Summer 2011 – Update #2

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Summer update #1  left off with us hanging out in Moab, Utah and running 4×4 trails, a lot of trails.  We did about six hard rated trails and two moderate rated trails.  The hard trails require modified 4×4 vehicles – large tires (at least 33 inches tall), locking differentials, excellent suspension articulation, very high ground clearance, and good driver skill.  Fortunately after a winter of hard work (and quite a few dollars spent on upgrades), our Jeep Wrangler Rubicon proved to be well up to the task and John was quickly acquiring and enhancing his off-road driving skills.

The original plan was to spend two weeks in Moab, travel around Utah for the rest of June, then make our way to Silverton Colorado on July 1 where we had reservations for a couple of weeks.  Good thing we are flexible since the Jeep started acting up while we were in Moab.  The transmission would go into limp mode – it wouldn’t shift out of second gear.  This situation got progressively worse to the point that we could never depend on the Jeep to work properly.

After quite a bit of investigation, John thought the problem was the Powertrain Control Module (aka PCM, the “brain” or computer) which was something only a Chrysler dealer could address.  Here’s the fun part of the story:  there is no Chrysler dealer in Moab, Utah.  Moab is the Mecca for Jeeps that like to off-road and there are literally hundreds of Jeeps in Moab (at least when the weather is mild.)

So, what to do?  The closest dealers were in Salt Lake City, Grand Junction Colorado, or Montrose Colorado.  Since we were headed to Colorado anyway, we decided to come to Montrose since we had a good service experience there last year when the Jeep Liberty needed maintenance.  We made a service appointment for a Monday, took the Jeep in and about two hours later they diagnosed the problem as a bad  PCM AND it was covered under warranty!  Not sure how it came to be under warranty since the Jeep is an ’06 with over 50k miles on the clock, but there was no argument from John (a new PCM would have cost hundreds of dollars!)

Since we saved so much money on the repair, John took the opportunity to spend more money on the Jeep at an off-road shop in Montrose (Rockworx.)  We had them do a repair (not essential, but desirable), relocate/weld the tow bar brackets to the front bumper (so we wouldn’t bang them on the rocks), and install a Currie Antirock front replacement sway bar.

Lots of snow still on the trails

Lots of snow still on the trails

We got so settled in, we spent the entire month (at a delightful RV park south of Montrose – Centennial RV Park) and made several friends.  There are many people that spend the entire summer at Centennial and of that group many are into off-roading in the nearby San Juan Mountains.  We wound up joining the Montrose 4×4 club – the Western Slope 4-Wheelers and participated in two club runs.

July 1 we moved to a very small RV park in Silverton Colorado (A&B) which is a very short walk from downtown.  Silverton is a wonderful little town in the San Juan mountains with quite the feel for the old west with most of the buildings being well over 100 years old.  Every day two or three steam powered narrow gauge trains (the Durango & Silverton) bring up a load of tourists from Durango to spend a couple of hours in town sightseeing and shopping.

The plan was to be in Silverton for the July 4th celebration which we heard was quite the fête and we certainly weren’t disappointed.  There was a parade (here’s a video John shot), military jet

July4 fete - eating cherry rhubarb pie with new friends

July4 fête - eating homemade cherry rhubarb pie with new friends

flyover, homemade rhubarb pie sales, a duck “race”, and one of the most amazing fireworks displays we have ever witnessed.  Wow, what a great time we had!

We will be running more trails in the San Juan mountains and enjoying the cool mountain weather (Silverton is at 9,300 feet altitude) until July 18 when we leave for Gunnison Colorado for a couple of weeks, then we move on to Salida Colorado to participate in a week-long 4×4 event (the All-4-Fun.)   You are probably picking up on a trend that we enjoy 4-wheeling!  After Salida we head to Wyoming for sightseeing and more off-roading.

If you want to see a bunch of pictures of us on the trails with a commentary, John has made many posts on a trail by trail basis in the Rubicon Owner’s Forum.  Click here and look for the posts by johncanfield.

The news isn’t all fun and good however due to the extreme drought that most of Texas is experiencing (which is ironic since the mountains of Colorado have had record snowfalls and the rivers were/are in flood stage from the snow melt.)  Our ranch has only had about four inches of rain since the first of the year and there is still no grass for our animals to eat.  Everything is brown and dead-looking and there seems to be no relief in sight.  We continue to pray at every meal for rain to be sent and we know that God will work in His time to send the rain we so desperately need.

As always, thanks for riding along with us and many blessings.

Final summer 2010 update

Oops, it’s almost Thanksgiving and we’re closing out the summer travels…

We last left off with our extremely fun and cool time (pun intended) in the San Juan mountains of

Sound Democrat Mine - the stamping mill in the background

Sound Democrat Mine - the stamping mill in the background in the San Juan mountains of Colorado

Western Colorado.  We had a great time staying cool and exploring many Jeep trails in the Ouray, Silverton, and Montrose area.  For the off-road enthusiast, you are hard matched to do better.  One can run a street-legal vehicle, or an ATV, UTV, dirt bike, bicycle, whatever on the trails.  There are a few restrictions, but generally speaking you are liable to come across almost anything on the mountain trails.

This was our second time off-roading our Jeep Liberty in the San Juans and for the first time, we did a trail the Liberty (or me?  both?) could not conquer, the Yankee Boy Trail.  We got almost to the end of the trail – the switchback was extremely rutted from rains and I suppose other off-roading activity and our Liberty just couldn’t get traction.  There was another trail I chickened out on, but I prefer to forget that experience.  Speaking of chickening out, many of these trails consist of  ‘shelf’ roads cut in the sides of mountains that switch back and forth up the mountain usually built for access to the many old mines in the area.  Some of these roads are barely large enough for one vehicle and the drop off down the mountain side could be literally hundreds of feet.  Talk about gripping the steering wheel!  (Stay tuned for another blog post where we try to solve future trail problems…)

We had a check engine light come on in the Jeep while we were in Montrose – the transmission would not shift into overdrive .  Fortunately there was a Jeep dealer nearby and they pulled the code and said our transmission control module was defective.  Great.   That part and repair was only a few hundred dollars.  Yikes!  Fortunately they were a great dealer and took very good care of us!

While in the Montrose area we visited the very scenic Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.  This canyon is sort of a junior Grand Canyon and it was very interesting to visit, but we wouldn’t have

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, near Montrose, Colorado

come to the area specifically to visit the park.  Since we were already in the area, it was a nice sightseeing bonus.  We drove the easily accessible and popular south rim road, and then drove many more miles the following day to drive  the north rim road.

We wanted to check out the Moab, Utah area for 4-wheeling opportunities (off-roading is extremely popular there) so we made reservations to stay at the Colorado River State Park in Fruita (just west of Grand Junction) which happens to be about an hour’s drive from Moab.

In Frutia, we visited the extremely scenic (and very nearby)  Colorado National Monument with its spectacular (stunning is a better word) panoramas.  To quote the Monument’s web site, “Colorado National Monument preserves one of the grand landscapes of the American West. But this treasure is much more than a monument. Towering monoliths exist within a vast plateau-and-canyon panorama. You can experience sheer-walled, red rock canyons along the twists and turns of Rim Rock Drive, where you may spy bighorn sheep and soaring eagles.”

Colorado National Monument

Colorado National Monument near Grand Junction, Colorado

After a few days in the Grand Junction area it was finally time to head back to Forest City, Iowa (the Winnebago factory) to get our windshield leak repaired.  This was totally unplanned!  We were already at Forest City for the Winnebago Grand National Rally in July and had a few maintenance items performed and had no plans to return there for a couple of years.  The original plan after Colorado was to head south to New Mexico, visit with our good friends in Las Cruces, then head east on I-10 for home.  Instead we made a huge detour that ate up more fuel dollars (it costs us about $0.50 a mile in fuel to run the coach!)

We made the best of the detour and since we both enjoy air museums, we stumbled across the Strategic Air and Space Museum in Greenwood, Nebraska which coincidentally was a) right on our

SR-71 "Blackbird"

The SR-71 "Blackbird" was an advanced Mach 3+ reconnaissance aircraft

route to Forest City, and b)  Greenwood was the correct mileage from Frutia  (when we plan a trip from point A to point B, we try to only cover 300-400 miles in a day.)  Here are several pictures of the aircraft in the museum from our photo gallery.

Winnebago got our leak repaired in fine fashion and then we were headed for home!  A very handy first night’s stop was Terribles Casino (with hotel and RV park!) The RV park wasn’t in great repair, but we were only there for one night.  We think of gambling as occasional entertainment and when we lose 20 or 30 bucks, we leave or when we win 30 or 40 bucks, we leave.  This time I think we won about 30 bucks so we implemented our usual plan and left!

We always love leaving for the road and always love returning home – it was very exciting to make that last turn for our little ranch!

As always, thanks for riding along with us.  May God richly bless you.

Summer 2010 Update #4 – Wyoming & Colorado

When we updated last, we were going to meet up with Bob and Judy in Colorado. We pulled into the campground and about five minutes later, B&J pulled in!  Great to see them again, since we had parted early May in Virginia. Traveled with them a couple of

Bison at the Terry Bison Ranch, Cheyenne, Wyoming

Bison at the Terry Bison Ranch, Cheyenne, Wyoming

weeks and up into Wyoming. Terry Bison Ranch just south of Cheyenne was our destination, and we visited several interesting museums, even running into some of our buddies, Mike and Cathy, we had seen at the Winnebago Rally in Iowa!   Just proves it’s a “Small World” after all! Back at the RV Park, we had taken a little train out to see the bison (thus the name) and got closer to them than we ever had before!

The great news is that John and Bob worked on our King Dome (our in-motion satellite TV dome) and were able to get it working again! Yippee!! The sad news was that we were parting again…they to New York State, for Judy to do more hiking on the North Country Trail, and we to the mountains of Colorado…and hopefully cooler climes.

Our next stop was Eleven Mile State Park at an elevation of around 9000 ft., a beautiful

11 Mile State Park, Colorado

11 Mile State Park, Colorado

park! I took Sassy for her usual walk after getting parked and she was her usual self, but after we got back to the RV, she more or less just collapsed! Respirations were high, and very lethargic, and very unlike her…especially when she wasn’t enthused about eating we knew something was wrong for certain! One morning at 3:30AM, I was awakened by her vomiting, and later that AM, I called a near-by vet, who told us he would call and have us bring her in that afternoon, but he never called back! John did some reading about “Altitude Sickness” in dogs, and sure enough, every symptom mentioned fit Sassy’s to a T! After two days of this “lethargy”, she seemed to be rebounding, just as other dogs had, in the information John had read, so we definitely think this was the problem!  (Sassy completely recovered.)

After an overnight stop in Montrose, John drove us up the “Million Dollar Highway” to Silverton, and elevation of 9300! Jane had driven this route in 2008, so she decided John needed to have this experience! A twisty-turny road (and pretty narrow, too)!  If you want to get an idea of why they call it a million dollar highway, check out this YouTube video somebody made as they drove it in a motorhome.  Just

Jane and Sassy at Animas Forks, Silverton Colorado

Jane and Sassy at Animas Forks, Silverton Colorado

after we got into our campground (Red Mountain RV Park) which faced the tracks of the Durango-Silverton Narrow Gauge Train, we got to see our first train come in! Always fun to see that steam train!!

Jane’s allergies became a problem while in Silverton, but we were able to do some four-wheeling in the San Juan Mountains and enjoyed spectacular views and John did a wonderful, safe job of driving! One day Jane’s brother and his wife drove over from Telluride to spend a few hours, and it was fun seeing them and their two “boys”, Sassy’s brother Max and their nephew Frank. Bettye and Jane had several heads turn when we walked the three Corgis! While in Silverton, John and Jane celebrated their 38th anniversary with another fun day of four-wheeling, and a nice meal out at one of the local restaurants.

Cinnamon Pass, San Juan Mountains, Colorado

Cinnamon Pass, San Juan Mountains, Colorado

After a week in Silverton and morning temperatures around 40 degrees (marvelous!), we moved back North and down the “Million Dollar Highway” to Ridgeway State Park Pa- Pa-Co-Chu-Pak (or Cow Creek) Camp Ground to spend two weeks. Our cat, Trekkie really has enjoyed herself just lying out watching the world and almost having another close encounter with one of the pretty tame mule deer than wander through! The Uncompahgre river runs alongside the campground. Again, we do some four-wheeling and really enjoy our time here. Jane finished her book TomBoy Bride which is about a woman’s experience at one of the mines in the San Juan mountains back in the early 1900s…most interesting, and she would highly recommend it!

As always, we thank you for following along with us on our travels, and pray our Lord’s blessings on all of you!