extend. Campers are allowed up to 14 nights before they have to leave the park for a minimum of one week. We’re dry camped – there aren’t any  hook-ups here. The cost is $10/night and they have a fresh water fill station that we’ll hit when we leave.

We’re at an elevation of 8,215 feet above sea level, so It’s a lot cooler here. Plus light rain was still falling when we arrived so we didn’t get to explore.

Sunset at Eagle Nest Lake

Sunset at Eagle Nest Lake

Overnight the temperature dropped to the 40s and we were comfortable under our down comforter and blankets. It’s totally quiet here – almost eerily quiet after spending the past week in a city. I’m loving the change of pace.

This morning, it’s about 60 degrees as I type this at 10am. The expected high is 72 degrees with partly cloudy skies.

Lake view from our site

Lake view from our site

Another view from our site

Another view from our site

The camera perspective doesn’t do justice to our view. It’s a beautiful spot. Eagle Nest Lake has a small village a few miles from the campground. We plan to take the Spyder out and look the place over. At some point, we’ll head west on the Spyder about 30 miles to check out Taos, New Mexico.

 

Donna Sails Water and Wind

After watching the Moto GP race and napping Sunday afternoon, Donna made beef ragu over spaghetti squash for dinner. We had hit the hotel pool briefly before dinner and got the scoop on the night’s social event. Someone in the group – it seems like there’s a little controversy over how it came about – secured a reserved conference room on the third floor of the hotel for a round of Cards Against Humanity and other nonsense. We were in – we came back around 8:15pm to see what was up.

We found the conference room and the party was already rocking. After an hour and a half of this crazy game and adult beverages, I was feeling like I needed to bow out. Nothing good would come from the lack of sleep, physical work and abundance of adult beverages I partook in. I loudly announced it was time for me to hit the sack and found my way home. Donna soldiered on for another hour before the game ended, then she joined me. We hear things got interesting after that.

I slept like a rock until the alarm woke me at 5am. I got up and fired up the generator and started the Keurig coffee maker. Donna was up as well – she needed to ride to Memorial Park with me and the crew this morning as she was invited to take a balloon ride today.

At the park, we started with the morning pilot’s briefing as usual – Donna hadn’t been to this before. She discovered the pilot’s briefing includes donuts, bagels and coffee. The briefing was all positive and the weather outlook was good.

We walked back to our launch area, then stood around while our pilot, Brad, sussed out the wind conditions. The weather forecast at the morning pilot briefing has been suspect at best – in fact they were 100% wrong so far. Brad made the decision on how we would orient the envelope and we started laying out the equipment. Once again, we had a large crowd of spectators.

Crowd of spectators in our launch area

Crowd of spectators in our launch area

I don’t mean to brag, but I should add a footnote here. Our pilot, Brad, and the Heart’s A’fire balloon own a great advantage. We have a dedicated crew that works together, knows what needs to be done and how to do it, and each of us collectively take our stations in turn and get the job done. Many visiting pilots rely on volunteer crews that have never worked together or maybe never crewed a balloon before. Props to these volunteers – they’re needed and much appreciated by the ballooning community. But this scenario means the pilot must direct each step of the operation and double check all of the work. Of course, Brad inspects all of the critical work, but he’s in a position where he can work on public relations and think about the upcoming flight knowing his crew will have things ready. I’m proud to be part of this crew.

We set the equipment out and started the Honda gasoline powered fan to inflate the envelope. I take the left side (viewed from the basket) and Daren takes the right side. We have to hold the throat of the envelope open so the balloon can inflate. We also have to keep the balloon stabilized so it doesn’t start rolling from one side to the other as it inflates. The sponsor banner makes this difficult because it’s heavy and wants to roll to the ground.

As the balloon inflated, the ground wind kicked up. It was variable – coming from the west, then north and then northeast. As the balloon filled with cold air, the wind was trying to roll it away from me. I usually invite photographers and people with children to step up next to me during this phase so they can have a look up inside the balloon as it fills. Today it was spectacular as the top of the balloon has a heart that was backlit by the morning sun. I do this due to following Brad’s lead – he’s a huge ambassador for ballooning and encourages spectators to get up close and get excited.

I was soon unable to even think about the spectators as the wind tried to roll the envelope away from me. I spent the next 30 minutes wrestling the ropes to keep it from rolling over as we cold-filled the balloon with the fan – it was far more difficult than I’ve experienced.

Then Brad decided to fire up the burners and heat 90,000 cubic feet of air. We got the balloon upright. The next 45 minutes were agony for me. Brad kept the balloon inflated with bursts of flame, but it was just another static display. The winds aloft had a shear that would take the balloons north-northwest to restricted air or over the Gardens of the Gods. Sending 60 hot air balloons into restricted air space was a no-go and trying to land in the rocky Garden of the Gods would be a disaster.

Brad has the right temperament for a hot air balloon pilot. He was patient and kept the envelope inflated while I kept my weight on the basket rim. He said, “It’s better to be on the ground wishing you were flying than to be in the air wishing you were on the ground.” Finally Brad told Donna to get in the basket. Balloons were launching. We’d burned a lot of fuel by then, making the flight decisions more critical.

The launch controller came to our site and directed us out. Brad added heat to the balloon and the basket got light. We walked it out 20 yards while Brad hit the burners and they were off!

Donna's launch

Donna’s launch

Donna had a real treat. They flew over the ridge and trees, then descended into the lake at the park. Brad expertly dropped the balloon and had the basket floor two inches under water while Donna hoisted herself on the basket rim. They sailed the length of the lake – the balloon acting as a sail while the basket skimmed along. Then Brad hit the burners and they climbed above Colorado Springs. The winds aloft carried them to the northeast. I wish I could’ve captured a photo of the dunk in the lake, but we were dealing with crowds of spectators as we tried to follow in the chase rig.

After a while, we saw them descending back toward the park. Brad read the wind perfectly and had them on track to land near where they launched. By then, though, we were on the wrong side of the park and would have to run the gauntlet through spectators again to get to where they would land.

When Yonnie stopped the vehicle for spectators, I bailed out of the truck and said I would run to the landing zone. It was a little over half a mile, but I got there well before the vehicle could make it. The balloon was already down without incident. But here’s the thing – when I signed on to be a crew member, I felt it also meant I took on a responsibility. Every time that balloon goes up on my watch, I need to do everything in my power to make sure it and its occupants land safely.

Donna at the landing site

Donna at the landing site

The bummer is Donna’s smartphone. After take-off, it froze. The camera wouldn’t work. She had opportunities for fantastic shots as they sailed the water with reflections of balloons on the lake surface, but it wouldn’t cooperate and she was too taken in by the sights to mess with her phone/camera. I don’t blame her, but it was a bummer nonetheless.

Back at the hotel we said our goodbyes – until we meet again soon in Albuquerque. They were all looking forward to a night back at home in their own beds – that’s an advantage we enjoy. We’ve been home in our own beds the whole time and will be in Albuquerque as well.

We moved back to the Elks Lodge and need to figure out where we’re going next.