We went on a beautiful and fast road trip. We traveled the back roads and smaller highways from Arizona to New Mexico and then Colorado and then back to Arizona. It was a journey to test some of the installations and upgrades on the van, and to test our own endurance and planning. All was accomplished.
The drive across Arizona and New Mexico included plenty of elk spotting
We were able to see the Very Large Array and camp near Soccorro, New Mexico in the high desert on the first night out. The rain storm during the night was intense for about two hours. The van was tight and dry throughout, as the wind made Alta sway and the drops pounded the fiberglass and metal exterior.
The next morning the desert was refreshed and beautiful.
In the dark of the night, Geneva had gone outside to drop off some coffee. Through the darkness she heard a scream and a neigh (which she answered with a scream of her own). Apparently there had been a wild horse nearby, checking out the van. The horse was as startled as Geneva.
The next morning we captured this photo of the visitor-
Our drive continued on back roads through New Mexico and the beautiful mountains near Jemez Springs. While we were there we stopped at a hot springs and enjoyed the water, the crowd and giggled about the view of the van from the tub. Alta was beautiful, as we looked through the trees from the hillside hot tub. We had been here many years ago on a motorcycle trip, and were sad to find the tubs nearly empty of water but happy that the trails and parking were improved.
We crossed over the Rockies and passed some very tall mountain passes.
The Bostig engine performed with strength, although we began to worry about the temperature gauge rising and the red warning light blinking. We started to discuss ways to increase the cooling of the engine. And monitored the temps closely. One possible solution was to pull over and remove the box from the front of the van.
This was Independence Day and we had miles ahead of us. So with Mike driving into dusk, Geneva went to the back and began preparing dinner. With careful balance, and some muttered cursing- she had all the ingredients prepared for fried corn frittata and tossed salad. We pulled into a large parking lot in Alamosa, Colorado and turned on the stove to cook dinner. With the doors open and the lights on, we attracted the curiosity of a man in nearby truck. We watched us for a while, in between bursts of fireworks at the local event center. Then finally walked over to say hello. He was a local store clerk who was waiting to meet up with a friend. He chose that spot because he could see the fireworks. We chose it because it was flat and a convenient place to cook dinner. We invited him to join us for the meal and he accepted (although he never sat down). We learned a few local stories, and unique pronunciations of nearby tow names. Then he told us about his girlfriend and hard times. Lance was a nice fellow, with a rough story. But he enjoyed our “fast house” food and allowed us to see a glimpse of his life. When his friend showed up, we said goodbye and washed dishes in the parking lot. Then back on the road to make a few more miles before bedtime. Thanks for the time you shared with us, Lance.
We camped that night, along the banks of the Rio Grande near South Fork and Creede. The sounds of the river through the night were quite peaceful. But the mosquitos in the morning were dreadful. But we were tucked away on a side road with no traffic, and enjoyed the green around us. We found a nearby mini-farm and left them a note of thanks for sharing their space with us. It was a beautiful place with a positive energy and a fantastic water flow!
This was the first night that the intense driving began to take it’s toll. This was the point during the trip that we started to discuss the way we needed to approach our future drives. We reflected on the days that we completed a loop similar to this on a Honda Goldwing, towing a trailer. Nearly 13 years later we realize that we just cannot drive for 8 to 10 hours a day, sleep for 7 and then get up and do it again. The admission that we are older, slower and prefer to move at a gentler pace was a difficult one. But admitting it was critical to discussing it. And we have agreed that we cannot do 4 straight days of driving ever again!
Our long hours on the road paid off when we found Ryan at his summer job in Lake City, Colorado. He is a family camp counselor at Sky Ranch at Ute Trail http://skyranch.org/family-camp/ We met his friends, joined in for lunch and then asked him what he wanted to do. His choice for fun was a cookout with us and one of his friends at a beautiful overlook in the woods. So we bumped along 15 miles of dirt road to Big Blue and prepared a fantastic meal on the Bio Lite stove http://www.biolitestove.com in the rain.
Dinner was delicious, and it was wonderful to hang out with these two terrific young men. One of them was our own, wonderful and familiar Ryan. But the other was a new friend named Josh. He was an eclectic, interesting and insightful gentleman who clearly has many gifts to share with the world. We felt honored to have entertained- – – – and been entertained by Josh. A new friend for us to have dinner with.
Of course, no day would be complete without some degree of tinkering on the van. Ryan and Josh were able to re-attach the awning brackets that had jiggled loose. Mike carries all types of tools and hardware and fasteners and such. There is even an electric drill on board, which can be powered through the inverter and used in the woods!
After the quality– not quantity time with Ryan we were ready to head off towards Red Rocks Amphitheatre for the Michael Franti Soulshine Tour concert. http://soulshine.com It was a great show and the venue was stunning. The Red Rocks Amphitheatre is indeed a beautiful location. Did you know that it was built by the CCC is the early 1940’s? http://redrocksonline.com/about/history-geology
After the show (around midnight) we made it to a nearby camping location. Not glamorous, but free. (we never paid for a night on this trip!) It was our first time ever in a Walmart parking lot. I had downloaded an app called RVOVERNIGHT and it guided us to the parking lot. We eased in between some storage containers out back and fell asleep at about 1:30. Again reminding ourselves that we needed to avoid long days and late nights…….
But the next morning was truly painful as we awoke with altitude and sleep deprivation headaches pounding on our temples- and the songs of Michael Franti reverberating in our heads! We had 13 hours of driving ahead of us, yet all we wanted to do was sleep. So we took turns behind the wheel and tried to keep one another alert. The drive home was a new route and offered new elevation challenges and beautiful scenery. We crossed over Wolf Creek Pass and the Continental Divide, and stopped for photos and a stretch break.
And we even posed Alta in front of her own convenience store,
as we stopped for more coffee!
As the sun began to descend upon the horizon, we crossed the Colorado border into New Mexico, Utah and Arizona!!! Yes, we were at Four Corners National Monument. A vast, open space on the Navajo Nation.
Darkness settled, and brought rain across the Reservation. We drove on through the storm and arrived home at about 1:30AM. We were beat. And we promised to NEVER attempt that many hours of driving in a straight run again. The next morning was challenging again, as Mike had to return to work at the office and Geneva had much clean up to tackle. But we pushed through the bleary, sleepy eyes and got done with our day. The key lesson learned from this trip was about pushing ourselves too far and putting on too many miles in one harsh run.
We also learned a few things about the van. Somewhere around Buena Vista, we stopped in the shade of a tree and removed the box on the front. We hoped it would help the air flow to the radiator and reduce the overheating issues. It did. But now we have learned that there may be an issue with the cooling fan instead of the tool box, which is good news because we really need that box of tools up there (see above regarding the repair to the awning bracket). We also had an opportunity to use the over cab storage space and to enjoy the newly closed off window, which is covered in pegboard. We made new additions to our “to do” list, and took off a few things that we realized were unnecessary. We felt comfortable with the systems that we are putting in place for managing the space.
We also set a new intention for our trip. We would like to try to feed a meal to one new person every day. Perhaps we buy dinner/lunch for someone while we are out, or we invite a stranger to the van for dinner with us. However it works out, there are many friends out there that we have not met yet. And we will be better people for having shared what we can and listening to someones story whenever possible. We practiced this new intention with Lance and with Josh during this trip, and it was very fulfilling.
But mostly, we reminded ourselves that we enjoy spending time together and exploring the world and whatever it has to offer. And that is what we are now 86 days away from……