Monday, July 13, 2009

Land of O'Keefe

We are at the Corps of Engineers campground at Abiquiu Lake (map), off US-84.

While we were really enjoying our stay in the Carson forest at higher elevations, we'd pretty much run out of fresh food. We wanted to spend at least a night in the red rock country, and so we thought we'd use our last day's rations somewhere around here. We broke camp in the early afternoon, and headed south.

US-84 heads downgrade rather rapidly along this section, and while that was easy on our diesel supply, the temperatures increased with every mile we drove. By the time we reached Echo Amphitheater it was well into the 90s. There is a small Forest Service campground there, with tables, fire rings, trash barrels, and rest rooms for $10 per night. A lovely spot in the red rock, but with temperatures still rising, we wanted power to run the air conditioners. As a side note, the folks at the Chama visitor center had told us camping was no longer allowed here -- wrong.

We did walk the paved trail to the "amphitheater" itself, a concave formation in the sandstone that lives up to its name. While the day use area was quite busy, with perhaps half a dozen vehicles coming through in the fifteen minutes or so that we were there, the camping area was empty. I should note that the Forest Service charges a day use fee to see the formation (our annual pass waives this), although stopping just to use the rest room is free.

A few miles further south is the turnoff for Ghost Ranch, which we skipped principally on account of their pet policy. This is where readers Kate and Terry are hosting, and the red rock formations form a magnificent backdrop to the area. We continued south to the lake, where we knew we would find power.

As it turns out, only two electric sites were available when we arrived; the camp hosts told us the place had been jam-packed over the weekend, making our decision Saturday to wait it out a good one. $14 bought us 50 amps of power and a water spigot, along with the usual CoE amenities (picnic table, ramada, fire ring, BBQ grill, and the trademark CoE lantern hanger). They also have restrooms with hot showers. With 50-amps were were able to put a good soak onto the batteries even while running our full complement of air conditioners, which were needed right up until bed time, when we were able to open up the windows.

With temperatures in the high 90s, I was looking forward to perhaps jumping in the lake, but it is not really accessible here from the campground (although there is something of a trail from the tent-only loop, a scramble down the bluff to the lake some 100' below). I rode the scooter over to the day use area, which is quite some distance, and there is easy access to the water there. Unfortunately, on a hot Sunday afternoon, it seemed like half the population of the Santa Fe region is here at the lake cooling off -- there were several dozen boat trailers, and well over a hundred cars scattered around the day use area. It did not seem like a pleasant way to swim.

I also rode over the dam and back, then down the downstream face on a series of switchbacks to access the Chama river downstream. Here, too, was a day use picnic area with river access, but, again, it was chock full of families on their Sunday outing, including one family gathering that looked to be well over fifty people. I gave up on swimming yesterday, and decided that, if I still felt like it today, we'd take Odyssey over to the day use area after checking out of the campground at noon.

We had figured to have canned rations or maybe pasta for dinner, but after we got the dish up I discovered that there is a small hotel with a café another seven miles down the road in Abiquiu, and so we rode down there two-up for a nice dinner. No liquor license, though, so we had to suffer without our customary glass of red wine. Part of the inn is given to an art gallery and gift shop -- you can't spend any time in this area at all without tripping over art, and particularly Georgia O'Keefe tributes.

Today we will continue south along the Chama, right back through Abiquiu, and then west a bit to Los Alamos, where we will likely stay at the Elks lodge, with the Juniper campground in Bandelier National Monument as a backup option.

While we were in the cooler elevations of the forest, I spent a good part of our three days there getting projects knocked off my list. On Saturday I decided to tackle the rear leveler actuator, which crapped out nearly a year ago, reducing our front-to-back leveling travel by half and thus limiting us to less tilty sites for that time. Fixing the actuator is a fairly large project that I always dread (I've repaired this particular leveler four times now), and I've been waiting for the combination of relative privacy, temperate weather, and a whole day with no agenda to tackle it.

What is involved is to chock the wheels, fold up the mud flap, then shinny in between the drive wheels and the tag wheel on the curb side. Any time I am under the bus with my legs sticking out between the wheels I am nervous, with my heart and breathing rates up; the need for relative privacy has to do with a somewhat (but only a little bit) irrational fear that someone is going to run over my legs driving past us.

Once underneath, I then need to reach a bolt that is three feet above the ground, with not one but two wrenches. So I end up doing abdominal crunches for part of the work, and propping myself up by my head against the brake cylinder for the rest. During part of the process, air starts coming out of the suspension bags, adding to the anxiety. And, of course, this area is one of the dirtiest parts of the bus, with grease and oil slung off the propeller shaft combined with road grime kicked up by the drive wheels.

At some point I slithered back out from under the wheels with the cantankerous linear actuator in my hands, and brought it inside to work on the single broken wire that occasioned this whole repair. Louise remarked that the grime speckling my face and sprinkled in my hair made me look vaguely like a Māori warrior, and she insisted on snapping a photo.

Somewhere in the middle of this I conked the middle of my back on a sharp part of the bus, and between being sore from that, and having done more abdominal crunches in the span of an hour than I normally do all year, I am one sore puppy today -- more so even than yesterday. It hurts when I stand up, and when I sit down. I am hoping that, by tomorrow, I will be in good enough shape to actually walk around Los Alamos a bit.


  1. You're going the wrong way. The good weather is to the NORTH of you. Repeat after me - north in the summer ... south in the winter.

  2. Tell that to the Red Cross. They always seem to schedule their hurricane relief efforts in the south and southeast. Might be a conspiracy.

  3. Gotta love crawling around under a bus...I relate completely...I ALWAYS find some very sharp object to rake across my back! Hope you're careful and securely block the rig up somehow.....I always cringe when I see someone under a vehicle without any kind of safety system. I had a securely (I thought) blocked car come over on me years lucky and squirmed out as the rig came down....I'm not as fast as I was back then....enjoy N.M. we just got back from a motorcycle sidecar ride over there & colo. (Here's a thread if your really bored)
    Take care and enjoy...Doug Smith

  4. I wonder what happened to censorship!!! Wow... even Spirit got scared from that photo...
    Yes... NORTH... but I know you need to be near the Coasts soon...
    Be well... Ara & Spirit


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