A Can of Worms

I mentioned in an earlier post an engine problem we began to experience in Colorado. We had an intermittent loss of boost pressure causing a reduction of power. When this happened, it set a fault code in the Engine Control Module (ECM) and the engine maintenance light in the instrument panel illuminated. I interrogated the ECM with our ScanGauge D and found a Diagnostic Trouble Code (DTC) telling me that the intake manifold pressure wasn’t at the expected level. Due to the intermittent nature of the issue, I assumed it was a poor electrical connection or a problem with the pressure sensor.

While we were in Abiquiu, New Mexico I investigated the problem and found a crack in the exhaust manifold. This can cause a boost pressure problem. Our Cummins ISL diesel engine is turbocharged. A turbocharger is a device with two chambers in a steel housing – one chamber is fitted to the exhaust system while the other chamber is connected to the engine intake system. Each chamber has a wheel – think of it as a windmill although its shape is more complex than that.

The exhaust side is called the turbine. Hot exhaust is expelled from the combustion chamber and flows through the exhaust manifold and the turbine side of the turbocharger. This spins the turbine wheel. This wheel is mounted to a shaft that passes through the housing and is connected to the wheel on the intake side. This is the compressor wheel. The spinning turbine wheel turns the compressor wheel and the energy transferred compresses the air flowing into the engine through the intake system.

In order to burn fuel in an internal combustion engine, you need fuel and enough oxygen to combine with the fuel. The more oxygen you can pack into the combustion chamber, the more fuel you can efficiently burn and the more power you can extract from the fuel. The compressor side of the turbocharger packs more air into the engine. But there’s a catch. Compressing the air heats it and the turbocharger housing is also very hot. Hotter air is less dense than cooler air, thus negating some of the advantage of pressurizing the intake system. To counter this, most turbochargers use a type of radiator in the intake system – the hot pressurized air is directed through a cooler to reduce the air temperature and increase air density. These coolers are usually an air-to-air radiator called an intercooler or Charge Air Cooler (CAC).

The exhaust leak in our manifold was allowing the hot exhaust gasses to escape before they entered the turbine of the turbocharger. This imparted less energy to the turbine wheel and it couldn’t spin the compressor wheel at the proper speed.

Cracked exhaust manifold

I knew this had to be repaired immediately. In our case, immediately meant when we arrived in Albuquerque. Northern New Mexico is fairly remote and there wasn’t a shop closer than Albuquerque that I trusted. I was still bothered by the intermittent nature of the problem. The exhaust leak was a constant mechanical defect so why was I losing boost intermittently?

We left Los Suenos de Santa Fe RV Park around 11am on Wednesday and stopped for lunch across the street. Then we took US 14 south through the small towns of Madrid, Golden and Antonito avoiding I-25. It was a scenic and leisurely drive – there’s very little traffic and I could cruise without pushing the engine too hard.

We arrived at Rocky Mountain Cummins around 1:30pm and I checked in with their service department. I had an appointment for 7am Thursday morning. We talked about the repair and the time frame. Completing the exhaust manifold replacement in one day was doubtful. They told me I could park the coach and trailer on the street in front and hook up to their 50-amp electrical pedestal.

Donna packed a bag – she would spend the night in a nearby hotel with Ozark the cat. We walked with her suitcase, laptop bag and a couple of plastic bags with cat supplies to the Comfort Inn on 4th Avenue a few blocks away. We walked past a small park with many homeless people sleeping in the shade. We must have looked like upscale vagabonds carrying our stuff past the park. Ozark wasn’t comfortable in the hotel room – she spent most of the time hiding under the bed – she’s so accustomed to her home in the coach.

I stayed overnight in the coach – it wasn’t the best neighborhood and I didn’t want to leave the coach unattended. The Rocky Mountain Cummins shop is fully fenced in with standard chain-link and barbed wire fencing backed up with a 7,000-volt electric fence. On Thursday morning, I dropped the trailer in their fenced lot and checked in for my appointment at 7am – the coach and trailer would be secure in their fenced lot from that point. That’s when things started on a downhill spin.

They weren’t very organized at the service counter. I had talked to the woman there, Barbara, twice in the last week to make sure they had parts and were ready to do the work. She acted like she didn’t know who I was or why I was there. She wrote up the work order and I sat in the waiting area to see how things would progress. At 9am, our coach was still sitting where I parked it.

The service manager, Alvaro, was in a meeting. I asked for him and he left his meeting to talk to me. I explained the situation beginning with the appointment I made a week ago and the estimate they e-mailed me at that time. I also explained the need to get the work done so we weren’t stuck in a hotel. He apologized for the issue and told me the guy that scheduled the work and made the estimate was out of the office. He put someone on the job and work commenced.

I hung around until noon, then went to the hotel to take Donna out to lunch. Wouldn’t you know it, while I was at lunch, Barbara phoned and said Alvaro wanted to show me some issues they found with the engine. I went back to the shop. It was bad news. The charge air cooler had a leak. They pressurized the CAC and showed me where it was leaking. The CAC would have to be removed to see if the leak was repairable. Hopefully a radiator shop can repair it. If it needs to be replaced, it’s not a common part and might be difficult to find. Motorhomes use CACs designed to fit their layout, unlike a heavy duty truck that would use a common part.

The CAC is sandwiched between the coolant radiator and air conditioning condenser. It’s a big job to remove it. They also found oil in the turbocharger and thought it was damaged. I wasn’t convinced it needed replacement. Turbocharger oil seals aren’t like the rubber seals on a crankshaft for example. The shaft is sealed with steel rings, like a piston ring. Seal failure on a turbo is usually the result of a lubrication system problem – I didn’t have an issue there.

Further inspection revealed the source of the oil was the accessory air compressor on the engine. The compressor draws fresh air from the filtered intake air upstream from the turbocharger. The compressor was leaking and some oil was entering the intake system from it. The compressor would have to be replaced.

This was quickly turning into a can of worms. An expensive can of worms. I gathered a few things and spent the night at the hotel with Donna. On Friday, we checked out at noon and moved to the Hotel Elegante on Menaul – a better neighborhood. They had a special rate for Cummins employees and customers. Donna called Uber to transport herself and Ozark while I drove the Spyder. Ozark isn’t sure what to make of our new digs and mode of travel.

After checking in, we went back to the shop to get more clothes and necessities. We will be out of the coach for an undetermined amount of time at this point. While we were at the shop, I looked things over and had another nasty find.

This is where the coolant radiator and CAC normally reside at the left rear of the coach

AC condenser, CAC and coolant radiator behind the CAC

The coolant radiator had corrosion on about a quarter of the fins and the core was about to rust through. It needs to be re-cored. This is the part of the radiator closest to the rear wheels – it can’t be seen without crawling into the engine compartment from underneath and removing the fan shroud. Send more money!

Lower right corner of radiator core corroded

I’m hoping there aren’t any more bad surprises. As my friend and fellow motorhome owner, John Hinton, reminded me – I should be thankful to be getting the repairs made here in Albuquerque rather than being stuck on the side of the highway in some remote area.

Meanwhile, Donna and I are making the best of it, staying at a hotel and taking advantage of the amenities. We’ve also found a few breweries in the area – Rio Bravo, Marble and Tractor. They have great brews that are only found here in New Mexico.

I found a sign on 4th Avenue near downtown – Donna will set me free! I wish she could bail our coach out of the shop.

Better call Donna!

I’ll update our situation when I know more on Monday.

A Week in Santa Fe

It’s hard to believe our week in Santa Fe is coming to an end already. We pulled into Los Suenos de Santa Fe RV Park last Wednesday and we’ll head out tomorrow. As usual, we’ve really enjoyed our stay here. Santa Fe has a lot going for it.

When we leave here, we’ll go directly to the Rocky Mountain Cummins shop in Albuquerque to have the exhaust manifold replaced. They e-mailed an estimate for the work – $1,600. I’m guessing it’ll exceed the estimate by $400 to $500 once they get going and things happen – like studs breaking and so on.

On Saturday morning, Donna and I rode the Spyder down to the Farmers’ Market near the Railroad Park and Santa Fe Depot. The Saturday market is the largest of four markets in the area. We came early – we were there by 9am and had breakfast burritos from a vendor inside the building adjacent to the market midway. They were made with locally sourced ingredients and were very good – as was the coffee.

We walked through the market, then returned to the vendor tents that had items we wanted. Donna bought a couple of ears of corn, peaches, apples, green beans that were purple until cooked, cantaloupe, corn pisole stew mix and creamy goat cheese with hatch chile.

There were a number of street musicians performing – we really enjoyed a quartet called Lone Piñon. Donna persuaded me to buy a CD they recorded so we can listen to something different. The music we heard them play was a mix of some Gypsy Jazz sounding stuff to traditional old Mexican folk music. We haven’t listened to the CD yet. Donna is in the process of ripping all of our CDs to a hard drive.

Lone Piñon

We were parked near the train depot. As we walked back to the Spyder, we passed through a section of artisan vendor tents. Donna found a bracelet that she really liked made by a local woman who is a metalsmith. She only accepted cash or check, so I walked back to the ATM for more cash and bought it for Donna.

Bounty from the Farmers’ Market – look closely and you’ll see an ear of corn wearing Donna’s new bracelet

On Sunday morning, Donna took the Spyder to the Atalaya trail head. She looked up hikes online and decided to go for a challenging route up Atalaya Mountain.

Steeper or easier? Guess what route Donna took.

Donna parked at the trailhead and then walked about three-quarters of a mile to the start of the trail. She took the steeper route up and it took an hour and five minutes to reach the summit at 9,121 feet above sea level. The trailhead starts out at about 7,200 feet above sea level and it’s about a two mile climb. The air must have been mighty thin at the top! Another hiker at the summit took a photo of Donna with Santa Fe in the valley below.

Donna at the Atalaya Summit

I stayed home and watched the Formula One race from Singapore and NFL football. Donna came home just ahead of a thundershower. Thundershowers can appear suddenly – mostly in the afternoons or evenings here. This year they seem to happen more frequently than the last couple of years when we were here.

On Monday morning, we were back at the Genoveve Chavez Community Center for pickleball. They’ve raised their visitor fees – it’s now seven dollars a day for Donna to use the facility while I get the old guy rate (60 and over) of four dollars.

I’ll end this post with a discussion of western (cowboy) boots. If you have no interest in boots, now is the time to quit reading.

A little over a year ago Donna bought a pair of cowboy boots for me in Cheyenne, Wyoming. At the time, I knew nothing about cowboy boots. Since then, I’ve studied the subject and bought a few more boots. Cowboy boots and boot making have a fascinating history, but I won’t go into that here. Lots of info is available if you want to search the internet.

I’m most interested in boots that follow more traditional construction techniques and are essentially hand made. That’s not to say there’s no machinery involved – there are always mechanical aids used but these machines are hand operated for the most part opposed to computer-controlled robotic manufacturing used in mass market shoes.

If you’re looking for cowboy boots and find a boot that says “genuine leather lower – balance man-made materials,” you’re looking at a machine-made product that probably comes from China. On the other hand, if it’s constructed of 100% leather, then there is surely some degree of hand work steps in the process. I think it’s important to have hand work in the boots – particularly in certain steps such as lasting. A last is a form either made from wood or plastic in the shape of your foot. Pulling the vamp – the upper leather portion that covers the top of your foot – by hand allows the boot maker to adjust the tension used to match the properties of the particular piece of leather. A machine will pull the material the same way to the same tension time after time with no regard to material variances from piece to piece.

Finding boots that fit your feet is the key element to comfort. Proper fitting boots will break in and conform to your foot. The last is what determines the fit along with the care taken by the boot maker. A custom last designed around the actual measurements of your foot is the ultimate. For off-the-shelf boots, it’s a good idea to try on a few different brands of boot to find the best fit – they have small variations although they may be marked as the same size. For me, Lucchese boots fit well. If I could afford it, I would have a pair of bespoke boots made. There are several boot makers that offer this service. One of the best in my opinion is Lisa Sorrell – she builds the boot from start to finish doing all of the work herself. Her blog has videos that explain many of the steps in custom boot making. Speaking of steps, I’ve read a few different figures on how many steps are involved in the process. Lucchese says there are 120 to 130 individual steps depending on the number of embellishments in the finish. I’m not sure how the steps are defined.

There are many different leathers used. Most of the inner leather pieces – the linings, the insole, heel counter and so on – are generally made from cow hide. There are many variations and grades of cow hide. The outer sole is made from a thick piece of leather that’s been compressed to make it hard and wear resistant. The thickness was traditionally measured in irons – an iron is about half a millimeter or 0.020″. Today most leather thickness is described in ounces. Outer soles are 12 oz or more. The insoles are also thick but not as hard as the outer. It was surprising to me to find that the layers of leather used means that I’m standing on nearly half an inch of leather under the sole of my foot – not the heel but under my forefoot.

The vamp and the shaft (the part that is vertical around the calf) are the visible parts of the boot and set the character. The materials used come from a wide variety of sources. The most common leather is some form of cow hide. By the way, leather is a generic term for a hide that’s been processed or tanned to enhance strength, suppleness and durability for its intended use. In boots, the leather is vegetable tanned. Cow hide is just that – the skin of a cow until it’s tanned and becomes leather.

Likewise, exotic leathers are tanned from the hide of different animals. One of the best leathers in my opinion for the outer boot is ostrich. Ostrich is soft to touch, very supple yet also strong and durable. It also doesn’t scuff easily. Where do ostrich hides come from? They are taken from farm-raised ostriches – mostly in South Africa although there are some ostrich farms in the USA. In some parts of the world, farming ostrich is viewed no differently than farming turkeys here in the USA. The birds are raised, then processed for their meat and the hides are used for leather.

Alligator and crocodile are also fairly common exotic leathers used for boots and fashion accessories such as purses or handbags and belts. American alligator is the most prized. It’s supple and beautifully patterned. It’s also very pricey. Alligators are also farmed but some are sourced from controlled, legal hunting in the southeastern US. Alligator hides are a limited resource and not as common as crocodile. Crocodile can be either Nile crocodile or caiman. Caiman crocodiles are farm raised in Central and South America. Columbia has a large caiman industry and I’ve read that about 600,000 caiman hides are sourced from there annually. Caimans are farmed for meat and hides. Caiman is a food source in many parts of the world including Central and South America and Asia. Caiman hides are stiffer than alligator but can be made into fine boots.

My progression in the world of boots went like this:

August 2016 – Newby with no knowledge of boots, I received these boots as a gift and started my boot obsession.

Ariat machine-made cow hide boots

September 2016 – My first hand crafted boots – Lucchese smooth quill ostrich.

Lucchese hand-crafted smooth quill ostrich lowers, cow hide shafts

October 2016 – Lucchese with taller heels and higher quality leathers – full quill ostrich.

Lucchese full quill ostrich lowers, calfskin shafts

September 2017 – Lucchese caiman crocodile vamp, ostrich heel counter cover, calfskin shafts

I’m sure that’s more than most of you wanted to hear about boots. I love ’em and I’m certain I’ll have my Lucchese boots for the rest of my life.

We have clear skies and pleasant weather today. The high should reach the upper 70s and the forecast says 0% chance of rain today or tomorrow. We’ll pack up tomorrow morning and leave as close to the 11am check out time as possible before heading to the shop in Albuquerque. Albuquerque looks to be much warmer – highs in the upper 80s.

 

Sometimes I’m Crazy Like That

We pulled out of White Rock, New Mexico a little past 10am Wednesday morning. It was a surprisingly quiet night there – the Visitor Center is right on the main drag near the geographic center of the small town. However, the traffic heading out of town to the southwest past the Visitor Center is almost all going to Bandelier National Monument. There’s no real reason to head out that way after dark, so traffic falls off to next to nothing.

We made the 40-mile drive to Santa Fe and arrived in familiar surroundings by 11:30am. We pulled into the Los Suenos de Santa Fe RV park on Cerrillos Road where we’ve stayed the previous two years. We were assigned to site 93 on the south end of the small RV park. This puts us about as far from the road and traffic noise as we can get, so it’s a good site. We’ve learned through experience not to enter the pull-through sites in the “normal’ fashion – that is, entering from the rear and pulling through. The sites here are relatively narrow and the management has placed bright yellow concrete barriers shaped like barrels at the back of the sites. These barriers can be difficult to maneuver past, especially if you’re pulling a trailer or vehicle behind the coach.

We made the loop around to the front of the site and backed in. It’s much easier as the front of the sites have no barriers and plenty of room to maneuver. Then we found a new twist that affects the sites on the south end of the park. The fresh water spigot and sewer connector are located at the far back end of the site. With our trailer, our water and sewer lines had to extend about 45 feet to reach the hook-ups. This wasn’t a problem for the fresh water – I have plenty of hose. But the sewer line was a different story. In four years on the road, I’ve never needed more than 30 feet of sewer hose. I had to go to Walmart and buy hose extensions to hook up.

Meanwhile Donna was at her computer working on some proposals. She finished up and we went out around 4pm to stop in at Duel Brewery. Duel is a unique experience – they specialize in Belgian-inspired beers and a European style food experience. We haven’t eaten there, only tried a few of their brews. The Santa Fe location has a fairly small bar and is served by a small 10-barrel brewing system. They don’t distribute their beers – if you want Duel, you’ll have to visit Santa Fe or their Albuquerque location. Their beers are fairly strong for the most part and all of them have unique flavors. I’ve found all of the beers I’ve tried there to be very good. Donna and I each ordered a sampler flight and enjoyed them.

Thursday morning we rode the Spyder downtown to walk around the plaza area. This is where most tourists end up in Santa Fe. The plaza often has events and entertainment and the surrounding area is full of upscale boutique shops and a few historical buildings.

We window shopped, then I suggested we go into the Lucchese Bootmaker shop for a look around. I knew it was dangerous thing for me to do. I’ve been wanting to get a pair of crocodile western boots for about a year. And wouldn’t you know it, I found a pair black cherry boots with crocodile belly vamps (the part that covers the top of your foot) and ostrich heel counters and shafts (the part that goes up your calf). They had my size and I tried them on. I couldn’t resist and bought them. As my friend Keith Burk would say – sometimes I’m crazy like that.

Lucchese crocodile boots

I figure I’ll be 61 years old in a few weeks. I deserve a splurge every now and then. Life’s short, enjoy the ride, right?

While we were at Duel the day before, we inquired about the best green chile cheeseburger in town. We were directed to Cowgirl, a bar and grill on Guadalupe Street about a half mile from the plaza. It was overcast and few rain drops began to fall, so we decided to leave the plaza and stop for lunch at Cowgirl.

They bill themselves as serving “New Style Comfort Food.” We found an item on the menu called “The Mother of All Green Chile Cheeseburgers.” Here’s the description from their menu:

Our secret blend of all-natural beef, local buffalo and applewood smoked bacon, grilled to your liking and served in a cheddar/green chile bun with melted brie, truffled green chile, a slice of heirloom tomato and some hand cut truffle fries – Just ask for “Mother!”

It was obviously a large burger and priced at $15. Donna and I split one – it wasn’t an unusual request to split the order apparently. It was the best burger I’ve ever tasted. The blend of beef and buffalo ground with bacon made a tasty blend that wasn’t the slightest bit greasy yet wasn’t as dry as buffalo burgers can sometimes be. The brie and green chile with truffle oil was out of this world good!

The Mother of All Green Chile Cheeseburgers

We beat the rain home. Donna later walked to Sprouts and picked up a few groceries. If the market is less than two miles away, she often likes to walk and shop. I started the break-in process on my new boots after treating them with Bick’s leather conditioner. Crocodile leather isn’t as supple as ostrich and the break-in takes some time.

I watched the Thursday Night Football game then went to bed for a quiet night’s rest. This morning we headed out at 8am to the Genoveva Chavez Community Center for pickleball. We spent about three hours there. I haven’t played since we were in Coarsegold – about three months ago. It was good to be back on the court and knock some of the rust off. We’ll go back on Monday.

Tomorrow we plan to head over to the Farmers’ Market down by the Santa Fe Railroad Park. We always enjoy our visits to Santa Fe. Donna wants to get some bicycle riding in over the weekend. I don’t have any plans other than the market and of course watching the Formula One race from Singapore and some NFL action.

Riana and Bandelier

The weekend at Riana Campground at Abiquiu Lake, New Mexico was so quiet and relaxing, we ended up extending a day until Tuesday morning. They don’t allow anyone to enter the campground after 10pm, but it was always quiet by dark anyway. There were a few empty sites through the weekend. The occupied sites had a mix of RVs and even a couple of tent campers. A lot of fisherman come here on the weekend to try their luck on the lake.

These folks look like they have a comfortable set up in their Tab pull-behind trailer

On Saturday, Donna went hiking through the Corps of Engineers Park. They have a few trails and she hiked them all and ended up at the beach for a swim. She was confused to see boats there, but it turned out that Santa Fe Adaptive Sports had reserved the beach to take people with disabilities out on the lake.

View of the Abiquiu Lake beach from Donna’s hike on a trail up on a bluff

While she was out, I investigated the trouble we’ve been having with the Cummins ISL engine in our coach. I have a loss of turbocharger boost intermittently with a great loss of power and when I have boost it doesn’t seem like I have full power. Digging around in the cramped engine compartment, I found an issue that isn’t good. We have a crack in the exhaust manifold. This is allowing exhaust to leak from the manifold and reduces the flow to the turbocharger impeller. This is not an easy repair, especially with an engine shoehorned into a diesel pusher motorhome. I think there’s more than one issue with the turbo boost, but the manifold will have to replaced before any further troubleshooting can take place.

In the afternoon, we rode the Spyder to Bode’s General Store in Abiquiu and split a green chile cheeseburger. It wasn’t as good as were led to believe – we’re looking forward to a Blake’s Lotaburger green chili cheeseburger in Albuquerque. We managed to outrun the daily afternoon thundershower back to the coach.

On Sunday, I watched the Moto GP race from Monza, Italy and NFL Football. Donna was more ambitious and rode the Spyder to Ghost Ranch – about eight miles up highway 84. She wanted to hike the Chimney Rock Trail there. It was a 3-mile roundtrip with stunning vistas at the top. She enjoyed the hike so much that after having a little snack, she decided to hike the 4-mile Box Canyon Trail too. But somehow, she ended up going past the turn-around and put in a total of 10 miles of hiking. Ghost Ranch was true to its name – very few people out and about there.

Heading up the Chimney Rock Trail

Donna found a friend along the way

Top of the Chimney Rock Trail looking back toward Abiquiu Lake

Donna shot a photo of an interesting looking lizard on the trail. I can’t tell if it’s a collared lizard with a lot of yellow coloring for whatever reason or a spotted whiptail.

On Monday, Donna got into cleaning mode and went to town on the coach. She even took out the screens and cleaned them along with the windows. I straightened the trailer out and reorganized a basement compartment. I had the Spyder in the trailer by evening and watched the Monday Night Football double-header.

After a quick breakfast on Tuesday, we got an early start and headed down to White Rock – a small town near Los Alamos. In White Rock, there’s a visitor center conveniently located on the main drag. It has RV parking with 16 pull-through sites and 50amp electrical service in a dedicated RV lot. It also has a shuttle stop on the street for a free ride to Bandelier National Monument.

We arrived around 10:30am and got situated. I paid at the automated kiosk for one night – $20. We caught the 11:30am shuttle for the 25-minute ride up to the Bandelier Information Center. From 9am to 3pm daily, the only way to access Bandelier is by shuttle – this reduces the traffic and the free shuttles run every 30 minutes. Bandelier National Monument encompasses almost 34,000 acres but has only three miles of public road and 70 miles of hiking trails. We were interested in the Frijoles Canyon with the Main Loop Trail and ancient ruins including cliff dwellings.

The Main Loop Trail is mostly paved and a fairly easy hike. It does have a few steep rocky sections and to access the cliff dwellings you must climb rustic ladders. We spent nearly two hours hiking and toured the entire loop and also went up to the Alcove section – a high cliff dwelling that requires a 140-foot vertical climb – including steps and ladders to the caves. The nice thing about this place is you can actually enter many of the old caves, rooms and dwelling sites.

Ruins of ground level dwellings and food storage rooms more than 600 years old

Another view of the ruins – the hole in the ground is the foundation of a kiva – a communal meeting room

The cliffs and terrain are rugged yet beautiful

The people lived in cramped quarters – Donna in a doorway to a cliff dwelling

This dwelling was roomier – adjoining rooms in fact

If you look closely you might pick out Donna 140 feet up in the Alcove

As we made our way up the canyon, a thunder shower moved in. We could hear the thunder rumbling through the canyon and about 30 minutes later we were cooled off by a few rain drops – it was in the mid 80s.

After riding the shuttle back to our coach, we walked across the street to Smith’s Grocery. What a great location – walking distance to grocery shopping – and a short walk at that. We were back in the coach minutes before clouds rolled in for the afternoon thunder shower. We had half an hour of off-and-on rain, then the skies cleared again.

Tomorrow we’ll move on to Santa Fe for a week stay. I have an appointment in Albuquerque a week from Thursday with Rocky Mountain Cummins to get the exhaust manifold replaced. Hopefully I won’t have any surprises there.

 

I Hear the Train a Comin’

After I published my last post Thursday morning, Donna and I were thinking about packing up when we heard a train whistle. It was obviously a steam-train whistle, not the air horn you hear on modern locomotives. There’s something about the sound of the steam whistle – it’s a more primal, almost organic sound. To my ears, it’s much more appealing than an electrically operated air horn.

We knew the scheduled 10am Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Train was heading our way out of Chama. Donna had crossed the narrow gauge train track on her walk to town and we knew the tracks were across the field to the west of us. We stepped over the broken down barbed wire fence and walked across the field.

On the west side of the field, there was a dense line of pinyon pines and juniper trees. I found a game trail winding through an opening in the tree line and we came out in a small clearing next to the tracks, just in time to catch the steam-powered locomotive and passenger cars. Coal-fired steam engines produce lots of smoke!

The engine comes into view

The engineer gave us a friendly wave

Open gondola car – watch for cinders

Passengers waving and taking our picture as we took theirs

I’m sure the engineer and passengers had to wonder what we were doing in the middle of nowhere taking photos.

It was 11am by the time we pulled out and headed south on SR17 through Chama. We continued south on US84 – it was about a 60-mile run to Abiquiu Lake. Our destination was a Corp of Engineers (COE) park on the lake. The drive down was scenic as we came through canyons and saw colorful rock formations and steep cliffs.

A couple of windshield view photos Donna shot

We stopped at a primitive roadside rest stop north of Abiquiu Lake and I took a couple of pictures of the rocks and the lake in the distance.

Abiquiu Lake to the south of the rest area

Abiquiu Lake is a reservoir created when the COE built a dam on the Rio Chama River. The lake is about 5,200 acres and is more than 12 miles long. It’s said to have some of the best fishing in northern New Mexico.

We pulled into the COE park at Riana Campground. They have 39 sites, 15 of them have electricity and water. There’s a dump station onsite. The odd numbered sites are reservable while the even numbers are drop-in first-come, first-serve. At mid-day on a Thursday, we thought we wouldn’t have any trouble dropping in. It turned out the campground was just about full with no open drop-in sites except for dry-camping sites.

The electric and water sites are $16/day while dry-camping is $12/day. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to pay $12/day plus have generator run time on top of that if you can get a site with electricity for four bucks more. There was a reserved site that was open for one night – site 11. We decided to take the site with electricity for one night and hope something would open up for us on Friday.

Site 11 was a fairly long back-in site that would accommodate our coach and trailer. The problem was that the narrow site lined with trees was also on a narrow road lined with trees. I didn’t have much room to maneuver and it took a lot of jockeying to get into the site. I was getting a little hot under the collar by the time we were situated. I connected to the power pedestal for air conditioning but didn’t bother with the water – we had plenty in the fresh water tank.

This was much tighter and more difficult than it looks

We made a run on the Spyder into the town of Abiquiu. It’s a bit of a stretch to call it a town. There’s a general store and gas station which also has an ice cream stand and a library, post office, a couple of art galleries plus the Georgia O’Keefe house and museum. That’s about it.

On Friday morning, I woke up at 5:30am and couldn’t get back to sleep. It was still dark out. I read in the living room while Donna slept. After breakfast, we saw a travel trailer pull out of site 10. We went over to look at it and it looked like it would work for us – it was a pull-through on the side of the park road. Before we could move on it, another smaller coach pulled out of site 12 and claimed site 10. I went over to the camp host to ask about moving to an even numbered site – I saw 12 and 4 were open now. However, site 4 would be difficult to enter – even harder than site 11.

Here’s the thing – the even numbered sites are supposed to be first-come, first-serve, but they give priority to people already in the park. They said I was number three on the list. Number two was the woman who claimed site 10 – apparently she’s a regular here and is afforded special consideration. Number one on the list passed on site 12, so I booked it for the next three nights.

Site 12 – it’s narrower than it looks and the trees are problematic – you can just see our coach and trailer next door in 11

We moved one site over to allow the campers that reserved 11 to have their site while we claimed site 12. It wasn’t easy to get into, but Donna and I did a better job than yesterday, having already experienced the confined space.

Our windshield view

I hooked up the water as well as the electricity this time. We plan to explore the area around the lake over the weekend. There are some hiking trails and a swimming beach. Late afternoon thunder showers are the norm around here at this time of year, but it shouldn’t keep us from getting out during the day time.

High Passes and Quiet Night

With the rest of the Hearts A’Fire team heading for home Monday, Donna and I decided to spend one more night at the Hotel Elegante in Colorado Springs. Donna was able to get some laundry done in the hotel while I walked over to the convenience store and bought some drinking water.

On my way to the store, I saw a couple of interesting coaches in the hotel parking lot. They were Prevost custom conversions. I could tell they were entertainer buses – presumably a band traveling through the area had stopped for the night at the hotel. I could tell these were entertainer tour buses by the small lettering on the side indicating they were leased from Roberts Brothers in Springfield, Tennessee – a well-known provider of entertainer buses.

Entertainer tour bus

I wondered who it was, but wasn’t curious enough to find out. At the store, the local newspaper caught my eye. On the front page was a photo from the Labor Day Lift Off balloon event featuring Hearts A’Fire taking off from the park.

Front page of the Gazette

On Tuesday morning, we packed up and headed a few miles north to the Elks Lodge. Our plan was to spend one night dry camping at the lodge so we could use their dump station to flush out our holding tanks and refill the fresh water tank before leaving town. We also used the opportunity to do some grocery shopping and pick up some items Donna had delivered to the Sierra Trading Post store.

While we were at it, we decided to visit Bristol Brewing, a local brewery with an interesting location. They’re in an old schoolhouse. One half of the schoolhouse has boutique shops and a coffee shop/bakery while the other wing houses the brewery and pub.

Shops on the left, Bristol Brewing in the right wing

Red Rocket ale

Donna and I returned to the coach to plan our next move. We enjoyed a stay at Eagle Nest Lake in northern New Mexico last year but decided we wanted to explore new territory this year. Donna wanted to go to Abiquiu (Abbi-cue). We decided to head to Alamosa, Colorado across the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, then south into New Mexico.

Our trip down I-25 started off with a bang. We were driving along and went through an underpass. Just as we went through, a high-cube rental truck passed us on the left. I heard a loud boom – almost like a gun shot. I checked my mirrors and saw gray smoke on the left side of the trailer. I pulled off on the exit ramp and stopped on the shoulder – I thought we had blown a trailer tire. I went to investigate but didn’t find anything amiss. I guess the sound and smoke came from the truck overtaking us.

The turbocharger on our engine was still giving me problems. The engine control module (ECM) was intermittently losing the signal from the manifold pressure sensor. When this would happen, the turbo no longer provided boost pressure and there was a power loss. Also, the Jake brake would quit working whenever we lost the boost. I knew the problem was in the wiring harness at the ECM. I had taped up the harness for better support while we were at the Elks lodge. I checked the harness and repositioned it while we were stopped. This issue would continue to plague us on the trip to New Mexico.

We left I-25 near Walsenburg and headed west on US160. This took us through the Sangre de Cristo Mountains over La Veta Pass at an elevation of 9,426 feet above sea level. Wouldn’t you know it – I lost boost pressure on the climb up the pass and had to gear down to third to pull the grade. There was a Newmar Dutch Star motorhome traveling the same route that must have had engine trouble too – we overtook him on the climb.

We stopped in Alamosa and had a Subway sandwich for lunch. Donna looked up a couple of boondocking opportunities on the route to Abiquiu. Apparently we hadn’t communicated clearly on the route. I intended to head south on US285 from Alamosa into New Mexico. Donna had us heading west on US17 which curves south into New Mexico.

We punched the first boondocking possibility into the GPS and I happily followed the directions. It was near Manassa, Colorado and I felt like it was a bit early to stop and wanted to continue on. The next place Donna had identified was in New Mexico – about five miles across the border near Chama. We programmed that stop and I didn’t give it another thought. When we came through Antonito, I followed SR17 instead of US285 without thinking about it.

This took us over the San Juan Mountains into New Mexico. We had to climb up to La Manga Pass – this was the steepest grade we have ever encountered. Luckily our turbocharger was cooperating and I had the power needed for the climb. La Manga Pass tops out at 10,230 feet above sea level. We wouldn’t have made it without turbo boost. After a short descent we climbed Cumbres Pass at an elevation of 10,022 feet above sea level.

From there, it was downhill into New Mexico and we found a paved pull-out that was level and stopped there. It’s a mile and half from the small town of Chama across from a paved landing strip. It’s in beautiful surroundings and there’s very little traffic on SR17. We’re at an elevation of 7,966 feet above sea level.

Donna went out for a walk. She didn’t to go far, but she heard a train whistle and saw a sign for the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad indicating it was one mile away so she kept walking. She took a few photos along the way – they’re at the bottom of this post. The Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad runs on narrow gauge tracks between Chama and Antonito. This historic railroad still uses coal-fired steam-powered engines. The track runs just to the west of our boondocking spot. We heard the train pass by, but it doesn’t run at night. This place is so peaceful and quiet – a welcome respite from the time recently spent in cities. I took a couple of photos before sunset – I stood on our door steps for these shots.

Door step view

I watched the US Open Tennis tournament on TV – I’ve been following it – while Donna prepared cod in parchment paper with asparagus, butter, tarragon and fresh squeezed orange juice. Just because were boondocking doesn’t mean we can’t eat well!

Cod cooked in parchment paper with asparagus, tarragon, butter and fresh squeezed orange juice

Today we’ll move on down to Abiquiu. The weather forecast looks good with highs in the 80s and cool nights in the upper 50s. We may have a stray thunder shower or two, but no big storms expected.

Here are photos from Donna’s walk…

Rio Chama River

Check out the sign!

Chama train station

Narrow gauge railroad track

Labor Lift Off 2017

I’m writing this post Monday morning – Labor Day – after a labor-intensive weekend crewing for our friends and their hot air balloon, the Hearts A’Fire. We expected Brad and Jessica Rice to arrive at the Hotel Elegante in Colorado Springs Friday afternoon. Around 6pm, Donna and I took a short walk around the property and ran into Jeff and Katie – other friends and also crew members for Hearts A’Fire. Little did we know Brad was already onsite but his wife Jessica was driving up separately with their kids and fellow crew member Darin. Jessica came in much later than expected – I think it was after 9pm.

We already made plans for the crew to head out at 5:45am Saturday morning to Memorial Park where the Labor Day Lift Off hot air balloon event takes place. I had my alarm set for 4:50am – or so I thought. I got distracted while I was setting the alarm and instead of setting it for Saturday morning I had it set for everyday except Saturday. Luckily my internal clock woke me and I checked my watch next to the bed at 5:10am. I scrambled and managed to down a cup of coffee and meet up with the crew on time.

We needed the early start as we had to put a sponsor banner on the balloon envelope and we were scheduled to take off early.

Banner attached

It was a Hare and Hound event and we were the hare. The way it works is this – the three commercial Rainbow Ryders balloons take off first with their huge baskets holding a dozen or more paying customers. Then Hearts A’Fire would take off. The task was to set the balloon down somewhere with the rest of the balloons following. After lift off, getting the chase vehicle out of the park is always interesting. Aaron and I walked in front of the truck and tried to keep spectators clear along the paved path. Most people were oblivious as they took photos or watched balloons inflating. We managed to keep it clear enough and got out of there.

Balloons inflating as we were exiting

When Brad set the balloon down, we unfurled a large X on the ground. Brad waited a few minutes to give the other balloon pilots a chance to see where he landed, then took off again. The object was for the other balloonists to drop a bean bag and try to hit the X we set out. The closest bean bag wins a prize.

Brad continued to fly southeast and then found a high school football field to land in. There was a scoreboard and goal posts that created an obstacle. Brad cleared them by a few feet and was actually close enough to touch the upright on the goal post as they floated past. The landing was perfect – the basket stuck on contact with the grass.

The balloon was deflated and we had it packed up in no time. Sounds easy, but it entails some work and bit of heavy lifting. We went back to the park where Jessica had staked out space for our breakfast tailgate party.

Aaron, Darin and Katie cooking breakfast burrito fixings

We packed up and were back at the hotel by noon. Donna and I stay in our motorhome on the hotel property while the rest of the crew has rooms in the hotel. I had recorded the Formula One Qualifying from Monza, Italy – or so I thought. I kicked back and started the replay. After a minute and half, the qualifying session was red-flagged due to heavy rain. The next three hours were delay after delay. My recording ended without seeing any qualifying. I was half snoozing on the sofa anyway.

At 5:30pm, we were headed back to Memorial Park. They had a glow scheduled for Saturday evening. A glow is a static display of the balloons. We inflated just before sunset. Once it was dark out, the balloons glow like lampshades when the pilot hits the burner.

The park is about to fill with balloons and people again

There were quite a few people that must have hung out at the park all afternoon when we arrived. Soon the park was packed with balloons and people.

Inflated at twilight

Time to glow

By the time we were packed up again it was after 9pm and I was worn out. To tell the truth, I don’t enjoy static displays or glows so much. It’s the same work as a flight without the satisfaction of a launch, chase and recovery.

When I got home I found Donna had a small party happening in the coach. Jessica, Melissa, Katie and her husband Jeff were enjoying wine and conversation. I poured myself a dram of Glenfiddich Single Malt Scotch. Later, Brad’s brother Eric and his girlfriend Brittney joined us. I was exhausted but it was after 11pm by the time I got to bed.

Sunday morning my alarm worked fine and I was up at 4:50am so we could do it again. The weather was great for flying with the exception of wind direction. The wind was taking the balloons due south. The preferred flight path is southeast or even easterly.

Chasing Hearts A’Fire as it heads south

I was navigating in the chase vehicle. Colorado Springs isn’t the easiest place to navigate as many roads are dead ends or loops. Also, road names change in a seemingly haphazard fashion only to revert back to the original name in another area. On Saturday, I was able to navigate our way to keep us in sight of the balloon and put us in place just in time for the landing.

Sunday didn’t work as well. We had communication issues as we weren’t receiving all of Brad’s transmissions from the balloon. The balloon was heading south so I found a route that would position us ahead of him. Then we lost sight of the balloon. This was the first time I can think of when we didn’t have a clue where the balloon went. Finally we were able to reach Brad by cell phone and found out he was north of us and had landed in a soccer field. Luckily, Eric was nearby at the time and Eric and Russ were able to secure the basket at the landing site.

We found them and proceeded to pack the gear and head back to the park for another round of tailgating with breakfast burritos and beer.

On Sunday afternoon, I watched the Formula One race then snoozed while watching the US Open tennis tournament. The rest of the diehards were at the pool with the kids and Donna went to find them. It was hot out – mid-90s. We had the generator and air conditioners running all afternoon.

I joined everyone at the pool around 5:30pm, then Donna and I walked to Bada Japanese Restaurant for a sushi dinner. When we came home, Donna went out to rejoin the party but I was whipped. I was out by 10pm and slept like a rock until the alarm woke me at 4:50am.

Today the weather didn’t cooperate. The winds aloft were moving too fast for ballooning. Also, a lot of smoke blew into the area from forest fires in the northwest. We ended up with static display only. There were a couple of highlights though – well maybe the first encounter wasn’t really a highlight.

After we arrived at our assigned spot, Brad and the rest of the crew walked down to the pilots’ briefing about a quarter mile away. I hung out back at the truck and trailer. Just before sunup, a guy came by pushing a wheelchair and stopped about 15 feet away from me. He lifted what appeared to be a girl about six years old or so out of the wheelchair. I saw him manipulating her legs, then he knelt down and set her gently on the ground and began manipulating her arms. That’s when I realized this was a mannequin – a doll – not a real girl. After about 10 minutes, he lifted the doll back into the wheelchair and wheeled it away through the crowd. Weird – no, it was creepy!

During a static display, four or more crew members station themselves around the basket to keep weight on it in case the wind tips it or it begins to lift. While I was holding the basket, a small group of Asian people approached me. Most of them apparently didn’t speak English. One girl and guy started asking me about a balloon ride. I referred then to the Rainbow Ryders commercial balloons – affectionately called the cattle cars. They came back twice more asking me about getting into the basket, they wanted two of their party to get in – the communication was poor, but I got the gist of it.

I told them to ask the pilot, Brad if they could get in the basket. I heard Brad tell them to come back in 10 minutes before we deflated the balloon. They came back. Most of the group lined up with cameras in front of the balloon. Then a young guy in dressy clothes and a girl in a white dress stood in front of the basket. The guy handed her flowers the got down on one knee. He produced a small jewelry box and ring and proposed to her while the rest of their group took photos with the Hearts A’Fire balloon in the background. Then they both climbed into the basket for more photos. You never know what you might see at these events!

We packed up and Jessica dropped Donna and I off back at our rig by 9:30am. We said our goodbyes. They all have to make the five- or six-hour drive back to Albuquerque. I think we’ll stay put for another day – we can hang at the pool and use the hotel laundry. Tomorrow we’ll go to the Elks Lodge and plan our route into New Mexico. Starting tomorrow the weather is supposed to cool dramatically – they’re calling for a high in the mid 60s!

Always Trouble in Threes

It seems like there’s always something that needs doing when your house is on wheels. In reality, there was always something that needed doing when we lived in a sticks-and-bricks house too. Then there’s the old adage about trouble coming in threes. It might fit here.

A few days ago Donna opened one of the overhead cabinets in our living room. The doors are rectangular with the horizontal dimension being the longest. The doors have struts on either end that are spring loaded and through clever geometry they hold the door in the closed position. But when you raise the door open, the spring-loaded strut goes over-center and now it props the door open.

Well, when Donna opened the cabinet door one of the struts popped off. The pivot on the strut arm connects to the mounting tab with a small rivet. The rivet had worn through and popped off. The door wouldn’t stay open as only one strut didn’t have enough force to keep it open. Luckily I keep pop-rivets and a rivet tool on hand. Rivets are handy in many situations such as times when you can’t get to the back side of a fastener to put a nut on a bolt or when clearance is limited, which was the case here.

I unscrewed the other end of the strut and took it off the cabinet. Then I knocked the remains of the old rivet out with a punch and screwed the strut back in place. From there, it was simple matter of inserting the correct size pop-rivet and using the tool to pull the rivet mandrel until it popped off and the rivet was swaged in place.

Proper size pop-rivet in place in the pivot

Installation complete

Every tool box should should have an assortment of pop-rivets and an installation tool. I bought my tool at Harbor Freight. It has four interchangeable heads to accommodate various size rivets. It was inexpensive – I think I paid $20 or $30 for it and it’s come in handy many times.

We pulled out of our site at the Boulder County Fairgrounds around 9:30am Thursday morning – checkout time is 10am. Driving a big rig through this RV park is interesting to say the least. The roadways are narrow with tight turns and the trees need trimming. I managed to circumnavigate the park, exit and cross the street where I made a loop through the fairgrounds arena lot and lined up with the RV park dump station. We were on our way by 10am.

Driving east on the Diagonal Highway (CO119), I noticed we had a problem. My Jacobs Engineering Engine Compression (Jake) brake wasn’t working. Then I noticed the Engine Maitenance light – equivalent to a Check Engine light on a car – was illuminated. It wasn’t flashing so I wasn’t too worried about it. Once we got on I-25, I realized I had no turbocharger boost. So, we were down on power and I had no Jake brake.

I pulled over and shut off the engine. I restarted and the light stayed on. I interrogated the system and found a Diagnostic Trouble Code (DTC) of 102 2. I didn’t know what that meant but felt no harm was being done and we were okay to proceed – albeit down on power and relying on service brakes only. We ran the gauntlet through Denver and continued south on our way to Colorado Springs.

South of Denver, past Castle Rock, it becomes hilly. We were mostly climbing but had a few downgrades. I had to approach the downgrades like I would in our old gasoline-powered coach – watch my speed and be careful not to overheat the service brakes. On the climbs, I did my best to keep the RPMs up and managed to maintain at least 55mph. As the hills became steeper, the turbocharger suddenly started working. We had power and the Jake brake was back in business too. The failure of both components was obviously related.

It couldn’t have started working at a better time. We crossed the summit north of Monument at 7,352 feet above sea level, then descended to Colorado Springs at an elevation of about 6,000 feet above sea level. Having the turbo boost for the climb to the summit and the Jake brake coming down was a relief. We found the Hotel Elegante and parked in the same spot we occupied last year.

Our dry camp at Hotel Elegante

Donna checked us in and found the rate was more reasonable than last year. Dry camping was $15/night and included the hotel amenities – like the swimming pool, laundry room and rest rooms.

I looked up the DTC 102 2 and found it meant there was an erratic signal from the intake manifold pressure sensor. With an implausible signal, the Engine Control Module (ECM) opened the wastegate on the Holset Turbocharger to bleed off all boost and we were running without turbo boost – this also disabled the Jake brake. Apparently we have a poor electrical connection somewhere between the pressure sensor and the ECM. This will probably be very difficult to find – especially since it’s intermittent and decided to start working fine again. I’ll start digging around – we’ll need all the boost we can get and the Jake brake too as we cross mountain ranges into New Mexico next week.

Later, I was dialing the satellite TV in when I noticed our house batteries were low – below 12 volts! I try to never let them go below 12.2-volts or 50% capacity as this will shorten their service life. It was puzzling. I had the inverter on since about 9:30am, but we can usually run the inverter for 14 hours or more without having to recharge. I started the generator to recharge the batteries. I let it run for a couple of hours before we went to bed.

This morning, I was up at 6am. I found our house batteries down to 12-volts again. I started the generator and saw it was only charging the battery bank at a rate of 50 amps. I would have expected to see a full 100 amp charge for the depleted batteries. I went out to check the battery bank and found we have a couple of corroded connections that are causing excessive resistance. I’ll have to find a shop with new cable end connectors and repair it ASAP. That was strike three.

We expect our friends Brad and Jessica Rice and family to arrive later this afternoon. We’re looking forward to seeing them again and also to a weekend of hot air balloon fun at the Labor Day Lift-Off! The forecast looks great for the weekend – temperatures in the mid to upper 80s in the afternoons – the mornings will be cool with temperatures in the low 70s – perfect for ballooning with clear skies and winds under 10mph.

 

***UPDATE – I just rechecked my house battery bank. The batteries weren’t discharged excessively. A loose connector was causing a voltage drop and that was what I was reading. I tightened all connectors and it’s reading 12.5V and when I turned on the generator it hit them with a 100 amp charge. All is good.

Having Fun in Longmont

Ozark the cat as been enjoying our stay at the Boulder County Fairgrounds in Longmont, Colorado. There’s so much activity for her to follow outside our windows – she spends hours watching the world go by. Donna calls it “Cat TV.”

The Longmont Humane Society building is next to the entrance to the fairgrounds. Everyday dozens of people come out to walk the dogs or maybe adopt one. Ozark gets to watch them parade by. Then there’s the livestock and horse arenas across the street from our site. Plenty to see there too. Yesterday Ozark was so caught up in it she wouldn’t move as Donna made the bed and she ended up half under the comforter.

Ozark tuned into cat TV

Donna’s friend, Liz Canavan Byrne, came by around 9am to go for a walk and visit with Donna. They walked the trail out past Cattail Pond to the Greenway Trail and caught up on their lives. Meanwhile, I took the Spyder and rode down to Golden – about 30 miles away. Once I got through Boulder and into some open country, it was a beautiful ride. The temperature was in the low 70s and the skies were clear with just a little haze in the air.

Rocky Mountain Front Range from highway CO93 – the Flatirons over South Boulder on the far right mountains

Some readers may remember that I’ve acquired a small collection of Spyderco folding pocket knives. My destination was the Spyderco headquarters and outlet store in Golden.

Spyderco headquarters and outlet

My intention was to have a look around and take advantage of the opportunity to check out and handle many models I don’t often see. I’ve been interested in their Paramilitary 3 knives.

From time-to-time, Spyderco makes what they call Sprint Runs – these are a limited number of knives made of special combinations of blade steel and handle scales. They had the Paramilitary 3 in a Sprint Run with CPM Cruwear blade steel – one of the so called “super steels” – and light gray G10 scales. This knife has been hot on the market and all of the online retailers sold out immediately – only 1,200 were made. The Spyderco Outlet Store got 10 pieces last Thursday and had two left. Now they have one – I couldn’t help myself and bought one.

Spyderco Paramilitary 3 with Cruwear and G10

Cruwear blade and compression lock

I’m not sure what I’ll do with it. I think for now it’ll be a drawer queen, not a user. Maybe later I’ll sell it to a bona fide collector – these Sprint Runs can gain value over time.

I grabbed lunch while I was out, then on my way home I detoured into old downtown Longmont. I looped around on 3rd Street and made a stop at Sherman Street where I found 234 Sherman Street. This is the house where I lived in 1976 when Jim Birditt, Chris Nirschl and I were roommates with hopes of becoming a rock and roll band. I wrote about an adventure here in this post. This area is known as the Bohn Farm neighborhood nowadays. I’m not sure why, but I think the dairy farm that used to be at the south end of Sherman Street might have been called Bohn Farm.

The old house hasn’t changed much

By the time I got home, it was very warm out. The temperature topped out at 90 degrees. We stayed indoors and Donna completed the first of three writing assignments she picked up. She has two to finish today. She was done by 5pm, so we rode the Spyder over to Prospect Park – the same location where her century ride finished.

From May to September, they have free concerts there on Monday evenings – next Monday will be the last for 2017. It’s catered by food trucks and includes beer vendors set up in tents. The band playing this week was called “Soul Sacrifice.” They were a Santana tribute band covering the 1970s Santana hits – most of the songs started out faithful to the original, then turned into jam sessions. It was fun and the band was good.

Soul Sacrifice

The lead guitarist was pretty much the front man. He had a great sound playing through a 70s vintage Mesa Boogie 1×12 amplifier.

There were a few women hoop dancing. One was very good and we found out she was sort of the teacher/leader for the group of hoopsters and spent the summer here. She’s from North Carolina and will be heading back there. She lent Donna a hoop and taught her a new move.

Hoop dancers among the crowd

We finished the evening there with a walk through neighborhood around the park. Prospect is an interesting neighborhood. It’s very high-density with apartments and lofts over ground-floor commercial spaces. The buildings are all three stories high. It reminded me of many urban settings in Europe – Barcelona comes to mind. We saw a flyer for a unit for sale – it included ground floor office space and a one-bedroom, two-bath loft ( plus half-bath on the ground floor). The 1,926 square foot space – I assume that includes the office space – was listed for – wait for it – $450,000.

We extended our stay at the Boulder County Fairgrounds until Thursday morning – check out time is 10am. When we leave here we’ll head straight to Colorado Springs to meet up with our friends Brad and Jessica Rice and family for the Labor Day Lift-Off hot air balloon event. We expect more hot weather until then – the forecast calls for low 90s the next couple of days. Colorado Springs will be cooler.

 

 

Donna Does a Century

On Friday afternoon, Donna and I walked along the trail by Cattail Pond out of the Boulder County Fairgrounds. We hit Boston Avenue and headed east. Our destination was Longmont’s most well-known brewery – Left Hand Brewing Company. It was warm out – in the upper 80s, but the walk was nice – close to a mile and a half.

We had a reservation for a brewery tour. The brewery is housed in a much smaller facility than I expected – they brew a lot of beer here. Their beer is distributed in 40 states, the District of Columbia, Europe and Japan. There were only three participants in the tour – Donna, me and a guy from Lyons. The tour guide told us about the beginning of the brewery when they searched for a suitable location in 1993. They found this building and thought it would be ideal. It had concrete floors with built-in drainage. Keeping the gear and brewing environment clean is a very important part of a successful brewery.

When she told us it was formerly a meat processing plant called Green’s Sausage, I was stunned. I lived here in 1976 and was a laborer on the post setting crew for Anderson Fence Company. In the ’70s and probably well beyond, almost all fence building contracts along the Front Range north of Denver were held by Anderson. We fenced this property back then when it was called Green’s Whole Hog Sausage! I didn’t recognize the place as back then it was the only building in the area surrounded by farms and horse properties. Now it’s on a busy street with a greenbelt along the St. Vrain River next door.

Left Hand Brewing Company

The brewery runs three shifts producing beer 24/7. It’s a very efficient operation brewing 60 barrel (1,860 gallons) batches simultaneously in several fermenters. It’s a wonder they are able to fulfill worldwide demand from this relatively small operation.

After the tour, Donna and I each a sampler flight of beer and followed it up with a pint – milk stout for me and porter for Donna. Left hand is known for their quality stouts. In my opinion it’s more difficult to brew a fine stout than it is to brew a hop monster IPA. Stouts are more delicate and flaws are obvious while a hoppy, bitter, high-gravity brew can hide some flaws.

Donna in the Left Hand seat

We walked a different route back and got three miles of walking in to offset some of the beer. I’ve lost about 15 pounds since the end of RAGBRAI in Iowa and wouldn’t mind to take another seven or eight pounds off.

We tracked Hurricane Harvey as it hit the Texas coast. We stayed in Rockport, Texas a couple of years ago. They took the brunt of the storm in Rockport and Port Aransas. Rockport suffered major damage and people are still missing there. We can only hope for the best. My daughter Jamie was spared by the worst of it in Robstown, just outside of Corpus Christi. It’s amazing what a difference 30 or 40 miles can make in a situation like this. The story is far from over though as widespread flooding will continue for days to come. Our thoughts are with the people of Texas.

Donna was up early Saturday morning. She headed out before sunrise on her bicycle two and half miles to the start of the Venus de Miles cycling event. Venus de Miles is a fundraiser for Greenhouse Scholars and Donna received over $500 in pledges. She opted to ride the century distance – 100 miles. The participants were all women.

It wasn’t an easy ride. The elevation change over the course added up to 4,380 feeet of climbing. It was also very hot out – the temperature here in Longmont topped out at 94 degrees. I went to the finish area around 4pm and saw Donna cross the finish line after 102 miles of riding.

Donna crossing the finish

Committing to a century ride is commendable – riding 100 miles in one shot isn’t easy. Donna felt like this was a good time to do it as she felt strong after training for RAGBRAI and making the ride across Iowa.

After the finish, Donna was treated to a free massage while I had a free beer from Bristol Brewing – a brewery in Colorado Springs. Donna also had a free meal at Comida – a Mexican restaurant across the street from the park at the finish. I headed for home while she went to the restaurant with her new friend from the ride. And then she rode the last two and half miles back to the campground.

High pressure continues to dominate the weather here. We can expect mostly sunny days with highs in the upper 80s to low 90s for next few days. I think we’ll stay here until Wednesday, then head down to Colorado Springs.