Friday, June 29, 2018

Rabbit Mountain Hike and St Vrain Greenway CO…

Since we are going to be in Longmont Colorado for a while as we await our appointment with a freightliner dealer to once again look at our failing gauges we have made ourselves comfortable in our tight site at the fairgrounds. One great thing about the fairgrounds is that it is located adjacent to the Boulder County Open Space which has lots of hike and bike trails around small lakes. The trails also connect to the St Vrain Greenway bike trails.

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We have walked around the small lakes several times and also rode our bikes along the bike trails one afternoon. There are still some parts of the trails system under repair from some devastating flooding which occurred in Longmont in 2013. Another nice thing about the bike trails is that they go right by Left Hand Brewing where we stopped one day for happy hour and tasted some might fine brews.

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Another great thing about our location is we are close to lots of hiking opportunities. One nice area we discovered was the Rabbit Mountain Open Space. There are several nice shorter hikes available there in the easternmost point of the foothills of the Rockies. The hikes are easy to moderate since they do take on some elevation but the trails are in excellent condition for hiking.

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We opted to hike the Little Thompson Overlook trail which was a little over 3 miles in and out. There was about 380 feet of elevation gain over the 1.5 miles to the overlook. Since we aren’t yet used to the altitude this was a great hike to get us acclimated as we did huff and puff our way to the top. There are some rocky outcrops which drop straight down the hillside at the end which offer great views toward the mountains and over the towns below in the valley.

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Its a great place to hike and one we will revisit. Also close by are the towns of Denver, Fort Collins and Boulder which we will likely visit while here. For better hiking we also plan to visit Rocky Mountain National Park when the temperatures warm up. So waiting for our repair is not such a chore since we are in a great location with a lot to do.

NOTE: We are now in the Boulder County Fairgrounds in Longmont Colorado until, well, who knows when…

Monday, June 25, 2018

Colorado Springs and the Air Force Academy…

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Upon leaving Questa NM we started our day heading north to an uncertain destination. We had planned to stop at a county run park near Colorado City Colorado. After several hours of driving we pulled down a short dirt road which entered the park, Greenhorn Meadows Campground. We unfortunately found it to be totally unsuitable for our larger RV but since it was lunchtime we pulled over and parked to make lunch and come up with a plan B.

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Another hour and half down the road we pulled into Plan B, also known as Bass Pro Shops outside of Colorado Springs near the Air Force Academy. They allow dry camping behind their store so we pulled in and we were so level we only put out two slides and no jacks since we were only there for the night.

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By this time it was already 3:00 so we drove over to the Air Force Academy where my dad was stationed when I was aged five or so. I wanted Sharon to see the chapel there as it is architecturally interesting. We went through the gate and the guard, who was from Texas, chatted with us for a bit before passing us on through. We drove over to the chapel and walked around campus taking in the sights. There is another architecturally interesting building called Polaris Hall, which faces the North Star, very unique!

Afterward we drove over to Rock Bottom Brewery since they sent me a birthday coupon for a free entre. We enjoyed dinner and a craft beer before heading back to Bass Pro Shops where we slept without any noise or ruckus. In the morning we checked the weather and found that we were in a slight severe weather zone so we left for yet another uncertain place to stay since it is a first come first served stop, hopefully they would have a vacancy!

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Lucky for us as we pulled into Boulder County Fairgrounds we found a nice pull through site. As we went to pay the machine was being worked on so the ranger told us everything would be okay to just come by later to pay. No sooner did we get back to the RV it started hailing with hail the size of marbles. It lasted about 10 minutes and luckily neither the car nor the rv sustained any damage.

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We returned to pay only to discover that someone already had paid for the site we were in so we had to move. Fortunately for us there was another site still available as this park fills up fast since it is only $25 per night in an area where most parks exceed $50 per night. We pulled into our new site and set up. Sites in this park are tight but cheap so we will put up with the close quarters especially since it appears we will be staying until July 3rd. This is because we have yet another appointment with a freightliner dealer as our gauges once again failed and we see the same fault codes as before. This means that the repair of the ABS unit in Albuquerque didn’t solve the problem so we will be back in the shop on July 3rd…Please wish us luck!

NOTE: We are now in the Boulder County Fairgrounds in Longmont Colorado until, well, who know when…

Friday, June 22, 2018

Questa New Mexico and The Enchanted Circle…

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Our first day in the Questa NM the rains set in and it rained most of the day. It did let up a bit in the afternoon so we drove over to nearby Cabresto Lake in the Carson National Forest. We traveled on a rough dirt road of about five miles (not recommended for passenger cars). It wound upward toward the lake which sits at over 9000 feet of elevation and along the way we passed a interesting mountain home (dome?). We walked the trail from the parking lot which took us along the western shore of the lake to its source.

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Along the way the Mountain Mahogany (Rosaceae cercocarpus) was in full bloom and there were Scarlet Gilia (Polemoniaceae Ipomopsis) flowers clinging to the steep slopes. White Fir, Limber Pine, Ponderosa Pine, Douglas Fir and Gambel Oaks made up the forest overhead. There were Black Chinned Hummingbirds flitting about all the while chattering. The trail took us about 100 feet up from the shoreline and allowed us many photographic opportunities of the lake below.

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While Cabresto Lake is relatively small it is a nice lake filled with trout and there were several Mallards swimming about searching for some tasty treats. We returned back along the shoreline of the lake as far as we could then had to scramble back up the talus to get back to the trail. We had a great hike even though it was short but we were glad to be able to get out of the RV for awhile on an otherwise rainy day…

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One day while in Questa, even though it was threatening to rain, we drove around the Enchanted Circle. This about 90 mile driving loop took us initially south where we took a detour over to see the Rio Grande Gorge just west of Taos. At about 800 feet deep it resembles a miniature grand canyon.

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From there we drove through Taos again and then over to the scenic valleys near Angel Fire and Eagle Nest. This is a very beautiful area but oddly enough the highlight of the loop for us turned out to be a visit to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial State Park. It began as a result of  Victor and Jeanne Westphall, the grief-stricken parents of Marine First Lieutenant David Westphall, who was among 16young men in his unit killed in an ambush on May 22, 1968 in Vietnam.

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It was built using their son’s insurance policies and the chapel is open twenty-four hours per day. Sitting atop a high point the views of the valley below are breathtaking. This architectural gem is a true road treat and a must visit place. We will say be prepared to turn on the tears…

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We ended the day near the end of the Enchanted Circle in Red River NM a skiing town in the high country. Here we walked around the town until we ended up at a little bar at the base of the ski lift. It was only open till 6:00 pm but that was just perfect for us to get a cold frosty drink to wrap up our loop drive…

NOTE: We left Questa NM and are now in Longmont Colorado…

Monday, June 18, 2018

Leaving Albuquerque, Going to Questa NM…

Before leaving Albuquerque we decided to walk along the ponds that make up Tingley Beach. The neatest thing along our walk was the art within the park especially the assortment of wind vanes prolific along the trail. We enjoyed looking at them and discussing our summer plans keeping in mind the repairs we experienced over the past 10 days. It definitely was a big financial hit to our budget and our monthly expenses for June will be about three times over budget.

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We decided to summer in the east again rather than going west for two reasons One was that we wanted to keep our costs down after the expensive repairs and the other is we want to go to North Carolina for our daughter’s wedding. Katie and her fiancĂ© Brooks set the date for October 13, 2018 and even have a wedding website, One For the Brooks, with photos, a registry and a narrative about them. We originally planned to travel out west and fly back to NC a few times to attend wedding related events and of course the big event itself. However, we can save some money by returning east in our RV instead.

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So after Albuquerque we will turn northward and discontinue our westward crawl we had been on. Our next stop is Questa New Mexico as we will slowly trek from there up to South Dakota and then begin a crawl back east. Our last morning in Albuquerque was treasured in that we were finally back in our tiny home and back on the road.

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Questa was a good three hour drive along nice roads for the most part and included part of the Enchanted Circle a scenic drive we will do while in Questa. We drove through parts of New Mexico we haven’t visited since back in our vacation days while living in our sticks and bricks house in College Station Texas.

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It was fun (albeit a bit harrowing) driving the motorhome through the towns of Santa Fe New Mexico and Taos New Mexico. Leaving Taos we drove through the mountains following a creek along the way. Quite a scenic drive but before long we pulled into the town of Questa NM. We will be staying at the Questa Lodge LLC, a rather nice Passport America Park where we will stay at the half priced Passport America rate.

NOTE: We left Albuquerque NM for Questa NM and are now heading north into Colorado…

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Stuck in Freightliner Hell…

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Oh well, this too shall pass… That was the last sentence of my last blog. I know it is true but what I didn’t know was how long it would take. We spent 10 days in Albuquerque with all but two of them with our RV either in the shop for the day (two days) or in the shop overnight (5 days). When we first noticed the check engine light flicker my guess was that we had a fuel line or fuel filter issue. Boy was I wrong.

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The initial diagnosis was that we had a failed Turbo but were told there could be other issues as well but they wouldn't know until the turbo was removed. The CAC or the engine could have also been damaged. Yikes!!!

Lonestar Trucking is the one and only Freightliner Cummins shop in town. As a result they are swamped with trucks as they also work on Cats, Western Star and others. They also don’t take appointments instead taking customers on a first come first served policy. They open at 7:00 am but close at 7:00 pm whereas a lot of other trucking repair facilities have an overnight crew.

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Once the techs took off our Turbo we were informed that the CAC and engine appeared to be fine but that it was discovered we also had a warped intake manifold. We do recall the Freightliner people in Gaffney SC telling us at a previous maintenance visit that we had an exhaust leak that would have to be taken care of in the future (aka now!). The manifold had to come from Denver so our RV was tucked into a corner to await the part.

The man we spoke with the most was named Dan L. and his customer service skills were… well, let’s say sorely lacking. Communication at this trucking service center is weak at best. Fortunately for us one of Sharon’s best friends lives in Albuquerque so we packed up and went over to stay at their house. We hoped it would be a few days but it turned into five…

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While we did have a blast reconnecting with Vicki and Roger and greatly appreciated their hospitality we were itching to get back home. Most of the pictures in this blog are from a Summertime Event held in Albuquerque where we had a great time listening to various bands  and from a day trip to the top of Sandia Peak. We needed these diversions to relax and forget about all the stress the repairs were causing.

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I won’t go into the detail about how poor communication with customers was between the service center and their customers (including us) but will highlight one truckers issue when he found out he had been waiting in the lounge for a “simple repair” to his truck’s air conditioning only to learn (by him asking) that the tech who was working on his truck had left for home several hours earlier and they didn't know how much work he had done or when he would be back! This was a perfect example of how bad it was.

Anyhow after five days of going back and forth to learn about the status of our RV we were finally told we could probably have our RV back at just before closing. I decided to take it for a test run over to a casino about 10 miles away to fill it up with diesel and give our girl a test drive. Well, all was going well and we did notice the engine was much quieter but then all of the sudden the gauges all stopped working.

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The next morning we took it back at 8:00 am and it wasn’t till 3:00 pm while on a walk around the building to stretch our legs we learned what happened from a tech (not the customer service people). We apparently had a failed ABS module another part which of course needed to be ordered. The service guys informed us the part would be about $900 plus labor which completely shocked us. This is after we just paid $7,500 for the previous work.

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Well I told them that the gauges worked perfectly before their repairs and it must of been something they had done to damage the module. While they wouldn’t budge on taking the blame they did finally say they would discount the part and also not charge me any additional freight, shipping or labor. At least it was still drive-able so we could go back to the RV park down the street for the night until the part arrives.

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The part was supposed ship overnight but of course it did not, so after calling and then stopping by, Don assured us it was scheduled to arrive the next day at 10:30 am. He asked us to drop off the RV at that time so they could work on it soon after the part was received. We went off for a little last minute shopping and lunch but when we returned the RV hadn’t moved an inch. Exasperated, we inquired about the status and after another 1/2 hour we at last saw the RV drive into a bay for the repair.

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It was finally repaired and test driven but then began the exhaustive wait for the final paperwork. The total bill for all repairs was nearly $8500. YIKES!!! We did use our FCOC membership card to get 10% off parts (which in itself was a chore since no one knew how to do that adjustment without help from the main parts manager). But we were sure willing to wait as the adjustment of a nearly $500 discount was great especially given the $10 membership fee this year.

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We celebrated the finishing of our repairs at Nevus Tap House with two former full time RV’ers who now reside in Albuquerque. What fun we had catching up with Catherine and Jo Beth sharing laughs and stories over a nice beer…While we really enjoyed Albuquerque and our friends we were SO VERY GLAD to hit the road once again!

NOTE: We left Sumner Lake State Park in New Mexico and spent 10 days in Albuquerque NM but we are now in Questa NM…