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 #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

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…

It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents, except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets… No, that’s not quite right.  Let’s try again

A screaming comes across the sky. Huh?

Elmer Gantry was drunk. Go away Elmer and sober up

In the late summer of that year we lived in a house in a village that looked across the river and the plain to the mountains. Oops – wrong season

I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974. You need some therapy bud…

This is the saddest story I have ever heard. Fairly accurate but a little too much drama

We started dying before the snow, and like the snow, we continued to fall. Oh yeah – we’re closer

It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. Okay, that’s closer still

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times… Yes – found the perfect title!

And so went my search for the perfect blog title.  For those among us that are a little curious, every italicized word above is one of the 100 most famous lines from a famous book and no, I’m not going to tell you which one.  Look it up (or as we say with tongue playfully inserted into part of the cheek,  LMGTFY.)

This winter, we had a low temperature of 9.5 degrees, low wind chill of -10.5.  Pipes froze that had never frozen before and we have been down to 15 degrees previously.  In spite of running (running, not dripping) our faucets we still had frozen pipes (and consequently no water to the house) as did a whole bunch of others in the hill country.

Having no water was quite a shock for us since John thought he had all of the pipes well insulated (they actually were!)  Jane made a run to our little mini-market/gas station in Harper and bought all ten of their gallon jugs of distilled water (all that was left) so we could at least flush the toilets.  (Question: how many jugs of water does it take to flush a modern toilet? Answer: almost two one gallon jugs or about $2.50)

The next day without water, Jane made a supply run to a larger city and bought 15 of their 16 gallons of water.  We also bummed some water off our new neighbors.  (The next morning they were without water!)

John dressed for cold weather

Toasty warm in insulated overalls

John was well equipped for a hard winter at least for winter wear.  He bought insulated overalls last winter and while in Iowa last summer, bought a surplus Swiss military cap that covered most of the head/face/neck.  He found out that even the ‘normal’ insulated gloves don’t work real well after 30 minutes or an hour out in 10 to 15 degree weather.

The daily routine for three days was:

-get up from bed and wipe your face down with a damp whatever and brush teeth, etc

– have breakfast (we tried to have breakfast at our one cafe in town, but they didn’t have water either and were closed)

– John suited up and went to the barn to take care of the animals.  Break up ice in the tanks with a 20 pound T-post hammer, distribute alfalfa hay and corn for the antelope and the pet deer. Refill the barn cats food bowl

– repeat most of the above steps at noon and end of day

– eat the evening meal

– refill the kerosene heater (adjunct heat for our little house)

– prepare for bed – wipe face and body down with a baby wipe.  Ah, what a refreshing shower

To take care of Buckaroo the pet axis deer, John had to carry a propane torch with him to thaw the gate latches to open Buck’s pen.

The irony of all this is we always thought of the motorhome as our ’emergency’ house – it has a diesel

Ice on the inside of our metal framed windows

Ice on the inside of our crummy metal framed dual-pane windows

generator, water tank, etc.  Problem was the water tank on the coach was empty. Very bad planning not soon forgotten (maybe.)

By the time we thawed out with warmer weather, there wasn’t much water left in the animal’s water troughs since John would break up the ice and scoop it out with a hay rake.  By the end of the great freeze, there was only about 4-6″ of water left and John was getting really concerned we would not have water for the animals if this deep-freeze continued and he continued to throw out the water in ice form.  By the third day it was getting stressful since we were not equipped for this sort of weather and our routine had been dramatically interrupted.

Oh, that first day of the arctic blast, we had rolling blackouts (the media called them “brownouts” – when you don’t have electricity for 20 or 30 minutes out of every 60 minutes, that sounds like “blackouts” to us.  If it was a “brownout” wouldn’t you think that instead of 220 volts your house is usually supplied with you would have 195 volts?  100 volts? 50 volts?  Duh!)

Sassy the Corgi eating ice from the stock tanks

Sassy the Corgi eating ice from the stock tanks - this is after we thawed out

Our portable kerosene kept us well supplied with heat, and it didn’t matter that we did not have electricity since the pipes were frozen.  No reason to power the well and house water pumps.  (John will buy and install a standby generator for the house after this experience.)

We try to learn from our experiences and John decided there was a better way to provide ice-free drinking water for the animals in freezing weather, so he ran electricity to Buckaroo’s water tank and one tank in the barn for the other animals for a floating tank heater.  The floating heater will turn on at 40 degrees and keep the water from freezing.  Problem solved.

For the frozen water pipes, John installed three heat cables (by the pump house and water storage tanks) and added a new electrical outlet on an outside wall of the pump house for the heat cables.  Since we’re now significantly better prepared for very cold weather, we probably won’t have a winter like this for many more years.  However, water in the stock tanks does usually freeze over at least one or twice each winter, so that reoccurring problem is now mitigated.

God Bless and thanks as always for keeping up with us!

Jane and John