Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Cumbres and La Manga Passes

We decided to take a drive back up to the Cumbres and La Manga Passes in Colorado to check out some camping sites listed in Don Wright's Guide to Free Campgrounds.

As we were driving north on SR-17, just before getting to Cumbres Pass, we spotted the train from the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad chugging it's way up the hill. Since it stops at the station at Cumbres Pass, we also stopped to take pictures. According to their advertisement, the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic RR is America's highest and longest narrow gauge railroad. Since it's pretty much a full day trip, we'll have to wait until we no longer have Maxx to make the trip.

One of the campgrounds listed in Don's book is Trujillo Meadows on FR-118 just past Cumbres Pass heading north on SR-17. Although Don's book says the maximum RV length is 25', we found many spaces that would easily hold our 32' fifth wheel, as well as even larger rigs. There's a walkway and platform that overlooks a creek (or maybe it's the Rio de Los Pinos River from which Trujillo Meadows Reservoir is made) and canyon with a waterfall. This is a very nice campground that we'd definitely like to come back to at some time in the future.

Another area listed in Don's book was a dispersed camping area on FR-114. It's listed as La Manga Creek Dispersed Area in Don's book, and while FR-114 is along La Manga Creek, the sign out on SR-17 says Red Lake. We didn't go all the way to the end of FR-114, which ends at the Red Lake trailhead, but did see a few flat spots that would be suitable for RVs.

There are quite a few campgrounds and dispersed camping areas listed in Don's book along FR-250, but we didn't go that far north...we turned around at the dispersed camping area we'd stayed at earlier at La Manga Pass.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Heron Lake State Park -- Again

We decided to return to Heron Lake State Park and stay until after the Labor Day weekend when we'll probably return to Bluewater Lake State Park for awhile. By that time, it should start cooling off at the lower elevations, so we can start visiting some of the other parks in the southern part of the state.

Miles driven: 128.6
GPS coordinates: N 36° 41.460' / W 106° 39.770'

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

There's a used bookstore here in Farmington, so we went by it today to pick up some more reading material. We walked away with six paperback books...could have bought more, but we only have so much room!

We also stopped at Safeway to pick up some groceries and buy diesel for the truck ($2.929/gallon).

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

We had lunch at Schlotzsky's and then took a drive to check out Cottonwood Campground at Navajo Lake State Park. It turned out to be a nice campground, and we'll come back and stay after the weather cools off some (it's at a lower elevation than the other state parks we've been visiting, so it's hotter during the day).

Driving out to the park, we'd taken US-64, but came back on SR-173 through Aztec and on into Farmington. Some very pretty country!

Monday, August 20, 2007

Diesel Tune

We got up early and had breakfast at Sonya's Restaurant, just down the street from the RV park.

Earl then dropped me off at the RV park and took the truck to Diesel Tune to have them see if they could fix the Pack Brake. He was back within about an hour with it fixed...turned out that the two relay switches had to be replaced. A quick, easy fix, and it only cost us about $23!

Later in the day, we did some grocery shopping at Wal Mart.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Farmington, NM

We left Bluewater Lake State Park this morning and headed north on SR-371 through some very interesting country to Farmington.

Because Farmington is at a lower elevation, and hot during the day, we decided to stay at a full hookup RV Park, Mom and Pop RV Park ($17 per day with a 4 days for the price of 3 days deal). This is a nice RV park and the price is right, especially considering we paid almost $40 per night at the RV park in Santa Fe!

We had dinner at the Great China Super Buffet. Sometime Chinese buffets aren't really very good, but this one was...on a par with the Chinese Buffet in Manhattan, Kansas that we've gone to on a couple of occasions when we still had our New Horizons fifth wheel.

Miles driven: 125.0
GPS coordinates: none taken

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

We drove into Grants today to do grocery shopping at the Wal Mart, stopping at the Subway in the Love's Travel Center in Milan for lunch.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Pac Brake

Back when we were getting ready to leave Coyote Creek State Park, one of the tires on the fifth wheel was down to about 11#! Since our Pac Brake came with an air compressor, we pumped the tire up and proceeded to put some air in the other tires. But before we were done, however, the pump stopped...it had apparently overheated, leaving us without the Pac Brake brakes. Fortunately, the problem resolved itself once everything cooled off.

The pull up the hill inside the main campground at Hyde Memorial State Park north of Santa Fe had overheated the transmission, also leaving us without the Pac Brakes...only this time, the problem didn't resolve itself after everything cooled off.

Today, Earl called Pac Brake and asked about recommended repair facilities in New Mexico. At first they recommended the Camping World in Albuquerque, but after talking with them, and finding out that they would want us to pay for repairs and seek reimbursement from Pac Brake, Earl called Pac Brake again about other New Mexico repair facilities. They gave us the names of two places: one in Farmington and the other in Alamogordo. Since we're closer to Farmington, Earl called Diesel Tune to make an appointment for the following week. They said no appointment was necessary...just come in when we got there.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Bluewater Lake State Park

We left Santa Fe around 10 AM, stopping at the Acoma Travel Center in Acoma to have lunch at McDonalds and at the Love's in Milan for diesel ($2.939/gallon). We arrived at Bluewater Lake State Park in the afternoon, filled up with fresh water, and found a place to park.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

We decided to go out to dinner tonight. We didn't really want to go into downtown Santa Fe because it's too difficult to find a place to park, even though there are some excellent restaurants there. Instead, we made a right-hand turn out of the RV park and headed southwest on SR-14 (Cerrillos Road) where we found the Blue Corn Cafe and excellent food! We would highly recommend this restaurant to anyone!

Friday, August 10, 2007

Today we went by Trader Joe's to get some Two Buck Chuck (actually, Three Buck Chuck any place other than California!) and chocolate (big bars of semi-sweet dark chocolate...with and without almonds).

We also stopped at the outlet center where they had a Coleman outlet. Of course, Earl found a Coleman grill that he just had to have! ;-)

Thursday, August 09, 2007


We decided since we're so close to Albuquerque, we'd take a trip to stock up on supplies at Costco. On the way, we stopped at Cracker Barrel for breakfast and filled up the truck with diesel ($2.899/gallon).

You're probably asking yourself, "What does an RVer buy at Costco?" Well, mostly we buy stuff that doesn't come in packages of 100 or more! (Ok, maybe a slight exaggeration...!) We buy fresh food like chicken and steaks and some frozen food, like salmon. We also buy paper plates and bowls since we use a lot of these when we're dry camping (rather than using a lot of water to wash *regular* dishes). We also buy vitamins, coffee, nuts, etc. Sometimes we buy books, too...usually paperbacks. We don't buy stuff like toilet paper or paper towels (we have no place to store that many rolls) or canned food (we don't eat much in the way of food that comes in cans, and the few items we do, we'll buy one at a time at a grocery store).

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Hyde Memorial State Park Debaucle

Whenever we've gone to a new state park, we've called up the information on the Internet, print out a map of the campgrounds, and read about the park in New Mexico Campgrounds, The Statewide Guide by Christina Frain. She's usually pretty good about warning of roads or campgrounds where RVs aren't suitable. Sometimes she's even too cautious...like warning that the road to Soda Pocket Campground in Sugarite Canyon State Park wasn't suitable for RVs (if it hadn't been for the recommendation of some friends who had been there in an RV previously, we probably wouldn't have tried it).

There was nothing on the state park's website nor in Ms Frain's book warning about the main campground at Hyde Memorial State Park. So, after packing everything up, we headed out for Santa Fe and the park blithely unaware of the predicament we were going to get into.

In order to get to the park, one has to travel through part of Santa Fe. We took the northern loop road, Paseo de Peralta. When we got to the point where we had to make a left-hand turn to get onto Hyde Park Road, we found a very narrow road with a concrete median in the middle. Earl made the turn just fine, but I wondered how many people in much larger RVs than we own have trouble making that left-hand turn without running over the median.

There is a campground at the northern end of the park that has 6 electrical hookups for RVs. But, since we don't really need electrical hookups, we turned into the main campground hoping to find a space available. Remember what I said above: there was no warning in anything we'd read about the main campground not being suitable for larger RVs...nor was there any warning sign at the entrance to the campground. What we found once we got into the campground were very narrow roads, which in themselves weren't much of a problem. The problem came when we encountered two steep sections of the road. We're talking about gravel roads and we're only doing about 5 miles per hour pulling nearly 15,000# behind us. We almost didn't make it up the second hill, and ended up overheating the transmission in the truck trying to do so. Once we made it to the top of the second hill, we stopped to give the transmission time to cool down.

Seeing that there were NO spaces large enough to get into, we continued on through the campground to the exit. At this point, we encountered a sharp left-hand turn with trees on either side...and a tire ripper at the end. We made it around the corner with just inches to spare between the trees and, fortunately, didn't have to back up to do so, because had we needed to back up, we would have ruined our two front tires on the tire ripper!

So a warning to anyone visiting this park: if you have an RV larger than a small Class C, DO NOT GO INTO THE MAIN CAMPGROUND!!!

At this point, it's almost 4:00 PM, we haven't eaten anything since our bowl of cereal in the morning, and we're really cranky! We drove back into Santa Fe and found an RV park to stay at (none of which are cheap). If we hadn't had mail coming into Santa Fe, we would have spent just the one night. Because of the mail, however, we signed up for four nights.

Once we got all settled in the RV park, we drove down to the Olive Garden for dinner.

Miles driven: 128.8
GPS coordinates: N 35° 38.892' / W 106° 00.335'

Monday, August 06, 2007

Another trip to Chama

Since we don't have phone service at the park, we drove back into Chama to call our vet in Quartzsite to give him the address to send the Valley Fever medicine we'd ordered. While in town, we stopped again at the High Country Restaurant for lunch.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Heron Lake State Park, Day 2

We drove into Chama today to do some grocery shopping and to fill up the truck with diesel ($3.199/gallon). We stopped at High Country Restaurant in Chama for lunch.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Heron Lake State Park

We arrived at Heron Lake State Park a little before noon and drove around inspecting most of the camping areas. For one reason or another, most of them were not really suitable for our 32' fifth wheel (short spaces, really unlevel, etc.). We ended up at Blanco Campground and found one of the few spots left that wasn't a reservable spot. The sites in this campground all have water and electric, so we have to pay $4 per night (at the other parks, we've been able to find non-reservable sites with no hookups, so didn't have to pay anything). Since we'd filled up with water on the way into the park, we've just hooked up the electric.

Shortly after arriving and setting up, we set out the hummingbird feeder. It didn't take long at all before a male Rufous Hummingbird found it and staked out a claim, defending the feeder from all intruders!

Miles driven: 60.1
GPS coordinates: N 36° 41.469' / W 106° 39.776'

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Overnight at La Manga Pass

We left Buena Vista and headed south on US-285 until we got to the junction of SR-17 just south of Villa Grove. SR-17 travels south southeast in a straight line...as though someone had used a ruler to lay out the road (maybe they did!).

After driving through Alamosa, we stopped in La Jara to have lunch at the Wagon Wheel Saloon and then continued on to Antonito where SR-17 heads west and then south into New Mexico. We stopped at a Forest Service dispersed camping area just before getting to La Manga Pass to spend the night (over 10,000' in elevation).

This is a free range area for cattle, and later in the evening, the cows that we'd seen across the highway crossed over to our side and headed for the fire ring behind us where they proceeded to eat from it (we assume there are minerals in the ash, sorta like a salt lick). There were a couple of calves who gave us a show butting heads with each other and generally, just playing together.

Miles driven: 158.8
GPS coordinates: N 37° 05.484' / W 106° 22.794'