Monthly Archives: September 2016

Albuquerque Aloft

Before we left the Enchanted Trails RV Park, Donna had a delivery from a company that specializes in pet products. She ordered a special cat bed that mounts in a window. The bed uses four suction cups for mounting – two at the bed level and two more for support straps.

K&H Pet Products cat window bed

K&H Pet Products cat window bed

I assembled it and we mounted it on the living room slide out window Thursday morning. Ozark didn’t seem very interested at first. Then we had to put her in her crate while we relocated to the Balloon Fiesta RV dry camping area. While we made the 20-mile drive, Donna had black beans cooking in the slow cooker. She plugs in the slow cooker hot plate and puts it in the sink. The slow cooker runs off the inverter and cooks while we drive.

Slow cooker

Slow cooker

When we checked in, I told the person manning the office my name and said we were pre-registered with the Escapees Boomer Group. They looked up my information and had a guy escort us to the Escapees area. From there, another guy with the Escapees named Jim directed us to an area where we unloaded the Spyder and dropped the trailer. Then he escorted us to our site.

Outside our windshield is a large open field. Last year, the balloon I crew for landed here on one of the flights. I’m hoping we do so again. I needed to get the Traeger wood pellet fired grill from the trailer. Unfortunately, the area where we dropped the trailer is about 300 yards from our site. Jim said he would see if he could find someone with a truck to help us out. A fellow Escapee, Ken, volunteered to help us. We loaded the Traeger, chairs, table and a few odds and ends in his pick-up truck and he drove it to our site. Nice!

I needed the Traeger to cook two racks of babyback ribs for the potluck dinner at Brad and Jessica Rice’s house. I know I go over this every time I make babyback ribs, but I’ll repeat my method. I prepared the ribs Wednesday evening so I could get a head start on grilling after we set up our rig. First I removed the thin membrane from the bone side of the ribs. This isn’t too hard – I start in the center and separate the membrane from the ribs with a table knife. You don’t want a sharp knife – it will cut through the membrane. You just want to peel a little of the membrane from the ribs. Then I use a paper towel to grip the membrane and slowly pull it off the ribs.

With the membrane removed, I’m ready for dry rub. This time I used a 3:2 ratio of Pappy’s Choice Seasoning and Lambert’s Sweet Rub O’Mine. It takes a few tablespoons per rack. I wrapped the ribs in cling wrap and put them in the refrigerator.

On Thursday afternoon, I preheated the Traeger with the setting on 300 degrees. This gave me a pit temperature of about 280 degrees. I put the ribs on the grill, bone side down and closed the lid. I let them cook for two and half hours before I opened the lid. Then I wrapped them in heavy-duty aluminum foil, put them back on the Traeger and dropped the setting to 250 degrees.

Fifteen minutes later, I took them out of the Traeger, stacked the two racks and wrapped them in a bath towel to keep them warm. This is different from the way I cooked them in the past. The results turned out to be superior. The dry rub was just about perfect, the ribs were moist and the meat fell off the bone. We loaded the Spyder with the ribs, slow cooker with the beans plus two containers of restaurant-style Mexican rice that Donna prepared the night before.

We headed out to the Rice’s house around 4:30pm. The traffic on Alameda was unbelievable. It took us 45 minutes to find their house which was about 10 miles away. We had a feast there for the Heart’s A’Fire crew, families and friends. It was a fun party. Just as everyone was filling their plates, a thunderstorm blew in. We weren’t expecting that. Donna and I rode the Spyder home around 8pm and it was still sprinkling and the roads were really wet. Visibility was poor, but at least the traffic was light.

When we came home, we found that Ozark the cat likes her new window bed.

Ozark on her window bed

Ozark on her window bed

I watched a lackluster Thursday Night Football game and hit the sack around 10:30pm. I had my alarm set for 5am – that’ll be the drill for the next 10 days.

After a poor night’s sleep, I was up at 5am. I’m sure our neighbors were thrilled to hear our generator fire up at that hour. But that’s how it goes at Balloon Fiesta time. Generator hours are 5am to 10pm. Many of us have to be up early to crew.

Friday’s flight isn’t really part of the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. It’s an extracurricular event called Albuquerque Aloft.  Pilots sign up to lift off from local public schools to raise awareness among young people. I rode back to the Rice’s house – at this hour it took me little over 15 minutes to get there. We pulled out of their driveway before 6:30am and went to Maggie Cordova Elementary School for our flight.

Brad lifted off around 7:30am with Lisa, wife of crew member Aaron on board. They had about an hour of flight time before we chased them down at an abandoned golf course northeast of their starting point.

Heart's A'Fire over the chase vehicle

Heart’s A’Fire over the chase vehicle

We had things packed up fairly quickly and I was back home by 10:30am and ready for a nap. This evening, we have another potluck dinner with the Escapees Boomer Group. Tomorrow will be a long day. I’ll roll out of bed at 5am to meet the crew at the Balloon Fiesta Park. We’re assigned to launch site H7. After the morning flight and tailgate party, I’m sure a nap will be in order. Then we will set up again for the evening glow.

A Surprise Visit

It’s almost time for the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta again. It’s hard to believe a year has gone by since I learned to crew a hot air balloon. The event officially starts on Saturday, October 1st and runs through Sunday, October 9th. Things will begin for us on Thursday as we move and set up our rig with the Escapees Boomers Group outside the Balloon Fiesta Park.

I forgot to mention in my last post that Donna manned the grill while I watched Monday Night Football. The grill is usually my domain, but she did a fine job grilling a mojo marinated pork tenderloin. We planned to cook the tenderloin on the weekend, but gusty winds and thundershowers meant it stayed in the refrigerator. It didn’t hurt it to marinate for a couple of days – in fact it came out excellent. She roasted green chilaca peppers with it and served it with a side of steamed green beans.

Mojo marinated pork with roasted chilaca pepper

Mojo marinated pork with roasted chilaca pepper

Tuesday morning we went to the Los Duranes Community Center for pickleball. We played for two hours and had a good time as always. This community center is a nice facility and it’s open to the public – no charge!

After pickleball it was noon and we were hungry. We stopped at Blake’s Lotaburger – a popular chain of fast food in Albuquerque. We both ordered their signature burger – Lotaburger with green chile and cheese. Spicy, but very tasty. We don’t eat fast food often, but we were happy we stopped and tried the green chile cheeseburgers.

I had a couple of errands to run and also took the Spyder to a self-serve car wash to clean it up in the afternoon. It was overdue, but it’s looking good now.

I saw on Facebook that our friends Dave and Stilla Hobden entered New Mexico on I-40 in their Alpine Coach. They’re traveling west after spending time in Tennessee visiting family. They are on their way to an Alpine Coach rally in Pahrump, Nevada. Dave phoned me and said they wanted to stop and see us – they could make it to the Enchanted Trails RV Park by 5pm and stay the night.

We saw them pull in and after giving them a chance to set up, we walked over to their site. After a short visit we all came to our site for happy hour. Donna cut up and reheated the leftover pork tenderloin and we made street tacos for dinner.

Stilla, Donna and Dave

Stilla, Donna and Dave

It was great visiting and catching up with them – we last got together in January at Lake Havasu. Dave and Stilla pulled out of here around 9:30am this morning. They’re planning for a long day as they need to be in Pahrump tomorrow.

We pulled out on the Spyder right behind them. I dropped Donna off at a Starbuck’s by Costco on Coors Boulevard. She was meeting Jessica Rice and Ruth Garner. They were going to do some meal planning over coffee at the Starbuck’s then pick up provisions at Costco. There will be a lot of tailgating at the Balloon Fiesta.

Meanwhile I made a stop at Dan’s Boot and Saddle Shop on 4th Avenue. I wanted to see an assortment of boots and make some comparisons. You can only learn so much online – sometimes you need to actually touch and feel them and see the workmanship first-hand. Dan’s had a wide selection and I saw several boots I’d only read about before.

Then I stopped at Smith’s Grocery and bought two racks of babyback ribs. My original plan was to smoke a brisket for the potluck dinner at the Rice’s house where we’ll kick-off the Balloon Fiesta Thursday night. Then I realized with the move to Balloon Fiesta Park and set-up time, I wouldn’t have enough time left in the day to smoke a brisket. So I changed up the plan and will put Memphis-style babyback ribs on the Traeger to bring to the potluck.

I don’t know all of the details yet, but we will display the Heart’s A’Fire hot air balloon at a local school on Friday morning. The actual event begins on Saturday and I’ll be at the Balloon Fiesta Park by 5am. We also have an evening glow event on Saturday, so it will be a long day.

I usually try to post to this blog in the morning hours, but with the Balloon Fiesta schedule I won’t be doing that. I expect to post irregularly over the next 12 days.

By the way, WordPress finally fixed the bug that stopped the e-mail notifications. So, if you are a subscriber, you should be getting e-mail notifications when I publish a new blog post.

Petroglyph National Monument

The overnight lows here in Albuquerque have been in the mid-50s. When we woke up yesterday, it was 59 degrees in the coach. I sleep comfortably under blankets and a down comforter when it’s cool like this – better than on a warm night. The temperature warmed up to the upper 60s by late morning.

We rode the Spyder to the Petroglyph National Monument. There are four separate areas – Boca Negra Canyon, Rinconada Canyon, Piedras Marcadas Canyon and Volcanoes Day Use Area. The first two have an abundance of ancient petroglyphs. We went north on Unser Boulevard a few miles to Boca Negra Canyon.

The west side of the Rio Grande Valley near Albuquerque is a fairly featureless flat mesa. In several areas, there are cinder cones which are debris fields of volcanic clinkers and ash rising in steep conical hills. Boca Negra Canyon is formed by a series of these cinder cones.

Ancient Puebloans living near the Rio Grande were drawn to these cinder cones and some of the areas were considered sacred ground. They drew figures on the basalt rocks. The meaning of these figures isn’t really known. Some of the figures at Boca Negra were added by sheep herders in the 1800s, but the majority of them are more than 500 years old.

Click on the photos to enlarge and read.


We parked the Spyder in the first lot and hiked up the steep Mesa Point Trail. We found the first petroglyph a mere 50 feet from the parking lot.


First petroglyph near trail head

First petroglyph near trail head





When we were about two-thirds of the way to the top, we saw a pair of Greater Roadrunners on the rocks above us. The Greater Roadrunner is the New Mexico State Bird.  The male was playing hide and seek with us. He would appear on top of a rock and sit there until we got close, then he would hop off and disappear only to reappear moments later on top of another rock.

Playful Greater Roadrunner

Playful Greater Roadrunner

In the next photo of a petroglyph, you can see the Spyder in the parking lot well below us. This was about three quarters of the way to the top.

See the Spyder below?

See the Spyder below?



We hiked all the way to the top, then followed the trail back down to the parking lot. We rode the Spyder about a quarter of a mile to the next lot and found the Macaw Trail.


Maybe this image gave the trail it's name

Maybe this image gave the trail its name

The Macaw Trail is short and mostly flat unlike the Mesa Point Trail. Jimson weed was flowering along this trail. Jimson weed was used as a medicine to relieve pain or asthma symptoms. It’s also a powerful hallucinogenic and amounts only slightly higher than the medicinal dosage can be fatal.

Flowering Jimson weed

Flowering Jimson weed

Our last stop was at the Visitor Center down Unser Boulevard at the entrance to the RInconada Canyon. There are hiking trails and more petroglyphs here, but we just wandered in the Visitor Center which is more of a gift shop than anything else.

I posted about a traditional New Mexico oven called a horno before. They had a functional horno at the Visitor Center. These wood-fired ovens are used to bake bread or make chicos.

This horno is about three feet tall

This horno is about three feet tall

Later, Donna went to run a few errands and met up with her friend, Hazel Thornton. Last night was Monday Night Football time. I didn’t win the football pool yet, but I’m getting close. I was fourth out of about 40 entries for the last two weeks.

This morning we’re heading out to the community center to play pickleball.



My Boot Obsession

On Thursday morning, Donna went out for a run while I wrote my blog post. We thought about taking a ride up to Sandia Crest – either up the backside road on the Spyder or taking the tram to the top. In the end, we decided we should head over to Enchanted Trails RV Park on the west side of the valley sooner rather than later. The forecast was hot – high temperature over 80 degrees and a chance of thundershowers in the afternoon.

Albuquerque and the wide Rio Grande Valley from the west

Albuquerque and the wide Rio Grande Valley from the west

Enchanted Trails RV Park is on a mesa west of of the Rio Grande Valley adjacent to I-40 next to Camping World. It’s a little way out of town, but not so far to be a great inconvenience. The weekly rate was favorable and they had a long, spacious pull-through site for us, although it only had a 30 amp service.

The sites are a little different – the pull-throughs are arranged so each site enters from opposite directions and the hook-ups are aligned between every other site. We had an issue with two neighbors who couldn’t figure out the electrical panel and shut off our power when they were hooking up or disconnecting. The sites are roomy though.

We had thunder showers Thursday evening. On Friday, Donna went out for a bike ride in the late morning. By the time she was heading back, the wind had increased considerably. Wind can make bicycling difficult – or easy if it’s a tailwind!

Cinder cone volcano at Donna's turn-around on her bike ride

Cinder cone volcano at Donna’s turn-around on her bike ride

The gusty winds were a precursor to another thunderstorm. The wind had the coach rocking. So much for our plan to grill a pork tenderloin Donna had marinating. We looked for pizza delivery, but there wasn’t anything available in our location and I wasn’t about to go out on the Spyder for take-out. Donna ended up pulling homemade marinara out of the freezer and we had it over spaghetti with spinach and feta chicken sausage. Nice!

I need to mention Ozark the cat. She’s been shedding fur for the last couple of months. Donna was vacuuming the coach with the central vac system and saw Ozark sitting on a dining room chair. She thought she could put the upholstery attachment on the vac and see if Ozark would like to be cleaned. Amazingly, Ozark let her vacuum her coat – I’m sure a lot of loose hair came off.

Okay Ozark, here comes the vacuum

Okay Ozark, here comes the vacuum

She's Okay with it

She’s okay with it

Now I’ll have to reveal my obsessive personality. I get into various things – hobbies and such – and take a deep dive. I could go on for thousands of words to talk about different things or activities that grabbed me and how I followed them.

Readers may recall the cowboy boots Donna bought me in Cheyenne. She’d wanted me to have a pair of cowboy boots for some time – she likes the look of them with jeans and really wanted me to have a pair. She made it Christmas in August and bought me a pair of Ariat Heritage Roughstock boots.

The Ariats Donna bought for me

The Ariats Donna bought for me

To tell the truth, I wasn’t that keen on cowboy boots. I imagined them to be uncomfortable and something I would seldom wear. It didn’t seem like a good bargain for the price.

What I found was, I love wearing them. They are so comfortable and caress my feet. They make me taller, which is a plus and I feel like like they improve my posture as I tend to stand straighter and walk taller in them.

Of course, this led me to an online odyssey to learn more about western boots. The more I discovered, the more I wanted to try other boots. I found many sites with collectors that have dozens of boots. I began to understand why – I wanted more styles and types. I’ve been through these obsessions before – watches come to mind. I collected mechanical self-winding wrist watches and railroad pocket watches before. Then it was guitars – I think I had seven guitars and five guitar tube amplifiers before we hit the road.

After learning what I could online about western boots, I needed another pair. I learned that the Ariat boots I selected and Donna bought for me are one of the most popular brands currently available. The brand was started by two women in 1992. They had a vision of combining athletic shoe technology into western boot designs.

They have several patents and use the latest design techniques, machinery and materials – such as shanks made from composite materials in a “Y” shape. Soles are often made with high grip rubber compounds. Most of their boots, including the pair I have, are made with a stacked upper design.

After learning this, I became interested in more traditional designs. I learned about custom made, bespoke boots. These are mostly out of my reach as it doesn’t fit the budget. I also found many manufacturers that employ traditional hand made techniques. Hand made is a difficult to define concept with boots – machines are always employed and necessary. Even the highest level of custom boot making uses sewing machines.

One of the best boot makers in the world is Lisa Sorrell – she makes two or three pairs of boots per month and does all of the work herself. Of course these boots capture my imagination, but they won’t encase my feet.

I decided to buy myself an early birthday present – it’s two weeks away. I ordered a pair of Lucchese (lou-Kay-zee) smooth ostrich skin boots. Lucchese has been making boots in Texas since 1883. They follow traditional methods. The only computer-controlled automated step in their process is the cosmetic stitching on the boot shaft – the part that rises over the calf. Stitching the shaft to the inner liner is done by hand as is all of the rest of the stitching. This means it’s hand-guided sewing machine work.

The shank is steel and it’s fastened between the outsole and the insole in the traditional method with lemonwood pegs. Lemonwood swells with moisture at approximately the same rate as leather – using these pegs for tacks to fasten the sole means the leather will not swell around the tack and allow water ingress.

Ostrich skin is arguably the ideal hide for western boots – only kangaroo comes close for durability. Ostrich leather has a very high tensile strength while being amazingly supple. Different cuts of the hide have different properties  and costs. Full-quill comes from the back and has a goose-bump appearance from the large feather follicles and a fairly even distribution of bumps. Half-quill comes from the belly and neck area and are less pronounced and uniform. Smooth-quill comes from the sides and have smaller follicles and a more random pattern. The price varies respectively with full-quill being the most expensive.

The thing is, regardless of appearance, ostrich leather has the same physical properties. Its strength and suppleness make it extremely comfortable and durable.

My boots arrived in Albuquerque last evening from Zappos. They were delivered to Donna’s friend, Hazel Thornton. Hazel wasn’t home, but her neighbor held the package for me and I retrieved it Saturday morning. The boots are fantastic. The turquoise calf-skin shafts are a bit flash, but I wear my jeans over the shafts leaving a more understated look. I think it’ll be a few years or more before I can say if traditional hand made methods and materials or modern machinery and man-made materials are superior.

Lucchese smooth-quill uppers with calf-skin shafts

Lucchese smooth-quill uppers with calf-skin shafts

After I picked up the boots, Donna and I rode the Spyder to the Los Duranes Community Center. They had pickleball from 10am to noon and it was free! Pickleball is always a good time.

Since the storm came through on Friday, the temperatures have dropped. Saturday’s high was only 71 degrees and we can expect mid-70s for the next few days. Overnight lows are in the 50s. Very comfortable. No rain is expected today but I’ll be my usual Sunday couch potato.

I recorded the Moto GP race from Aragon, Spain to watch this morning and then it’ll be NFL action for the remainder of the day. Donna will go to a birthday party at Aaron and Lisa Ivener’s house up in Rio Rancho – it’s their young son’s birthday. Aaron is one of my crew mates on the Heart’s A’Fire hot air balloon.



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

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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.



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


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.


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.