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.

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.