Category Archives: Hiking

Hot Spell Broken

The unseasonably warm weather has cut down my activities. We’ve had high temperatures in the mid-90s since Thursday of last week through Tuesday of this week. We’ve had the air conditioners running and I’ve spent a lot of time indoors reading books.

Yesterday the warm spell broke. Overnight the temperature dropped to 58 degrees. Donna was up early to join a group from ViewPoint RV and Golf Resort on a hike. They drove up the Beeline Highway (AZ87) toward Payson to the Little Saddle Trail near Mazatzal Mountain. They hiked all the way to the end of trail and continued another quarter mile further up the mountain where they stopped for a snack. The total distance out and back was 8.75 miles with an elevation gain of 1,900 feet.

The Little Saddle Trail follows a creek bed and crosses it a few times. I think Sycamore Creek is a dry creek bed at times, but it has running water right now and a few pools. Donna took several pictures on her hike.

Part of the Little Saddle Trail follows the Arizona Trail which runs from Mexico to Utah

Hiking up an open section

Green foliage at this time of year

Sycamore Creek

Sycamore Creek crossing

Colorful rocky section above Sycamore Creek

Sign at the end of Little Saddle Trail

Mazatzal Mountain view

One of many cairns on the trail

Checking out the creek

While Donna was out on her hike, I hit the pickleball courts for the Wednesday 3.0-3.5 level round robin games. I played seven games and had a great time. We had good match-ups and played at a high level – the best I’ve played.

The high temperature for the day was in the low 80s. Later in the afternoon, when Donna returned from her hike, I covered the Spyder, Traeger and Weber Q grill. The forecast called for a chance of rain overnight and they called it right. Rain moved in around 11pm. It rained off and on until this morning.

Today we expect partly cloudy skies and the temperature will top out in the low 70s. We’ll be back up to 80 by the weekend. Temperatures in the high 70s to low 80s is fine with me – I just don’t want any more 90+ degree days.

Desert Biking and Hiking

We’ve settled in to a weekday routine here at ViewPoint RV and Golf Resort. On Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings, I play pickleball in the 3.0-3.5 round robin matches. After about two and half hours on the courts, I come home hungry and tired. This usually means I spend the afternoon lazing around and reading a book.

Of course I have a few small chores to attend to, but haven’t had any really big projects lately. My focus is on getting back into better physical condition. Donna plays pickleball a couple of times per week, and then walks, runs, hikes, or cycles on other days.

Friday went according to plan. I played pickleball in windy conditions Friday morning. Donna went out for a run. There were a few clouds, but the temperature reached 80 degrees. After reading in the afternoon, I went to happy hour at Lucky Lou’s and met up with the crew.

Donna prepared a chipotle chili crusted pork tenderloin for dinner and I grilled it on the Weber Q. I’m really liking our new Weber grill. She served it with sweet potato and spinach hash.

Chipotle-chili crusted pork tenderloin with sweet potato and spinach hash

I got ambitious Saturday morning and got my mountain bike out of the trailer. I haven’t ridden my Specialized Crave 29er in months. I had a notion to ride up Spook Hill. Spook Hill is a popular local hiking spot. It’s a few miles from ViewPoint and less than a mile from our old neighborhood. The last time I hiked up it was eight or nine years ago. I’d never ridden a bike up the steep climb.

The trail up is steep and much more rocky and rutted than I remembered. There were a number of people hiking up the hill – most of them looked at me on my bike like I was nuts. The trail gains over 300 feet of elevation in less than half a mile. Donna said she can hike up it in about ten minutes.

Several sections were too rutted, rocky or full of deep decomposed granite (DG). The DG caused loss of traction on my bike and I stalled in a few places. I ended up walking about 60% of the time going up. It took me 15 minutes to get up the hill – I lost time dismounting and mounting the bike and also pushing the bike up the rutted or rocky areas.

Once you reach the top, you have a commanding 360-degree view of the area.

Looking southwest – that’s the north end of ViewPoint RV and Golf Resort in the center – where we’re currently located

Looking south you can see the rest of ViewPoint, the Loop 202 freeway and the San Tan Mountains in the distance

Looking east – our old neighborhood is toward the small mountain on the left – Superstition Mountains in the background

Looking northeast toward Pass Mountain – most of the homes in the foreground didn’t exist when we lived here in 2009

Looking northwest – Red Mountain in the center – McDowell Mountain and Fountain Hills in the background

Going back down the trail, I reversed the walk/ride ratio. I rode more than 60% of the way and only walked the most treacherous sections.

This was fun but a little slippery

I went very slowly through here

I walked this rocky section to avoid hitting any hikers

While I was mountain biking, Donna was out on her road bike. I came home about five minutes ahead of her. I was whipped and done for the day.

As you can see in the photos, we had some high, thin cloud cover but the thermometer hit 81 degrees. For dinner I spatchcocked a whole chicken. Donna marinated it in lemon, olive oil and garlic. I cooked it on the Traeger smoker/grill while Donna cooked chopped bok choy on the Weber Q.

Traeger smoking away

Bok choy on the Weber Q

Spatchcocked chicken hot off the Traeger

It was an enjoyable end another day well-lived.

On Sunday morning, Donna met up with our friends, Hans Kohls and Lisa McGuire and they hiked near Lost Dutchman. Meanwhile, my friend Mike Hall picked me up and we drove his truck out to the desert near Sycamore Creek (dry) to shoot. We had a good time setting up targets against a hillside backstop and trying out a few firearms. I nearly knocked myself out trying Mike’s Thompson/Center 45-70 Government hand cannon!

Thompson/Center 45-70 – what a cannon!

That pretty much sums up the weekend. The forecast calls for cooler temperatures over the next two days, then we’ll warm up to mid-to-upper-80s.

 

Meet Me at Fat Willy’s

I was up early Saturday morning. I walked down to the park entrance on Hawes Street by Fat Willy’s restaurant. Mike Hall and Ray Laehu picked me up there a little past 7am. We were heading out for a day at the races. It was time for round two of the NHRA National Championship series at Wild Horse Pass Raceway.

Over the past four years, I’ve joined my friends at the races here – we get a deal from another guy named Ray. He pays for a space to park a motorhome and puts up a scaffolding to view from. He has a number of passes to get people into the event. We pay him and he provides the pass, food and beer. It’s a great deal – food and beer from the vendors at the track is incredibly expensive.

We took an early walk through the pits to see the teams preparing for the day’s qualifying runs.

Jack Beckman’s car packed in tight in one of his trailers

Jack’s crew pulling tires from a trailer – it takes a lot of tire to put 10,000 horsepower to the track

Tim Wilkerson inspecting parts while one of his crew members builds the bottom end of the engine

The Kalitta team putting the body for J R Todd’s funny car on a rack

Bill Miller Engineering showing his political viewpoint

When we got back to Ray’s space, they had breakfast fixings ready. We made breakfast burritos with scrambled eggs, sausage and hash browns. We watched the Sportsman events until the pros started running after lunch.

Redneck grandstand built from scaffolding

As always, it was good time. There’s nothing like a nitro burning Top Fuel dragster or Funny Car thundering down the drag strip at 300 mph.

Meanwhile, Donna spent the morning playing in her first pickleball tournament. She enjoyed it and hopes to play in another tournament. Afterwards, she met her friend, Stevie Ann, for a long lunch at Baja Joe’s. Stevie Ann was one of the first friends Donna met when she moved to Arizona back in 2002.

On Sunday morning, Sara Graff picked up Donna at 9am. They planned to spend the morning hiking up the Wind Cave Trail in Usery Park. Sara’s husband Howard picked me up. Howard is a member of the Rio Salado Gun Club and their gun range is also located in Usery Park.

We spent the morning shooting. I had a great time. I used to shoot regularly at a gun range in Michigan. I also shot frequently when I was with the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office in Washington. Since we’ve been on the road, I hadn’t visited a range.

My rifle skills are still up to par, but my handgun skills have deteriorated. Like most things, it takes practice to maintain proficiency. I plan to get out and shoot more often in the future.

Rio Salado Gun Club below the Usery summit with the Phoenix sign

Shooting benches

Afterwards we met Donna and Sara at Fat Willy’s for a late lunch. It’s nice being in an RV Resort that has a restaurant and bar. And it’s always nice to spend time with the Graffs.

The weather here in Mesa, Arizona was pleasant over the weekend. We had daily highs in the upper-60s. Today is cooler with high clouds. We spent the morning on the pickleball courts where gusty winds made things interesting. The forecast calls for rain to move into the area this afternoon and linger for 24 hours. It’s been unusually wet in the desert – the February rain total has exceeded the monthly average just as it did in January. Donna figures that today will be a good day for her to make a pot of pea soup. I need to make a run to the grocery store before it rains, then I’ll probably relax and read a book.

 

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.

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.

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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.

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First petroglyph near trail head

First petroglyph near trail head

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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?

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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.

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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.

 

 

Manby Hot Springs Adventure

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

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

County road B-007

County road B-007

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

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

Rio Hondo River below trailhead

Rio Hondo River below trailhead

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

View of the Rio Hondo about half way down the trail

View of the Rio Hondo about halfway down the trail

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

Rock cairn by the Rio Hondo

Rock cairn by the Rio Hondo

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

Donna magically disappears in the hot spring

Donna magically disappears in the hot spring

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

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

Rio Grande Gorge Bridge

Rio Grande Gorge Bridge

Rio Grande Gorge

Rio Grande Gorge

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

Rio Grande Gorge viewing platform

Rio Grande Gorge viewing platform

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

Earthship

Earthship

Passive solar heat

Passive solar heat

Another Earthship

Another Earthship

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

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

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

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

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Thermal mass construction

Thermal mass construction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spatchcocked Chicken in Taos

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

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

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

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

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

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

Typical Taos Valley RV Park pull through site

Typical Taos Valley RV Park pull-through site

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

Trader Joe's spatchcocked lemon rosemary chicken

Trader Joe’s spatchcocked lemon rosemary chicken

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

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

Breast side down on the grill

Breast side down on the grill

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

Nice and crispy

Nice and crispy

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

Spatchcocked chicken with roasted fingerling potatoes with kalamata olives

Spatchcocked chicken with roasted fingerling potatoes and kalamata olives

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

IPA from Marble brewing in Albuquerque

IPA from Marble brewing in Albuquerque

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

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

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

Sign at Devisadero peak

Sign at Devisadero Peak

Donna's selfie at the summit

Donna’s selfie at the summit

View of Taos from Devisadero

View of Taos from Devisadero

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

 

 

Eagle Nest Lake Trail

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

Glassy water with reflections of the mountains

Glassy water with reflections of the mountains

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

Terrain varies

Terrain varies

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

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

Deer by the trail

Deer by the trail

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

Generator panel inside the coach

Generator panel inside the coach

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

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

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

Cummins - Onan oil filter

Cummins – Onan oil filter

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

Old and new air filter elements

Old and new air filter elements

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

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

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

View from the trail

View from the trail

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

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

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

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

 

Angel Fire Vietnam Memorial

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

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

Broken hanger pole support

Broken hanger pole support

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

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

Panoramic view of Eagle Nest Lake

Panoramic view of Eagle Nest Lake

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

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

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

Prairie dogs and their holes are everywhere

Prairie dogs and their holes are everywhere

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The park is home to a large prairie dog colony.

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

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

Amphitheater behind the chapel

Amphitheater behind the chapel

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

Sculpture of a soldier penning a letter

Sculpture of a soldier penning a letter

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

Bell UH-1 "Huey"

Bell UH-1 “Huey”

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

That's a long runway

That’s a long runway

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

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

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

Brews on tap

Beers on tap

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

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

Site 16 at Eagle Nest Lake

Site 16 at Eagle Nest Lake

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

 

Christmas in August

A cold front was pushing down from the north on Friday. After exploring a few options, we decided the best bet was to stay put and hunker down for the day. The wind picked up in the afternoon, but most of the thunderstorm activity was to the south of us – we could see lightning and hear the thunder but we only had one squall here at Sierra Trading Post.

It was good day to kick back and read a book, so that’s what I did. Satelite TV reception was spotty in the afternoon due to the heavy storm clouds blocking the southern sky. The temperature dropped dramatically.

Screenshot of weather conditions on my smartphone at 7:46pm

Screenshot of weather conditions on my smartphone at 7:46pm

I couldn’t think of anything better to do, so I opened a bottle of Flanders Black Ale that I picked up when I visited the Deschutes Brewery. This is a limited release – you won’t find it in stores. It’s a bourbon barrel-aged black ale with brett bacteria.

Black Flanders Ale

Flanders Black Ale

It was strong at 10.5% ABV with very complex flavors and a sour finish. I thought it was delicious. I poured a taster for Donna and she agreed. It was also expensive at about a dollar an ounce! When the storm clouds thinned out, we watched some coverage of the Rio Olympics.

We rose to sunny skies Saturday morning. It was still cool out but the forecast called for temperatures in the 70s by the afternoon. We wanted to get out so we rode the Spyder downtown to the depot at the south end of Capitol Avenue. They have a farmers’ market there on Saturdays from 7am to 1pm beginning on the first weekend of August and running through the first weekend in October.

Farmers' market

Farmers’ market

It was a fairly large market with local produce sourced from Wyoming, Colorado and Nebraska.

Depot plaza

Depot plaza

The entrance to the depot plaza which is the site for the market has sculptures of cowboy boots flanking either side.

Boot on the right

Boot on the right

Another boot on the left

Another boot on the left

We walked through the marketplace and Donna bought fennel and squash while I bought coarse grain habanero mustard – we sampled it and it was very tasty while not overly hot.

There was an art exhibit in the train depot that houses a gift shop and museum. The fee to enter the museum was $8 – we passed on it. We also checked out the Accomplice brew pub but it was too early to sample brews.

As we headed back to the Spyder, we saw a western wear shop called The Wrangler which is also a Boot Barn store. Donna’s been wanting me to buy cowboy boots to wear with jeans when we go out. When I’m not wearing flip-flops, I usually wear running shoes or cross-trainers.

I humored her and we went inside for a look. I haven’t worn cowboy boots since I was a kid. I posted about those cowboy boots here. For some reason, I imagined cowboy boots would be uncomfortable to wear. After browsing around for a while, I found a pair I liked and tried them on. They were a little tight around my forefoot and a little loose at the heel. I looked for a different size. I tried a larger boot, but it was loose. That’s when a store clerk came over to offer assistance.

I told him how the first boot fit. He told me that it sounded like a perfect fit – they should always feel a little tight behind the ball of your foot and have a little space at the heel. He said the leather would stretch and conform to my forefoot after walking in them and breaking them in. They were actually quite comfortable. The brand name was Ariat.

Donna made it Christmas in August and bought the boots for me. I also picked up some leather conditioner.

On the way back to the Spyder, we stopped at a used book store and found a couple of books for a dollar each. Donna asked the guy there for a recommendation for lunch. He told us we should go back toward the depot and try The Albany restaurant. It’s been family-owned since 1942. We dropped our stuff in the Spyder trunk and I donned my new cowboy boots to start the break-in process.

My new Ariat boots

My new Ariat boots

We had a nice lunch and the service was good. After we came home, Donna went for a walk. She ended up walking a few miles east, then came back and stopped at the coach before walking west to pick up a few things at Walmart, logging a total of 6.6 miles for the day. I watched the qualifying for this weekend’s Moto GP race in the Czech Republic.

Today’s weather looks good – clear skies with the temperature expected to reach the low 80s and not as windy as the previous few days. We’ll hang out here at Sierra Trading Post one more night before we move on to Colorado tomorrow.