Friday, July 1, 2005

We are finally out of the oppressive heat, and it feels great.

Our nice little spot at the fairgrounds in Childress turned into something of a nightmare after I last posted. Everything was running along smoothly until another coach pulled in and plugged in at the site next to us. After that, no matter what I tried, I could not get the inverter to stay on line. Between the two coaches and some pretty crappy wiring in the park, the voltage kept dropping below 80 (the lowest allowable input setting on the inverter). Our inverter would drop off the line and begin inverting, the voltage would come back up, we'd go back on line, and the cycle would start all over again.

I finally had to go out and re-wire the transfer switch to allow us to run one air conditioner by bypassing the inverter. Then, by turning the inverter's input amperage setting down to 2 amps, I was able to stop it from cycling. We didn't get any battery charging, but at least we stayed comfortable for the night.

Ironically, one of the park maintenance guys came over to us in the morning and asked if we had electrical problems during our stay. Apparently, they had just become aware of it the day before.

I had already had a miserable night, with running out several times to deal with the electricity (I finally rewired the ATS at 2:00 in the morning), and just to round out my misery, I hit a post while backing out of the space in the morning. It was a very low wooden post marking the space, and I could not see it either in my mirror or out my window. When I started my turn -- crunch. I just clipped the right front corner, which, of course, means I knocked the corner trim and headlight assembly off again, this time bending some of the mounts.

We managed to get the trim re-secured, but the bent mount had it offset too far from the center of the coach, and the center cover would not stay on. So we had to remove the trim and, with a Gorilla Bar and an engineer hammer, I was able to get the mounts more or less back where they belonged. We put the trim back on, and now the only visible evidence is a big white scrape in the wrap-around trim under the windshield. We will probably touch that up with a rattle can before our next rally. Nevertheless, the whole episode put me in a black mood for most of the morning.

We made a fuel stop in Amarillo and put 300 gallons in, since it was the cheapest diesel we will see for the forseeable future, at $2.23 a gallon. Then we blew out of Texas and into New Mexico on US87.

Drivers in Texas have an annoying habit (and expectation) of driving on the shoulder to allow passing. These rural roads in Texas are all posted 70 or 75 during the day (they have a separate night limit of 65), and we were driving between 55 and 60. I'm sorry, but I just can't bring myself to pilot 45,000 pounds of coach onto the shoulder at that speed, especially on wide open road with well-marked passing zones. I mean, c'mon, people, drivers in other states can manage to pull into the opposing lane long enough to pass -- are Texans really such bad drivers they can't manage this simple task? The other hair-raising situation this creates is the occasional driver passing when the opposing lane is not clear. The expectation, apparently, is that both the passee and the opposing driver will move onto the shoulders, thus allowing the passer to drive right down the center of the road. At a closing speed of 140-150 mph!

New Mexico, apparently fed up with Texans driving the Texas way into their state, has endowed their shoulders with hefty rumble strips, and giant signs every couple of miles announce "Do Not Drive on Shoulder." It was a great relief to us to be back where normal traffic laws are in effect, and we no longer had to clench our butt cheeks or endure angry glares every time we were passed.

The more relaxed driving put me in a much better mood, and we had a nice afternoon visit at Capulin Volcano National Monument, photos of which Louise has already posted. We were planning to spend the night while still in this little corner of New Mexico, and we had a look at a park just outside of Raton. It was already full, a harbinger of things to come during the July Fourth weekend, and we pressed on into Colorado. Just as well, because we ended up in a very nice spot on Trinidad Lake (map), a Corps of Engineers project with a nice state park.

By this point, the heat of the plains was behind us and temperatures were fairly pleasant. Nevertheless, we paid the $4 upcharge and asked for a space with electricity, just to top off the batteries, make hot water, and run one of the airs for a little while. Got parked and discovered that all the power at this park is GFI -- the pedestals are 30amp/20amp combos, and they have GFI breakers on both receptacles. GFI power is unusable for us, since our inverter always trips them, so we changed to a dry site. One of these days, I've got to find myself a 1:1 transformer and build an adapter to allow us to use GFI power.

Yesterday we had a lovely drive up Colorado 69, cutting diagonally from I-25 to US50. This is a true back-country road, with little traffic and gorgeous panoramas. It is also a fairly steady climb of about 2,000'. Once on US50 we headed west to Salida, where we stopped for a nice lunch and maybe a swim in the local hot springs. The hot springs turned out to be jam-packed, so we opted to skip it.

From Salida, we started north on US285, expecting to take Colorado 82 into Aspen and then on to only a brief section of I-70. As we headed north, Louise took out the mountain directory to see what grades we were facing on this route. That's when we discovered that 82 had a strict 35' vehicle length limit. Not wanting to take Colorado 24 all the way to I-70, only to have to do 100 miles on the interstate, we turned around and backtracked five miles to US50 and headed west to Monarch pass.

US50 rises to 11,000' at a steady 6% grade. Even though ambient temperatures were in the mid 70s and we took the grade at 35mph in second gear, we still had to stop three times for cool-downs after we got overtemp warnings. Also, at these altitudes, the engine works extra hard, and we blow copious amounts of black smoke. Once atop the pass, we knew we would need to stop for a good 15 minutes or so to get the coolant down below 180. We would need all the cooling we could get for the retarder on the downgrade. What better excuse to stop at the cheesy gift shop and take the 20 minute scenic tram ride?

After the challenging downgrade and another hour or so of driving, we were definitely ready to stop for the day, and we landed here, at Stevens campground in the Curecanti National Recreation Area (map), where we have a nice view of the Blue Mesa Reservoir. Now that we are back in the cool, and night temps drop into "chilly," all our cold weather problems are back with us -- coolant leaks, and so much air leaking down that it overwhelms our brave little compressor. Can't win.

Today we will visit the Black Canyon of the Gunnison and Colorado National Monument. We are bracing for a real challenge finding camping tonight and the rest of the holiday weekend.

1 comment:

  1. It seems like you're traveling the majority of days I check your blog... If you don't mind me asking: How many miles have you put on Odyssey since you started your journey?

    I'm in the market for a used bus right now and the average seems to be about 10k/yr. But that's for people who aren't fulltiming. I'm assuming you're way above the average.


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