Updated on December 23, 1999.
We dumped again, rigged for travel, and headed down the road. We had 275 miles to go to reach Ruidoso, New Mexico. We went through the town of Canyon and caught US60 on its north side. It was a nice divided highway much of the way. Along the way were a number of natural ponds from 5 to 10 acres in size. I assume these developed from sinks in the ground. Since it has been a wet year, most were full of water. In fact, the grass in the fields was green.
We followed US60 southwest to Farwell, right at the Texas-New Mexico border where we joined US70 and continued to the west into Clovis, New Mexico. After going through Clovis, US70 turned south and then to the southwest and took us to Roswell.
We had hoped to eat in Roswell, but there were no good places to pull off with the trailer, so we just continued to the west on US70. We had been driving over the flat plains all morning, with only a few minor ups and downs. But when we reached the Ruidoso River the road started winding. About the same time we ran into the rain and the truck got a nice washing.
The weather cleared by the time we drove into Ruidoso. We had not been that aware of it, but we had climbed from about 4800 feet to nearly 7000 feet in elevation. We were aware that the temperature outside had moderated a great deal.
Co-Pilot let us know that we were to "go straight" as the name changed from NM48 to Carrizo Canyon Road just ahead. I told Alice that I figured we better just take the left side of the Y when we got there and not expect to go straight. Sure enough, it was a tight left followed by a tight right to get on the narrow two-lane road that took us the final mile and a half to our campground.
Rainbow Lakes is a new campground; last year it was a miniature golf course. It was a little tight getting into our space, but the campground was very nice. After setting up we headed off for a bit of lunch. Alice had wanted to go to a Sonic Drive-In, so we did. It was fun to have a server come by the door of the truck, just like old times when we were dating. However, the hamburgers were better back then.
Later that afternoon, after we had collected ourselves, we called my cousin Rita, and she and her husband Hank drove down to visit and take us out to supper at the Mescalero Apache Casino, just up the road from our campground. The grounds around the casino were very well groomed and with the clouds in the sunset it was beautiful. The food was also very good. But again, neither Alice nor I did any gambling. I'm beginning to wonder if I'm losing it or something.
It was great to sleep and get cold during the night. We had to bring out the blankets. Of course, we didn't close the windows.
On Friday we drove to Rita's house, taking Wolf with us. It took a while for him to become acquainted with their two Portugese Water Dogs, but finally they made friends and had a great time together. They have a beautiful place on seven acres. Its in an old burn (25 years ago) so they don't have to worry too much about forest fires. They had invited us to park the trailer there, but when I looked I could see it would be a very, very tight turn into their driveway off the road. So we were much better where we were.
Unfortunately, I didn't bother taking any pictures during this time, so there is nothing to show of the nice scenery, my relatives or their home.
Hank was very interested in our GPS system and we talked about what it could and could not do. A local vendor had offered him a system from Alpine for over $1,000, and when we compared features with the TravRoute products, he quickly converted. After lunch we took a drive and I showed him and Rita how it worked. When we got back we moved the system over to his RV, a 26 foot Class C Born Free. Of concern was the overhang over the cab which cut off much of the skyline from the dash. But it turned out when the GPS antenna could be placed inside the plastic overhang, and still get a good signal. Hank really became serious about searching the Internet for more information, and by the next day had a Door to Door Co-Pilot 2000 on order.
Rita also showed me some of the geneology work she has been doing on our common family, the Penny's and Hardy's. She is looking for some cousin off-spring to become interested so someone can continue the work after her. Alice and I talked about getting involved, and we may.
One interesting fact that has come out of Rita's research is that our Grandmother Rosie Penny was possibly one quarter Cherokee Indian. The geneology of Rosie's grandmother is vague, but there is a strong indication she was a full-blood Cherokee, and they kept her ancestry quiet to keep from being swept up in the Trail of Tears and other forced moves to Oklahoma. Rita has not yet found hard evidence.
Rita and Hank had arranged for us to go that evening to the Flying J Ranch for a chuck-wagon supper and western music. We had another great meal and heard some good music.
Saturday we washed clothes and did some Internet work. Alice was pleased with the laundry room and the cost. The machines were not coin operated. The RV park charged $2.50 per load and you could run the dryer until your clothes were dry without adding more coins. Rita and Hank came over in the early afternoon for watermelon and more visits. That evening we all went to the Cattle Baron Restaurant just down the road. By now I am at least four meals behind Hank. He is a great host. But now I am trying to work off all the extra weight I added while in Ruidoso. We worked hard to convince them to come to California this winter so we could return some of the favors. After supper we said our goodbyes and did our hugs. It will be good to go back and visit them again.
The next morning I dumped only the grey water and we packed up to head for Gallup. I had decided to bypass all the construction in Ruidoso on NM48, so the start was complicated but the result was great. We had been lucky that Rita and Hank lived along the shortcut we took so we knew the way.
When we returned to NM48 we were past the construction and headed down the hill to NM37. Turning to the west, we followed the road out of the mountains into the basin below, finally joining US380. We had heard that the road was bad, but at least the first part of it was newly paved and very smooth sailing. Later, after we passed through Bingham the roadway was so bad it was like driving on logs.
At San Antonio we crossed the Rio Grande, which was running bank full and muddy, and then turned north on I-25, running parallel to the river. It was approaching time for lunch and I wanted to refuel, so we turned off at Belen onto Business-25. We found a Golden Corral that had room to park the trailer and went inside to eat. There was a Conoco station down the street with good access for fuel. Then, lo and behold, we found a Wal-Mart Superstore. We took the opportunity to go inside and do our grocery shopping.
Returning to the freeway we headed up to NM6 and turned west to avoid having to drive through Albuquerque. It was a good road all the way as it turned around to the north to join I-40. In the distance we could see red bluffs along the horizon, then we began to notice what looked like a trail of white ants crawling along the base of the bluffs. There seemed to be twenty or thirty of them. As we got closer we realized the ants were eighteen-wheelers going east and west on I-40.
Turning west, we joined the ant trail and continued towards Gallup.
The scenery along the road in western New Mexico is actually quite good, with many bluffs and a few monoliths along the way. It was reaching its peak as we approached Gallup and took the exit to go to the Red Rock State Park. We found the entrance and drove in. It was not very crowded, so we had our pick of sites. It cost only $13 per night with no sewer.
We set up and I barbequed salmon for supper. Our plan was to spend the night and then head for Moab.
Then, the next morning we rigged for travel, but when we tried to bring in the slides, they quit working! I could hear the solenoids making a bit of noise, but no movement. I cursed a little bit. I saw it was before 8am in California, so I waited until there would be someone in the plant and then called Automate in Los Banos. The phone rang and rang. Then it occurred to me that it was Labor Day. Even though it was a Monday nobody was at work. We were stuck in Gallup. Alice paid for another night in the camp.
The rest of the day we checked around to find someone who worked on RVs and/or knew something about hydraulic slideouts. There is not much of an RV industry in Gallup, NM. The nearest hydraulic reference we could find in the yellow pages was in Farmington, 130 miles to the north. So I calmed down and we started replanning our trip to haul the trailer back to Los Banos for repair. But I wasn't sure how to manually retract the slides.
The evening was pleasant, so I went around and took some pictures of the red rocks surrounding the campground. At least it was a nice place to be stuck, though the black water tank was getting full.
Tuesday morning I called Automate and talked with Dan Wilson. He said it sounded like it was a power problem, so I started trying out things. I tightened power connections, tested voltages, pounded on motors and solenoids, and cursed some more. Dan explained how there were instructions on top of the reservoir for how to pull the slides in. He also told me what they said just in case I had a hard time reading them.
Now let me explain something. The hydraulic unit is mounted up and under the floor of the trailer, not far from the axles. To read what is on top of the reservoir involves crawling under the trailer, sitting up until my head bumps into the bottom of the trailer, wiping the dust and oil off the tank, and then straining to see what is written on the tank. I thought about using a mirror, but was able to bypass the problems of interpreting a mirror image by straining even further and looking only out of my right eye.
The first thing it said was to use jumper cables from a running car engine in case the batteries were low. The second thing was to use the manual pump which was on the side of the unit next to the motor. I found the pump and finally figured out how it worked.
My first concern was to see if the manual method worked. There were three valves, one for each slide. Since they were not labeled, it was a matter of trial and error to find which valve was for which slide. While Alice and I yelled instructions to each other from inside the trailer to under the trailer, I located the valve that would retract the big slide. Then I located the valve that controlled the couch slide when we discovered that the manual pump moved it out, not in! (I had gotten that slide partway in before the system quit working the day before.) The manual pump wouldn't budge the bedroom slide which was already all the way out!
I called Dan back and told him of my progress. He verified my suspicions that the lines could have been hooked up backwards so the manual pump put the slides out rather than in. It would involve changing the hydraulic lines to make the manual pump work correctly. I cursed some more.
Dan suggested running a shunt to bypass the solenoid directly to the motor. This was next to impossible in the space available up and under the floor, but I did verify that I could produce sparks from power to ground most everywhere in that location. Next I tried using the jumper cable to connect the ground post of the unit to ground on the battery. Hurrah, the pump worked and brought the bed slide in a little. This gave me a chance to verify that the manual pump did indeed move the bed out rather than in!! I cursed a little more. Alice paid for another night.
I called Dan and told him assuming I could get the slides in somehow, he should expect to see the rig next Monday morning at the Automate plant along with one fuming customer. He said he understood.
But I was encouraged. I got intermittant response jumpering the ground to the battery. I decided to build an extension for the power post on the unit so I could jumper power to see if I could get the unit working. We drove to town and found an auto parts store to buy the battery cable I needed. Then it was back to the trailer. I cut the 4/0 battery cable into two pieces and turned everything off so I could install the two pieces directly to the power and ground of the hydraulic unit. Once that was done, I turned power back on and used my jumper cables to provide battery power and ground directly to the unit. All slides worked!! I smiled and quit cursing.
After I calmed down, I cooked a nice barbequed T-bone steak, had a couple of glasses of wine and we talked about our plans. I was satisfied I now had a way to move the slides in and out, albeit a bit awkwardly. Alice and I decided we would resume our planned journey and head for Moab the next morning rather than go to Los Banos by the shortest route.
Wednesday morning we started preparing for traveling. We had breakfast, washed the dishes, stowed the chairs, disconnected the water, and packed the satellite dish. Then it was time to bring in the slides.
I decided to give it a try without the jumper. The bedroom slide came right in. Next the couch slide came in and the awning rolled up the way it should. Then the big slide did its thing. Once I stowed the big power cable we were ready to roll. I don't know why it worked; maybe my futzing around had just jarred the offending bit of insulation away so now we had sufficient power through the regular circuit. Maybe the moon had moved to a different position in the sky and was now in conjunction with my hidden planet of affliction. Whatever it was, the slides were in.
We drove over and removed the contents of the offending black water tank and headed down the road.
We drove over to US666 on the west side of Gallup and headed north. There are fewer bluffs up that way but the road goes along straight and reasonably wide for the next 140 miles. Along the way we crossed the San Juan River at Shiprock and noticed it too looked muddy and near flood stage.
We stopped at Dove Creek for lunch at a Subway. That is becoming one of our favorite lunch stops as we travel. At least we do not end up with a bunch of french fries and grease to clog our systems.
At Monticello we turned north on UT191 towards Moab. As we traveled along the scenery became more and more spectacular. There was the Church Rock along side the road and in the distance we could see the La Paz mountains. Then we came down into the Spanish Canyon and on into Moab.
We stayed at the Portal RV Park and Fishery to the north of town. We reached there after a drive of 285 miles and we were both tired. The slides opened without a problem, but when we went inside we found we must have driven over some lumpy roads, there were several items thrown loose in the trailer.
The park was about half full, and among the rigs was the one shown to the right, an Avion trailer body on back of a Kenworth. What a rig.
It was only 4:30 so we decided to drive to Adrift Adventures to check out our rafting trip. Our friends Harry and Bev had won the trip at the Spring Escapade but were unable to take advantage of their winnings. So they had given the prize to Alice and me.
When we asked about schedules, the young lady at the desk said we could go the next day. We accepted the offer and got our instructions. We also bought Tilly hats for each of us and a water bottle. I tell about the great trip we had the next day in our report on the Colorado Rafting Trip. When we returned from the trip, we were both pretty exhausted. We spent the next two days just taking it easy. At least it gave me time to get a lot of writing done and I did get a nice picture of the sunflowers.
Then it was Monday afternoon and we realized we still had not seen any more of the sights in the area. So we packed up the truck and headed just across the Colorado River to the entrance to the Arches National Park. As we drove up the first incline I stopped at an exhibit showing the faulting of the canyon in which Moab was built. A long salt dome collected under the layers of sand above and slowly raised it into a long syncline under what is now the canyon. As it was raised, it cracked the sandstone and water seeped through to the salt dome below. Over time, the water leached out the salt, dropping the overburden further and further down. The sides of Moab Canyon are along the old cracks.
We spent the whole afternoon and into sunset taking pictures of the fantastic formations you find there. We only saw about one quarter of the park, so we must go back, probably next spring. But that portion we saw yielded some great scenes. I have collected them in the Part of Arches Excursion.
On Tuesday we put things back together and prepared to travel again. We were nearing the end of our long journey from the east.
Wednesday morning we headed north from Moab on US191 towards I-70. Our plan was to drive as far as I-15 and camp and continue on our way to Ely, NV, on Thursday. The weather was pleasant and the drive was picturesque, though it became less spectacular as we drove away from Moab.
I-70 is a spectacular highway as it drives through the rock formations of Utah. It seems to go out of its way to present beautiful vistas of the buttes and columns along the road, and where it climbs through the fault that is the source of Capital Reef to the south, it shows the awesome forces that have shaped the canyon lands of the southwest.
It was around noon when we reached our planned destination. We stopped at a restaurant for lunch and decided to press on towards Ely, even though that would make it a 376 mile day. It would give us an extra day to see the sights around Ely.
The drive was long but we made it to the KOA on US93 on the east side of town before sunset and it was an easy setup. We drove into town and shopped for groceries and then had supper. The next day we drove out west of town to search for Garnet Hill. It was here 33 years ago that we had stopped with our kids and picked up garnets mixed with a rhyolite flow for a whole afternoon. I found a beautiful crystal that I made into a tie-tack. Deb and the boys filled their pockets with a couple of cups of garnets, most about the size of a beebie.
When the family reached Brigham City 33 years ago Alice asked her brother if she could wash the kids clothes. Of course he said yes. Unfortunately, she did not fully clean the garnets from the pockets of the kids' clothes, and they ground the pump of the washer to dust. It is still one of the memorable funny tales of the family.
But this day we found few garnets. I suppose 33 years of harvesting has done its part in removing most of the treasure from the hill. At least it was fun, and we met some interesting fellow garnet hunters. And we did get a good view of Highway 50 to the west, the route we would follow the next day.
After two days in Ely we headed across Nevada on US-50. This is called the Loneliest Road in the USA. Actually I found it peaceful, but is surely is long across the state, though we only drove for 268 miles.
When we neared Fallon we started calling for available RV space. We quickly learned that Reno was in the midst of the air races and there were no RV spots available other than a place to dry camp in the parking lot of an RV park for $10 in Fallon. It did have water and electric. We took it.
Saturday morning we left the Fallon parking lot after dumping the tanks and headed through Reno then over the Sierras towards Lake Minden TTN Park. It was an easy drive, even up the grade to Donner Summit.
Using the Co-Pilot we found a shortcut from I-80 at Rocklin across to Nicolaus on CA70. Unfortunately, we missed the turn in Lincoln. As a result we traveled some of the less desireable roads through and around the rice-fields in the valley. But we finally made it to the park and found ourselves a nice spot in D section. No sewer, but we could order a dump if we filled the tank.
During the next five days we went into Sacramento to visit with our daughter Deb and did a bit of shopping. I upgraded my laptop to more RAM and reloaded Windows 98. We had the truck lubricated, took care of other business, and collected our mail. I did a lot of writing on the book.
Friday morning we headed down to San Juan Bautista for the Diablo Caravaners outing. We drove by SBE in San Ramon and stopped for lunch. Then it was on down I-680 hoping to be there before the traffic started. We made it.
The Betabel Campground is a nice, well-manicured park with good facilities. It is either near a railroad or has great sound effects.
Many Diablo Caravaners had already arrived when we got there and we had lots of good natured advice while we set up. That evening a group went into San Juan Bautista to a good Mexican place. That meal was with me for the rest of the night.
On Saturday we had our usual breakfast cookout at the clubhouse and spent several hours visiting and checking each others rigs. In the afternoon Alice Bryden went with Alice and me to Salinas to the Steinbeck Museum. It was a great place to visit, and I learned a lot more than I ever knew before about John Steinbeck.
Then it was back to the campground for hamburger supper. Another evening of good fun.
Sunday morning as the rest of the Caravaners headed home, we packed up and drove the 21 miles over to the Morgan Hill TTN Park. We found a good spot back in G section and set up quickly.
On Monday we drove to Martinez and visited with our son, Michael, and his family. Then Wednesday and Thursday we spent a couple of days visiting with old friends at SBE. The last consulting gig was over, the last option expired, and I had my final exit interview with personnel. This ended my 29 year involvement with SBE, Incorporated, a company built from what had one time been known as Penny Gage Associates and then Adaptive Science Corporation. It was a sad time, but I felt proud and confident that what we had started would continue. Now it was time to move on.
Alice and I said our goodbyes and left SBE for the last time. Tomorrow we would head south to our new base camp at Jojoba Hills SKP Resort.