Sunday, May 18, 2008

Saved by the Elks, again

We are at the Elks lodge in Silverthorne, Colorado (map).

Yesterday we got a very early start from Grand Mesa. That's because Louise realized Friday evening we needed to make a deposit at Wells Fargo before Monday (long story), and, unless we wanted to backtrack 18 miles to Delta (=$24, round trip, at today's diesel price), we'd need to make it to Carbondale before the branch there closed at 12:30.

We had another campfire Friday night, and so I packed up our table and chairs when we were done for the night. Saturday morning I disassembled the campfire ring and buried the pit (and more on this in my forthcoming primer on dispersed camping, now delayed another day or so), and we were on the road by 9:30 after our morning coffee ritual. I know to many RVers that sounds like a late start, but considering we are rarely on the road before noon, it's early for us.

The drive north from Hotchkiss and Paonia along the north fork of the Gunnison and then, north of Paonia Reservoir, along the very aptly named Muddy Creek, was quite scenic. It was also a good bit of a climb, from 5,350' at Hotchkiss to 8,750' at the top of McClure pass. Of course, we started at over 8,000' at Grand Mesa, so we had a free ride down to Hotchkiss. There is a large switchback on the north side of the pass, with sheer but fragile rock on the uphill side.

Coming down the middle zag, we were surprised to find a group of motorcycles coming at us in our lane. The reason was soon apparent -- a large boulder had come off the cliff, rolled across the downhill lane, and was squarely in the middle of the uphill lane.

I would estimate it at perhaps a quarter ton. We wanted to call it in and report it to someone, but we had no cell service for the next half hour. Coming into Carbondale, we saw emergency vehicles heading south, and we hoped that it was not to tend to a motorcyclist forced into an accident by the rock.

We made it to Carbondale with a half hour to spare. We took care of business at the Wells Fargo, while legions of youth soccer participants gawked at the bus, then continued north to Glenwood Springs and I-70.

Glenwood springs would have been a great stop, and the hot springs beckoned in the beautiful spring weather. But this being Saturday, the town was packed. (Well, OK, not as packed as it will be next weekend, but crowded enough to make finding parking a challenge.) So we hopped on the freeway and began the climb through what is probably the most scenic stretch of Interstate in the whole country, Glenwood Canyon.

There are several "rest areas" along this stretch, which are actually parks. A scenic bicycle trail parallels the freeway through the canyon, intersecting these parks along the route. The parks are situated right on the Colorado, and several of them also serve as raft put-ins or take-outs. We stopped at the Grizzly Creek rest area to eat our lunch -- beautiful. Too bad there is no overnight parking in Colorado rest areas.

We had set our sights on Vail as our overnight stop. Our map and guides show a Forest Service campground just a few miles east of town, and we were looking forward to perhaps taking the ubiquitous Vail buses to dinner in town. After slogging two miles uphill from the freeway exit, we were disappointed to find the gate locked. Our guide said it was open from May through September, but, apparently, "May" is code for "Memorial Day Weekend."

This did not bode well. But there is certainly no urban boondocking in Vail, so we continued up the hill, hoping that, perhaps, the situation might be different at one of the dozens of campgrounds or dispersed sites around Dillon Reservoir. No dice -- we drove through the quaint burg of Frisco and checked out four different sites along the north end of the lake, which was still partly frozen. All were closed, although we saw a couple rigs in at least one -- early-arriving camp hosts, we guessed, getting ready for the onslaught next weekend.

After traipsing all over Frisco, Dillon, and various parts of the forest, we gave up. Our Elks guide said there was a lodge in nearby Silverthorne, and it had room for two rigs with 15-amp power, so that's where we headed. The lodge looks nice, although it is closed on the weekend. We found the power outlet at the back of the lot, adjacent to the Kum & Go gas station, and we dug in for the night. We walked to dinner at a nearby Chinese restaurant, and even did a little shopping at the Target store one block further up. If we had wanted to wait for it, Silverthorne also has a free transit system that interconnects with Frisco, Dillon, and Breckenridge.

While open 24 hours, the gas station and mini mart were fairly quiet through the night, and it was a fine stop in a pinch. The 15-amp power was plenty to top up our batteries as well as provide hot water and heat throughout the night.

Somewhere in the middle of the night, Louise realized that the air compressor was running continuously -- it came on at some point and never shut off. It also did not sound "right" to her, so she got up and shut it off at the breaker. This morning I had a mad scramble to try to fix it (after starting the bus to air up all the tanks). We use our compressors hard -- they see more duty than their intended job-site use, sometimes in extreme weather or altitude conditions. We're on our fourth one. I think the piston rings are wearing out on this one, but it also looks like the oil level dropped below the crank, and the rings are lubricated (and sealed) with splash oil.

I did a complete oil change on the compressor, which was a bit trial-and-error since Hitachi, in their infinite wisdom, has not published the crankcase capacity. The plastic dipstick has a roughly 1/8" notch in it, within which the oil level is supposed to sit. However, the shape of the dipstick tends to "wick" the oil up the stick as soon as it touches -- 1/8" is within the margin of error of the stick. I fumbled around until I found a wooden pencil, which gave me a better reading, and with the oil finally set at the proper level, the compressor once again compresses after 2-3 seconds of running, as the oil reaches the rings. I'm probably still going to have to replace the rings, as I am sure now that we are getting oil in the air supply.

This afternoon we will cross the Continental Divide in the Eisenhower tunnel, and descend into Denver. Louise has an early flight tomorrow morning, so our plan is to just spend the night in the long-term lot at the airport. We'll probably be in stealth mode, meaning we may not deploy the satellite dish, so probably no further update here from me until the next stop.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. @anonymous: I've deleted your comment, because it linked to the web site of a commercial for-profit business.

    Generally speaking, we do not allow our blog to become a place for businesses to advertise their wares without our direct endorsement.

    Perhaps your intent was just to inform us, the blog owners, about this commercial park, but since you are posting anonymously, it's hard to know that you are not, for example, the proprietor just looking for free advertising.

    That said, long-time readers of this blog will know that we shun commercial RV parks in most circumstances, and especially when we are on the move daily, as was the case when this post was originally written. They are simply not our cup of tea, and we almost never need or want the services they provide. So commenting here for the purposes of recommending a specific commercial park is almost never appropriate, with the lone exception being those times we have asked for such recommendations because we need to be in a specific place at a specific time.

    I do hope you will continue following our travels on the blog, and if you really feel the need to let us know about a commercial park that might be worth a visit for whatever reason, feel free to contact us by email -- our addresses can be found on the "Who We Are" page linked near the top of the sidebar.


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