Category Archives: Boondocking

A Familiar Route

The final few days at ViewPoint RV and Golf Resort in Mesa, Arizona seemed to fly by. Actually, our two-month stay here seems to have gone by quickly – even more so for Donna since she was away for a girl’s week in Sedona. Our first month of the winter stay in Arizona dragged slowly – that’s because I was stranded in the parking lot of RV Renovators having repairs made. Donna was able to escape for week from there when she made a trip to Vieques.

On Monday, Donna joined me on the pickleball courts in the morning. This turned out to be not the best decision for her. Although she played fine, afterwards the congestion from the cold she’s been fighting returned big time. She took it easy and stayed home on Tuesday. I played for two and half hours that morning and again on Wednesday.

On Tuesday afternoon I started packing the trailer. I reorganized a few things and had it looking good. By Wednesday afternoon, I had most of the stuff stowed in the trailer, leaving only a few items for Thursday morning before we pulled out.  We went out for dinner at Roma Cafe Wednesday evening on Main Street in Mesa. Donna loves Italian food and she says it’s great to feed a cold.

I ran across one of my pet peeves when we arrived at Roma Cafe. Someone decided they were entitled to take two parking stalls – right at the entrance to the restaurant! What? I don’t understand behavior like this.

Nice parking job – but we got the Spyder in there

On Thursday morning, I put the windshield cover, awning mat and chairs away. Then I dumped and flushed the holding tanks. Then it was time to kick the tires and light the fires – we were pulling out. I thought I had a plan to get us out of the tight spot we were parked in. I wanted to pull straight across the street, then angle back and work my way to the left around the light post.

After a couple of moves, I could see this wasn’t going to work. Time for a new plan. I reversed the operation and worked the coach around the orange tree and irrigation line on the right side of the coach and pulled into the street in the opposite direction of my original intent. This was a time-consuming and painstaking process. When I finally got the coach safely into the street, I had to back into the pad to hook up the trailer – this wasn’t so easy either.

After nearly an hour of manueuvering to get out of our site and hooking up the trailer, I loaded the Spyder in it. We hit the road at 10:50am. The trip was a familiar one as we took the Loop 202 south and followed it west on the San Tan Freeway to I-10. I got off of I-10 at exit 164 and followed AZ347 through the town of Maricopa. Although Maricopa has grown and is beginning to sprawl, it cuts several miles off the drive to I-8 versus staying on I-10 and is a quicker route. We took AZ347 to AZ84 and merged onto I-8 west a few miles later.

We made our first stop around 12:30pm at exit 119 – the Butterfield Trail at Gila Bend. We often stop there for lunch at the Subway sandwich shop. It’s next to a truck stop that has ample parking in the rear and also has a free dump station and even RV hook-up sites in back – for a fee of course.

Great parking space behind Subway

We split the daily special foot-long sub and got back on the road. Droning along on I-8 isn’t the most exciting or scenic drive, but I don’t mind. It was getting warm – Donna had me turn on the generator and crank up the air conditioners. It was over 90 degrees out. Also, the wind was increasing – it was mostly a headwind but I had a few cross wind gusts to contend with. Our next stop was another familiar one – the Pilot/Flying J Travel Center at exit 12 – Fortuna Road in Yuma. I always top off the tank there before I enter California. I paid $2.54/gallon there for diesel fuel while the TruckMiles.com site shows the average diesel fuel cost in California is currently $2.93/gallon. Plus I have a harder time finding convenient truck stop locations in California.

A few miles after we crossed the Colorado River and were in California, we hit another familiar sight – the inspection station. This is where they usually question us about fresh fruits and vegetables onboard and ask us where we came from and where we are going. This time they just waved us through, no questions asked.

About 12 miles later we pulled off of I-8 and found our little piece of desert on BLM land in the Picacho Recreation Area. I think this is the eighth or ninth time we’ve stopped here for an overnight stay. We stop here when we’re east bound from San Diego and when we’re west bound from the Phoenix area. It’s a nice change of pace to boondock in a remote site without the distractions from sirens or helicopters and traffic racing through the streets of the city. Ironically, as I’m typing this, a formation of four helicopters – I think they were military MH6 Little Birds  – flew by!

Our little piece of the desert

The view from our doorstep

We don’t have another rig in sight. Donna spotted a large American flag to the northeast of us and took a walk toward it before dinner. It turned out to be just a flag pole and flag – no people or RV there. She also found a stack of pallets where someone had a bonfire but the site was empty.

The gusty winds continued through the night. It didn’t bother me but Donna said it kept her awake all night. This morning we have calm air here and clear skies. We’ll head out around 9am. Our only planned stop for the trip to Mission Bay will be at the Buckman Springs rest area in the Laguna Mountains – about 115 miles from here. It’s another place we always stop at – we’ll have lunch at one of the picnic tables there.

The weather forecast for San Diego looks great for next couple of weeks – high temperatures around 70 degrees and mostly sunny skies.

RV Renovators – Days 5 – 6 – A Night Out

As I expected, no work on the coach happened on Friday. The shop closes over the weekend so we had nothing in particular to do here. Friday was a rainy day. Donna planned to have a rental car for the weekend and Enterprise was scheduled to pick us up between 3 and 4pm.

A guy from the shop knocked on our door and asked us if we needed to use the dump station. He mentioned that no one would be here over the weekend and if we wanted use it, now was the time. I didn’t know they had a dump station on site. It had only been four days so we told him we were good for the weekend.

They marked the areas of concern on our coach where structural damage was evident from the deer strike. The huge mule deer buck leaped at full speed into the living room slide right behind the driver’s seat. You can see in the photo the large area on the left marked where the initial impact was. Further down to the right you can see where a hoof struck the fiberglass and cracked it as the buck spun and whipped around against the side of the coach. There’s another area of damage farther back that I couldn’t fit into the frame. This was the extent of the work done in our first four days here.

Damaged areas identified

Photos like this one were sent to the insurance adjuster. Hopefully he’ll comprehend the extent of the damage this time.

The woman from Enterprise phoned us at 3pm and said she was on her way. We waited about 15 minutes before we walked out in front of the sales office. A light rain was falling. She drove us to the Enterprise office on McKellips Road – I gave her directions for the best way to get back there. It was her first day at that location and she hadn’t figured out the best routes yet.

While we were handling the paperwork, the rain started pouring down. We inspected the rental car in driving rain with deep puddles around the car. From there we drove to Red, White and Brew – a couple of miles away.

We met our friends Lana and Joel there for happy hour and an early dinner. We had lots of fun conversation and good food. Donna and Lana both went for Donna’s favorite dish there – Mussels vin Blanc – which are green lip mussels sauteed with white wine, butter, garlic and lemon. Joel and I split a pizza. As always, the food was great.

The rain moved out Saturday, but it was a windy and relatively cold day. I spent most of the day reading a book while Donna went for a walk and did a little writing. I mentioned our water conservation efforts. In the afternoon, Donna did about a day and half’s worth of dishes. She used an expandable dish tub on one side of the sink and a dish drying rack on the other. In the photo, you can see how little water it takes if you’re careful.

Conserving water while doing the dishes

There’s less than an inch and half of water in the dish tub – this the amount she used to wash and rinse the dishes. I dumped the dish water outside in a gravel area of the lot.

Donna went to Sprouts later in the afternoon and did some shopping while we had the rental car. She joked that when she left the store, she hated to claim such a hideous looking car. It’s a bright green Kia Soul and I’ll have to admit it’s not the prettiest car on the market. It’s new though with only 230 miles on the odometer and it drives fine.

Saturday night we drove the car to D’vine, a wine bar and restaurant on Power Road near Red, White and Brew. We met our friends Ron and Dara there. Donna and Dara met years ago when we lived here and they bicycled together. We last saw them about three years ago when we were camped at Phon D Sutton on the Salt River. Since then they moved away to Denver, Colorado. By chance, they were here in Mesa because Ron had a conference to attend and Dara tagged along to see old friends. We had  a wonderful time talking and enjoying happy hour for about an hour and a half. Ron generously picked up the tab – thanks, Ron!

On Sunday, we planned to head over to the Mesa Mezona Inn a few miles from RV Renovators on Main Street near Country Club. Donna snagged a half-price deal on Booking.com. I wanted to check in by 2pm so I could watch the game which I thought was kicking off around 2:30pm. Donna was out for walk when I looked online and realized I had the time wrong. The game would kick off at 1:30pm!

After Donna came back from her walk, we quickly loaded up the car and headed out. It was only going to be one night, so we didn’t need much and Donna had already packed most of her things.

By the time we checked in, the game had already started. Atlanta had already scored on their opening drive as I carried our things up to the room. I swiped the room card through the door lock and nothing happened. I tried the second card and got the same result.

I went back to the front desk and the guy ran the cards through the programmer again. Back at the room, I had the same result – no action from the door lock. At the front desk once again, the guy told me he would send a maintenance guy to the room.

He was able to unlock the door with his master key, but our keys still didn’t work. He said he had to reprogram the lock again. By then the first quarter of the game was nearly over. I turned on the TV while we waited for the lock to be repaired.

When I turned the TV so I could see the screen from an easy chair, I lost the signal. I turned the TV back so it faced the bed again and it started working. I figured I’d have to sit on the bed and watch the game. Oh, well.

After the guy fixed the door lock, Donna told him I was having trouble with the TV signal. He said, “It’s probably a loose cable” and proceeded to start tugging on the cables and I lost the signal in middle of a play! I went over and carefully manipulated the cable box until it started working again and I told the guy I was okay with it as it was.

But after he left, the signal started cutting out intermittently. I looked at the cables and could see the coaxial cable from the wall to the box had a bad connector at the box. I lined it up carefully and it started working again. Meanwhile Donna had unpacked our stuff. I phoned the front desk and asked if they could send someone up with a new coax cable.

A few minutes later the phone rang. It was the guy at the front desk telling me he would have to move us to another room as they didn’t have any replacement cables! I told him I had it working now and didn’t want to pack up and move.

The football games weren’t that interesting at the end of the day. The Atlanta Falcons’ offensive juggernaut continued as they put up 44 points and handily beat the Packers. The next game was another blowout as New England beat Pittsburgh 36-17.

Sleeping on the hotel mattress made me appreciate our Leesa foam mattress – it’s much more comfortable. After a complimentary breakfast at the hotel and long, hot showers, we came back to RV Renovators around 10am. I was surprised to find a scissor-lift next to the coach and a couple of guys starting work. They planned to pull the window awnings and slide topper and start removing trim today. Rain is in the forecast this afternoon, so they won’t start work in earnest until tomorrow.

 

Dinner in the Desert

After 94 days in San Diego, it was time to move on. I began preparations Saturday morning. The rainy weather finally abated, giving me an opportunity to pack everything in dry conditions. Our neighbors, Hans and Lisa, helped me out. We loaded the Traeger smoker/grill and Weber Q in the back of their truck and they dropped me off at the trailer on their way out of the park. This was a great help as dragging the grills out to the overflow lot isn’t fun.

I watched the NFL divisional playoff games in the afternoon. During halftime and between games I was able to get the rest of our outdoor gear packed and stowed the windshield cover.

Sunday morning I filled our freshwater tank and dumped and flushed the holding tanks – that’s how I like to roll. You never know what might happen out on the road, so having plenty of fresh water and empty holding tanks gives me peace of mind. We had the trailer hooked up and hit the road around 9:45am.

We made the familiar run on I-8 east over the Laguna Summit. There are three summits on this route – all of them over 4,000 feet above sea level. This is a significant climb – we started out only a few feet above sea level at Mission Bay. When we drove over passes in the Rocky Mountains that exceeded 9,000 feet above sea level, the elevation change was about the same because the high plains around the Rockies are about 5,000 feet or more above sea level. So, if you start at 5,000 feet and climb to 9,000 feet, you’ve achieved about 4,000 feet of elevation change.

The main difference is the thinner air at those high elevations – engines produce less power in the thin atmosphere. When we stopped at the Buckman Springs rest area near the Laguna Summit, Donna found the elevation change had an effect on her new pantry containers. The lids were sealed when we were at sea level. On top of the mountains, the pressure differential in the sealed containers versus the atmosphere caused the lids to pop off.

As we proceeded east in the desert past El Centro I noticed a column of smoke rising to the south of us. I was puzzled by it. This area, southwest of the Imperial Dunes, is barren desert. The smoke column was huge – it would take a fire bigger than a football field to create such a column of smoke. Donna shot a picture of it through the windshield.

Puzzling smoke column

Later I looked online for any news of a fire or explosion or anything that would have created this and found nothing. Distances over the flat desert can be deceiving – it may have originated in Mexico as we were near the border.

Our destination for the day was near our usual stop on BLM land east of Imperial Dunes. We usually go to a place that has free dispersed camping and set up by a rock garden that someone created in the desert. This time were going to a different spot. We planned to meet up with Jeff and Deb Spencer (Rolling Recess). They were camped on the BLM land a few miles from our usual spot and we were able to find their rig.

I usually park at least a quarter of mile away from other RVers when we’re in this area. However, this time our plan was to join Jeff and Deb for dinner so we parked near their fifth-wheel trailer. They were out when we arrived – they had spent the day in Algodones, Mexico.

This is a very quiet spot with nice desert views. The sunsets and sunrises in the desert can be spectacular.

View from our doorstep

We set up around 1pm and I tuned in the satellite dish to watch two more NFL playoff games. The games on Saturday were a bit lopsided. Sunday’s games were the opposite with close battles decided on the final plays.

Jeff and Deb came over to our coach for dinner. Deb brought a flavorful bean and chicken soup. Donna made a spinach salad with a horseradish dressing. It was excellent fare and we enjoyed the conversation – although I was somewhat distracted at times by the football game on TV.

I usually rave about the beers brewed in San Diego – particularly the IPAs. I had one called Mongo from Port Brewing and have to admit it disappointed me. The balance was off, it was too bitter and piney. I guess they can’t all be winners on my palate.

Piney IPA

Jeff told us the story behind a little memorial monument under the desert scrub trees by our site.

Memorial

It was made by a guy that had camped here with his 15-year-old dog. The dog ran off into the desert chasing deer and never came back.

Jeff and Deb had recently camped near Ajo, Arizona. Jeff told us about memorials found in the desert there – they marked places where illegal immigrants perished in harsh desert. While they were there they saw illegals and drug smugglers in the early morning hours crossing the desert.

The camp host at one place they stayed at would leave bottled water out overnight for the illegals. But she also notified the Border Patrol when they took the water. There’s more activity along the Mexican border than many people realize.

Today we’ll move on to Mesa, Arizona. I plan to drop our trailer at our friend, Mike Hall’s house. Then we’ll take the coach to RV Renovators on Main Street. Hopefully they can repair the damage caused the by the encounter with the suicidal buck in Idaho without too much of a delay. They estimated about two weeks to get the work done. We’ll see how that works out.

 

There and Back Again – Part Two

The last post ended with us finishing a 400-mile day at the Seven Feathers Casino. Seven Feathers is located between Roseburg and Grants Pass, Oregon. The casino is very RV friendly – they have a full service RV park on the west side of I-5 and a dry camping RV lot on the east side adjacent to the casino. We stayed overnight in the free dry camping lot.

Monday morning, as we approached Grants Pass, the terrain became hilly. I drove about 40 miles to the Manzanita Rest Area at milepost 61 and stopped there. After letting Sini’s golden-doodle dog, Ziggy out for a break, she took over driving.

The hilly terrain became mountainous as we crossed the Siskiyou Range and topped out at Siskiyou Summit more than 4,300 feet above sea level. This gave Sini a chance to experience driving up steep grades and once over the summit, she had to control the coach on a long descent.

When you’re climbing a grade in a motorhome, you want to maintain momentum. This requires a vigilant watch of the rearview mirrors so you’re aware of faster car traffic overtaking. When you have a slow moving tractor-trailer rig ahead, it’s good to time your move to the left lane to pass the slow moving truck with a break in the left lane traffic. If you slow down and stay behind the slow truck, you’re stuck. You probably won’t be able to overtake once you’ve slowed down too much. I explained this to Sini before she took the wheel. She did a great job of staying aware of the traffic situation and maintained our speed over the pass.

On the long downgrade to Medford, Sini made good use of the exhaust brake (sometimes called a PacBrake) and used good braking technique to avoid overheating the brakes. The exhaust brake helps to slow the coach. It’s not as effective as the Jacobs Engineering two-stage engine compression brake on our Alpine Coach, but it works well enough.

A little over ten miles into California, we hit the rest area at mile post 786. Sini had over an hour at the wheel and gained valuable experience handling the coach in the mountains.

Sini is all smiles at the wheel

Sini is all smiles at the wheel

I took over driving again when we left the rest area. It was familiar terrain as we drove through the mountains past Mount Shasta. Before we left on this trip, I wondered how the National RV Tradewinds coach would handle. It’s built on a Freightliner chassis and it’s powered by a Caterpillar 3126B six-cylinder diesel. The 3126B has a displacement of 7.3 liters (439 cu. in.) – smaller than the 8.9 liter (543 cu. in.) Cummins ISL in our Alpine Coach. The turbocharged 3126B provides 300 horsepower and 860 lb-ft of torque versus the 400 horsepower and 1200 lb-ft of our ISL. However, the Tradewinds is a lighter coach than ours by about 5,000 pounds. I found the power of the 3126B to be adequate and the handling of the Freightliner chassis was better than I expected.

One of the things that helps make the Tradewinds easy to drive is the shorter wheelbase compared to our Alpine Coach. The Tradewinds is about 36 or 37 feet long overall and has a wheelbase of 208 inches. Our Alpine coach is 40 feet overall and has a wheel base of 278 inches. The extra five plus feet between the axles is noticeable – the shorter wheelbase makes it easier to maneuver.

Our next stop was at the Olive Pit in Corning, California. This is a favorite stopping point for Donna and I – we always stop there when we pass through the area. We stretched our legs and shopped – I bought a couple of jars of bleu cheese stuffed olives. Sini and Linda made purchases as well.

I thought about stopping at the Rolling Hills Casino where Donna and I stayed last spring, but we wanted to get a few more miles under our wheels. Sini took over driving again when we left the Olive Pit and had the opportunity to drive through town and down a two-lane road. While she was driving, I was looking ahead on my smart phone. We wanted to stop somewhere with a sports bar so we could have a cold one and watch the Seahawks on Monday Night Football – Sini is a Seahawks fan.

I found the Colusa Casino about 60 miles down the road. I phoned ahead and found they offer free overnight RV parking and they had a sports bar. Bingo! Sini pulled into their parking area and we found a large, level gravel lot with striped pull-through RV spaces. Perfect! We put in about 330 miles for the day.

I was back at the wheel Tuesday morning and drove through Sacramento where we hit US99. This took us through Stockton, Modesto, Fresno and eventually Bakersfield. I told Sini I thought we could make it to Tehachapi and stay at the Mountain Valley RV Park where Donna and I stayed two years ago. We had a plan – but it was soon dashed. Sini found out the Mountain Valley RV Park was closed for the winter. Tehachapi  is nearly 4,000 feet above sea level and it gets cold in the winter.

Sini continued searching for a place to stay for the night. She found an Elks Lodge in Mojave, but no one answered the phone or returned her call. Then she found an Elks Lodge in Palmdale. The original plan was for Sini to get more driving time on Tuesday. However, once we decided to press on to Palmdale, I stayed at the wheel and kept our speed over 65mph. I wanted to get there before dark – remember the electrical problem with the taillights?

We didn’t make it before sundown and I drove the last 20 minutes with the lights on. The Elks Lodge in Palmdale had electric and water hook-ups in pull-through sites for $20. When we parked, Sini saw the taillights on the toad were working. It must have been a poor connection at the plug that worked itself out as we drove. We went into the lodge and had a drink while we watched the election returns. I had put in 400 miles and nine hours at the wheel. I was whipped. We had covered nearly 1,200 miles altogether and were less than 180 miles away from Mission Bay.

Wednesday morning Sini drove out of the Elks Lodge. She had the opportunity to drive through city streets then we hit highway 138. There was construction on this highway and Sini had to run the gauntlet. Concrete barriers were on the right side of the lane with no shoulder – only inches to spare on the right while she hugged the center line on the left. Oncoming trucks created pucker factor at times. This went on for a dozen miles or so.

Then we hit I-15 south and drove into heavy traffic in San Bernadino. We took the I-215 route – Sini was driving 60mph on an Interstate seven lanes wide. The right lane was filled with tractor trailer rigs. We were in the number two lane with cars flying past at 80 mph. At times she had tractor-trailers on both sides. We stopped for fuel in Menifee after a couple of hours of high stress driving. Sini had earned her wings – after that stretch, I thought she could drive the coach anywhere.

I drove the final leg to Mission Bay RV Resort. After she checked in, I told Sini she was driving – it was time for her to learn how to back in to an RV site. She had already looked a the site location and had a plan. She wanted to circle the park so the site entrance would be on the driver’s side. She felt more comfortable backing in from that direction. I went over hand signals with her and got out to direct her. She backed in and positioned the coach in one shot! No more driving lessons needed for this gal!

Sini, Linda and Ziggy at Mission Bay

Sini, Linda and Ziggy at Mission Bay.

You might be curious about sleeping arrangements on our road trip. Sini and Linda shared the bedroom in the back of the coach. I slept on a blow-up mattress in the living room with Ziggy on her dog bed. Ziggy is the mellowest creature – she never barked on the trip and slept quietly through the nights.

It was an exhausting road trip, but we accomplished what we set out to do.

Sini and me at Mission Bay

Sini and me at Mission Bay

Did You Hear That?

I woke up well before dawn at the Mazatzal Casino parking lot in Payson, Arizona Tuesday morning. Lying in bed with my eyes closed I heard Donna whisper, “Did you hear that?” “Uh-huh.” “Was that an elk?” “Yeah, it’s a bull elk bugling.” Of all the places we’ve been, a casino parking lot was the last place I’d expected to hear a bull elk bugling in the pre-dawn hours. I heard it two more times in the next 30 or 40 minutes confirming it was real, not a dream.

We were packed up and on the road a little after 9am. We drove down AZ87 – also known as the Beeline Highway – southwest toward Fountain Hills and the greater Phoenix area. Payson is 5,000 feet above sea level. The Beeline Highway descends rapidly and has a series of steep uphill grades – the net result is a loss of elevation. We arrived in Mesa at an elevation of around 1,200 feet above sea level and pulled into the RV Renovators lot on Main Street.

RV Renovators is the outfit I’ve chosen to repair the damage on the coach from the encounter with a large buck in Idaho. I wanted to stop there and go over the insurance estimate and discuss the repair work before we return in January to have the work done. The job will entail some complicated fiberglass repairs on the living room slide-out.

We had a short meeting and they have us on the calendar to return and start work on January 15th. Although the insurance estimate only shows 40 hours of labor, they told me two weeks of work was more realistic. The goal is to start work on January 15th and finish by the end of the month. They also told me we can stay in the coach at their shop – they have hook ups. Staying in the coach helps – we won’t have to find a place to stay for an indefinite period of time and have to deal with our personal belongings in the coach. We’ll also be onsite every day to oversee progress. This is good news. Now I just need to figure out what to do with our 20-foot car carrier trailer while we’re at the shop.

From there we moved on to Casa Grande where I stopped at the Speedco service center to have maintenance done on the coach. I do an annual preventive maintenance (PM) which includes an engine oil and filter change and a fuel filter change, chassis lube and inspection. Our Cummins ISL diesel engine falls under their medium duty PM schedule. In the past, I paid $179.99 for this service plus any upgrades or additional work found upon inspection. I usually upgrade the oil filter to a Fleetguard instead of the standard Baldwin and use Chevron Delo 400 LE 15-40 oil. This time I was told they had a price increase – the medium duty PM base price went from $179.99 to $249.99 – a 39% jump in price! I also have the used oil analysis done. This too had an increase – it was $17.99 now it’s $24.99.

I went ahead with it. When I looked at the used oil analysis I could see something was wrong. Everything looked good until I saw the viscosity at 100C – it was listed as less than 3 cSt.  The specification is 12.5 to 16.3 cSt. If my engine oil was really less than 3 cSt, I wouldn’t be holding any oil pressure when the oil was at full operating temperature. When I asked about how this could be, I heard a lot of mumbling and the girl at the counter highlighted the specification. I told her I was well aware of the spec and what it means – but I didn’t believe the results because it didn’t make sense. She took it to the manager. After a few minutes he admitted that he didn’t even know what the measurement meant – it’s just a number their machine spits out – he refunded the $24.99. I might have to rethink how I’m having used oil analysis performed.

Later, I looked at the Speedco corporate website. Their price sheet which was updated in September still shows medium duty PM at $179.99. I sent an inquiry to their customer service asking if I’d been overcharged.

From there we had the coach washed at Blue Beacon, then found the Elks Lodge near the courthouse downtown. Parking was easy and as always, the people at the lodge were friendly. Unfortunately this is a lodge that allows smoking at the bar.  Overnight dry camping cost $10.

On Wednesday morning, Donna went for a run, then we prepared to move on. The lodge lot was empty – we were the only RV there and all of the cars from the night before were gone. This made it easy to exit the parking area.

When we pulled out, our fuel gauge registered less than 1/4 tank. I wondered how this could be – where had all our fuel gone? We had several hours of generator run time, but that only accounts for half to three quarters of a gallon per hour. My plan was to fuel up in Yuma at the Pilot/Flying J at exit 12 where we’ve stopped several times before. I was pretty sure we could cover the 160 miles, but I don’t like running below a quarter tank.

About an hour later, I figured something was up with the fuel gauge. Now it was reading a quarter tank – higher than when we left 60 miles before. We made it to Yuma and I topped off the tank with only 65 gallons of fuel – there was more than a quarter of tank left. The fuel price of $2.26/gallon with my Pilot/Flying J RV Rewards card was nice too!

While we were in Yuma we made a Walmart run and stocked the pantry. I also bought a quart of Delo 400 oil to top up the generator. We’ve run it over 50 hours since I changed the oil at Eagle Nest Lake. It only took about 12 ounces to top it off – but with a sump capacity of only three quarts, I don’t like to run it low on oil. With the generator oil topped off, I fired it up to run the roof air conditioners. It was 95 degrees in Yuma!

I thought about stopping at a couple of other RV stores in Yuma for a few supplies I need, but blew it off as I can get them from Amazon when we’re settled in at Mission Bay RV Resort. We continued west on I-8 past Winterhaven, California and found our little stopping spot in the desert at Ogilby Road. We’ve stayed here several times on BLM land that’s part of the Picacho State Recreation Area (SRA). The SRA borders the Picacho Wilderness and the area we stay in has a fairly level, hard-packed gravel surface. It’s a popular if somewhat secluded area for snowbirds that don’t mind boondocking. This part of the desert sits at an elevation of about 400 feet above sea level. It’s much warmer than we’ve become accustomed to after months in the mountains.

The rock garden area we usually stay in was occupied by the only other RV in sight. We found a nice, level spot that had a site marked by rocks over a quarter mile away – leaving plenty of space. People that spend most of the winter here arrange rocks around their rigs. It’s against BLM regulations, but no one seems to mind.

Our "site" in the open desert

Our “site” in the open desert

Path from our door step

Path from our door step

Many people would view this area as a barren wasteland, but I enjoy staying here. I love the views, the quiet and the seclusion.

Our windshield view

Our windshield view

Desert sunset and sunrise is always spectacular.

Desert sunset

Desert sunset

After dark I walked outside and looked at the sky expecting to see it filled with stars but the 3/4 moon was so bright, it washed out many of the stars.

I slept soundly. The overnight low temperature was in the 60s and we had all of the windows open. I woke up just before sunrise.

Our rig is dwarfed by the open desert

Our rig is dwarfed by the open desert

The sunrise was every bit as spectacular as the sunset the evening before.

Desert sunrise

Desert sunrise

The balloon fiesta in Albuquerque is a memory now and the days spent there seem like a blur. This morning we’ll move on to San Diego. We look forward to our time there every year – this will be our fourth winter visit. There’s always so much to do and it’s great to reconnect with old friends there.

I think we’ll make our usual stop for lunch at the Buckman Springs rest area and check in at Mission Bay around 1pm. The weather forecast for the next week in San Diego looks great – highs in the low 70s with partly cloudy skies.

 

2016 Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta – Final Flight

I ended my last post by saying the final day of the 2016 Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta may be a bust. It was raining when I went to bed Saturday night and looking at the forecast, I fully expected to hear raindrops on the roof when my 4:30am alarm sounded. I was surprised to find it wasn’t raining and dragged myself out of bed.

Brad picked me up at the Fiesta Park entrance. I had a nice chat with Johnny, the security guy there, while I was waiting. Hanging out with Johnny for 15-20 minutes every morning for nine days straight gave us a chance to get to know each other.

Breakfast burritos and excellent locally roasted coffee from Piñon coffee was served to pilots and crew at the pavilion. A great start to the day. They do a great job of feeding about 1700 pilots and crew on weekdays and up to 2200 on the weekends.

The pilot’s briefing had weather info that caught me by surprise. It seemed like a nice morning with favorable winds, however there was some ground fog to the east and the possibility of more fog in the river bottom as the dew point and temperature were close.

After sunrise, Brad gave the go-ahead to unload and assemble the Heart’s A’Fire hot air balloon. We had it cold inflated and I expected Brad to fire the burners at any moment when we were given the command to stand down. I didn’t know what was up but soon found out that the field had been closed due to the fog bank to the east. Ground fog can be very dangerous for flight as it makes it impossible to see and identify obstacles for landing.

We were soon back at it, inflating the balloon. I really like manning the throat of the balloon and watching it inflate. It can be taxing at times as wind or the weight of the sponsor banner makes the balloon want to roll on the ground. It’s important to keep the envelope properly oriented with the basket so the lines don’t twist and tangle. The lines connecting the basket to the envelope are numbered and we strive to keep number 10 and 11 centered on top as the basket lies on its side. I had some muscle soreness every day for the first week of the Fiesta but now I’ve worked myself into shape – just as we’re finishing up.

Brad’s passengers for the day were a special pair of siblings – brother and sister. They are the children of a good friend of Brad’s that’s an avid extreme hiker – more of a rock/mountain climber than hiker from what I understand. About three weeks ago, he disappeared while hiking 14,000 foot peaks in Colorado. Search and rescue operations searched for eight days before they were suspended. The kids haven’t been out of the house since his disappearance. Brad thought it would be good for them to get out, have a flight in the balloon and enjoy a day. He contacted their mother and invited them to go up.

We were given the thumbs up by the launch director and they were off!

Final launch of the 2016 Fiesta

Final launch of the 2016 Fiesta

We chased the balloon over to 2nd Street, west of the field. Brad had it working as he flew high and went north over the Sandia Pueblo Reservation, then dropped altitude and came back south down low. In fact he went low enough to dip the basket in the Rio Grande River – what they call a splash and dash! He did this a couple of times.

After more than an hour of flight time, he landed near the water diversion channel – about 150 yards from his landing the day before. This time he was on the west side of the channel and the access road had a locked gate. Lucky for us, a Sandia Tribal Police Officer had a key and unlocked the gate for us. Last year I heard horror stories of how the tribe treated balloonists and crews that landed on the reservation. This year there seems to be much more understanding and cooperation – I haven’t heard any bad stories, only good news.

After packing up the balloon, we had our usual tailgate party. Donna and our friend, Kris Downey, joined us. One of the crew members, Darren, thoughtfully lent us his Ford F150 truck so I could transport the Traeger grill, table, chairs and a few odds and ends from our site in the RV park to our trailer. Thanks, Darren! It would have been a real hassle to walk the stuff all the way to where we dropped the trailer.

I napped and watched football for the remainder of the day. At 4pm, Donna took a Lyft ride to an after-Fiesta party. She had a good time and was glad she opted for Lyft instead of riding the Spyder. We had another thunderstorm pass through. Besides, she could enjoy a couple of glasses of wine without worry. Brad and Jessica drove her back to the coach.

This morning I woke up a little before 6am. It felt luxurious to lie in bed for 15 minutes, then get up. I felt like I’d slept in. After a regular breakfast of eggs, bacon and toast with raspberry-ginger jam, I started packing up for the road. I had a few things I needed to take to the trailer. On my way walking back after the first trip, I saw Jim McManus with his head inside the battery compartment of a motorhome belonging to a solo woman RVer. I stopped to see what was going on. She had a problem with her house batteries not charging. The generator had tripped the breaker. When I checked it, the breaker didn’t feel right, the switch didn’t snap into place like it should. I worked it a few times and snapped it vigorously and it closed like it should. We checked it with a meter and it was charging.

On my next trip to the trailer, I saw Jim messing with a compartment door on the same coach. The door wouldn’t latch and they were trying to come up with a temporary solution. I checked the latch and it worked. The problem was that the squared-off U-bolt that it latches to wasn’t adjusted properly. The woman who owns the coach said she just had that compartment door replaced. It appears as though the shop didn’t lock down the adjustment nuts and they worked loose. Easy fix.

I like to help people out when I can, especially if I know what the answer to the problem is. Helping out here put me about 15 minutes behind schedule – but hey, what schedule? So I thought we could leave by 9am. What’s the big deal? I didn’t have to be anywhere at any special time. By the time I hooked up the trailer and loaded the Spyder, we pulled out at 9:30am.

We didn’t have any special destination in mind. I was thinking if we could make it to Holbrook, Arizona we could find a place to boondock for the night.

We're not in New Mexico anymore

We’re not in New Mexico anymore

On the road, we thought about what we needed to do in the next three days. Tomorrow I want to stop in Mesa, Arizona at the RV Renovators to go over the work we need to have done to repair the damage caused by the suicidal deer in Idaho. Then I’d like to continue on to Casa Grande where I’ll have service work done at Speedco and a wash job at the Blue Beacon there. This had me thinking I should try to get closer to Mesa than Holbrook.

We ended up driving about 340 miles – a lot longer than we usually do – and are dry camped at a casino in Payson, Arizona. We started the day at an elevation of 5,000 feet above sea level in Albuquerque. Our route across I-40 took us to the Mogollon Rim in Northern Arizona – there’s some disagreement on how to pronounce Mogollon. This is probably due to various tribal dialects, Spanish speakers and settlers in the area. Most seem to agree it’s muggy-on. The Mogollon Rim brought us to an elevation of more than 7,700 feet. Now we’re right back where we started sitting at 5,000 feet above sea level.

Tomorrow night we can find another boondock spot – maybe the Elks Lodge in Casa Grande. Then we’ll move on to our little piece of desert in California west of Yuma/Winterhaven for the night.

It will be nice to have a quiet, secluded night before we move on to city life for the next three months in San Diego. I don’t think I’ll be posting for a couple of days as we take care of business.

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!

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.

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.