Summer 2011 – Update #3 and last one for this summer :-(

We left off with us enjoying the beautiful cool weather in the Silverton, Colorado area (San Juan mountains), Jeeping, and lamenting about the drought in Texas (more on the drought later.)

Also, we would like to apologize for steering our readers to to read our posts and look at all of the pictures we posted on a trail-by-trail basis.  Unfortunately this forum will not let you even view this particular board without being a registered user (which you can certainly do if desired.)  When John gets industrious, he’ll copy all of that content over here in a series of blog posts and make a new blog category for off-road, Jeep or something like that.

Moving on…

We had quite a bit of fun running trails in the San Juan mountains with our new Western Slope 4 Wheeler club buddies but it was time to press on and head a little further east in preparation for the All-4-Fun off-road event held in the Salida, Colorado area.  We spent a couple of weeks in Gunnison, Colorado at the very nice Palisades Senior RV Park (it’s an over age 55 park, but we got over that stigma.)  Gunnison must have the very worst WalMart store we have even set foot inside.  It looks like the aftermath of a going-out-of-business sale at a Dollar Store.  For a while we wondered if anybody actually worked there judging by how disheveled almost every merchandise shelf looked, but no – there actually were employees hanging around (“hanging around” is a significantly more descriptive term than “working.”)  Perhaps most of them spend their time outside on smoke breaks.

We did have somebody tell us that the city of Gunnison did not approve the building of a super sized WallyWorld store, so maybe this is WalMart’s way of punishing the locals.  Whatever.  John hates to set foot inside of any WalMart.  We weren’t real thrilled with the Gunnison area but there was a shining jewel there – the Pioneer Museum.  Six acres of a trip back in time.

Our Horizon coach at the All-4-Fun

Boondocking at the All-4-Fun off-road event

After our stopover in Gunnison, it was time to proceed to the campground on a private ranch for the All-4-Fun where we will be boondocking (i.e., no electric, no water, no sewer hookups) for a full week in the coach.  We left Gunnison with a full tank of water (about 80 gallons) and topped off the diesel tank (we hold 100 gallons) so we would be in fine shape to be completely self-contained for the entire week.

Even though the trip from Gunnison to Salida wasn’t very long in miles, we had to cross the Continental Divide at Monarch Pass (a little over 11,000′) with a full water tank, a full diesel tank and towing the Jeep.  We probably weighed in at 37,000 pounds between the coach and Jeep but we made the climb with no difficulty thanks to our large Cummins engine (8.9 liters and 1200 ft. lbs. of torque), but oh how we suck the fuel down.  On a long climb like that we are only getting 2.5 to 3.5 MPG and the turbo is at full boost (32 PSI.)

While at the campground in Salida, we would run the generator about 8-10 hours each day (so we could have air conditioning), and we had plenty of water for each of us to take a quick shower every day (and we had satellite TV and satellite Internet) so we certainly didn’t suffer any!  Speaking of the generator, that Onan diesel generator is a wonderful little gem.  It’s very quiet and we only burn less than a half a gallon an hour under our typical load.  We ran the generator for about 75 hours that week and we figured that was only about 25 gallons or so of fuel used.


Rock crawling at Chinaman Gulch trail near Salida, Colorado

Rock crawling at Chinaman Gulch trail near Salida, Colorado

We spent several days running trails with anywhere from about eight vehicles to almost 20.  We did a couple of hard-rated trails and we (and the Rubicon) did just great.  John did some optional hard obstacles on one of the trails, and again we had no issues thanks to increasing driver skill and a nicely built up Rubicon.  By the end of the week we were tired since most trail runs were an all-day event and we were thinking about our next stop which was going to be Grand Lake, Colorado for more sightseeing and trail running.  That didn’t quite work out as we will soon discover.

Thanks to all of the webcams John installed at our little ranch, we can easily keep a close eye on things and one day John noticed the water level in the animal stock tanks a little low.  That wasn’t a great cause for alarm since our neighbors sometimes would clean out the tanks and then it would take them a while to refill.  After going back several days (you can see that particular webcam here) and reviewing the images, it was clear the water level was slowly going down.  Oops, not good!  John called our wonderful neighbors who were looking after the place to see if there was any water in the storage tank that gravity feeds the stock troughs, and no – the tank was dry.  OH NO!

The neighbor said the primary 2500 gallon storage tank was almost full, so something was going on that could not be explained.  John was worried there might be a well issue – maybe even our well was going dry.  It was time to be very concerned about water issues thanks to the extreme drought we were experiencing.  Our neighbor said his well had a reduced flow and there were reports of wells a few miles away actually drying up.

The decision was made to cancel the rest of our summer plans (we were slowly headed to Dalton, Wyoming for another Jeep event) and immediately return home to deal with the water situation.  At least we were able to finish the All-4-Fun event, so this was a good point to break things off and head south.  It took two long days on the road (we covered about 900 miles in those two days) to return home and guess what we found?  We don’t know either.

Our neighbor transferred about 800 gallons of water from the large storage tank to the smaller tank (it holds about 1,000 gallons) to fill the animal troughs and when John looked inside both tanks, they were both almost full.  What the…?  Here we were having visions of having to spend about $25,000 for a new deep well (800′ deep!) and everything looked okay.  We are keeping a close eye on the well’s performance and it seems normal (in the best of times we only get about 2-3 GPM from it) at least so far.

This is the first time since we have owned our place here that we have experienced these hot temperatures and I can tell you that WE DON’T LIKE IT!  However, we are very thankful that we are blessed with a still functioning well – things could always be worse.  Please join us in praying for abundant rain for all of Texas – we do this before every meal .  It is a very serious situation here for everybody, especially farmers and ranchers.  It is still costing us a small fortune to feed the blackbuck antelope and we’re having thoughts about selling the entire herd (lots of ranchers are selling off their livestock.)  We are so down in the hole money-wise with the herd, there is no hope of making a little return on them for a few years at this rate (and that’s assuming we get rain and have some grass growing at some point.)

Pray for rain!

As always, thanks for riding along with Jane and John and blessings to all of our friends and loved ones!

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.

Summer 2011 – Update #1

No grass for the animals so we buy hay and feed

After a rough winter with very cold weather, we are now suffering with a drought – only four inches of rain have fallen at our place since the first of the year, so we have to buy hay and feed.  We bought a 2,000 pound capacity tube feeder to supplement the hay for the antelope.  So far it looks like they are eating about 1,000 – 1,500 pounds of feed a month (we’ve only had the feeder about two months.)  The drought has been good business for the feed stores, so at least somebody is doing well.

We had visions of maybe making a little money on the herd this fall when we have more animals trapped and sold, but that’s not going to happen.  Ranchers all over the state and the Southwest are having a hard time and many can’t afford to feed their cattle.  Please Lord, we badly need rain!

We are getting more serious about off-roading which is why we bought a 2006 Jeep Rubicon Unlimited last fall and spent quite a bit of time and money into making it more capable for off-roading.  For those curious about the modifications, we have a 4″ suspension lift, 1.5″ body lift, motor mount lift,

Great axle articulation after our many modifications

Our 2006 Rubicon on the trail in Moab, Utah

33″ tires, 4.88 gears, special bumpers, 10,500 pound capacity hydraulic winch, a tummy tuck with special skid plates, rock sliders, and extra reinforcements to the roll cage.  The tummy tuck pushes the driveline further up into the body which adds a couple of inches of ground clearance.  We have an air compressor because we air the tires down to about 10-12 psi when we run the trails.

The first test of our Rubi was the Chili Challenge off-road event held near Las Cruces, NM in February.  After running a couple of moderate rated trails, we realized more needed to be done to the Jeep, so more tweaking (and money spent) was done afterwards.

The second test of the Rubicon (and us) was the Texas Spur Jeep Jamboree held on the Inks Ranch near Llano in late April.  The Rubicon did great and all of the modifications and hard work (John did almost all of the work) paid off with us being able to complete all of the trails and obstacles with no difficulties.  Here’s a YouTube video we made of one of the more tricky obstacles.  There are several  more videos on YouTube, so look for the “JohnHillCountry” channel.

After lots of hard work, we hit the road for the summer May 16 and our first event and activity was the Palo Duro Jeep Jamboree where Jeeps run a bunch of off road trails (here’s a bunch of pictures.)  We had a lot of fun and continued to gain experience in driving the Rubicon on different trails.

As this is written, we are in Moab, Utah which is the absolute mecca for off-road trails (and beautiful scenery.)  We are (guess what?) running more trails and have done Top of the World, Sevenmile Rim, and Elephant Hill trails.  There are trails from mild to wild and crazy here, so you get to pick your level of terror and vehicle damage 😉

We’re going to hang around Utah for maybe the month of June (unless it gets too hot) and then head to Colorado for all of July and some of August.  Then we’re off to northern Wyoming for yet another Jeep Jamboree in the Big Horn mountains and then slowly work our way back to the Texas hill country and home.

Thanks for keeping up with us!

Blessings from Jane and John