The weather gods finally found us, tucked in here at the Trinidad Lake State Park in Colorado. For the last couple of days, we have been watching this large and long front streak by us coming from the southwest. Its edge has moved over us at night, dropping some brief showers and then moving past us during the daylight hours yielding some periods of sun and other periods of overcast. Its last hurrah came this evening when we had a heavy, long deluge of a rain. It was so heavy that we lost our satellite signal and had to switch to the Internet to watch TV. It sounds kind of strange to us writing about watching TV. During our 10 years of sailing without a TV, we really never missed it. Now, in our RV, we have 4 of the darn things, one of which we really only watch. Go figure.
With the front finally moving past us, we are looking forward to a number of bright, sunny days as we get ready to pack up and drive up to the Denver area tomorrow. We are really excited about seeing Mary Margaret’s high school friend, Shalene, and her husband, David. We still fondly remember the wonderful time we had together when they flew down to Tahiti in 2010 and spent a week or so with us on Leu Cat. What great times!
Today, Dale and his wife Judy came over while I was working outside of our RV. Dale wanted to give us some of the neat wooden toys he makes. Judy also presented to me a paper trailer she made as a remembrance of them. They used to be missionaries and Dale would make thousands of these toys in his workshop and then present them to the children of the villages overseas that they would visit. Each one is very cleverly designed and the woodwork, while simple, is very sturdy in construction. I will post a picture showing them below. We loved the toys so much, Mary Margaret went over to their trailer to ask if we could buy some more. She made arraignments to buy some as Christmas gifts. Each one is only $8 but so unique and fun. Our grandkids will love them!
Here Are Dale and Judy. Dale Is Holding a Whirlybird He Made and Judy Is Holding the Paper Trailer She Made
Here Is A Photo Of The Toys And Paper Trailer They Presented To Us
Today we finally found the time to start planning our return trip from Denver. It is kind of funny since we have not yet arrived in the Denver area and will not yet for a few days. However, if we don’t start now, we may not have many options regarding where we can stay. The “snowbirds” are just starting their annual migration to the southwest and as they do, many travel in their RVs, competing for places to camp.
Plus, we are running up against the annual Albuquerque Balloon Festival, which starts next week. Thousands of people flock to New Mexico to attend and the result impacts places where we RVers can stay. While we would love to take it in to view each morning’s mass ascension, it just is not in the cards this time. We will be stopping and spending a few days in the Albuquerque area but we will be doing so the week after the festival.
This trip to Denver and then back to the west coast was always going to be a rushed affair since we only had about 5 weeks to make the trip. We have to be in Southern California by the first week of November for a number of appointments we have.
After researching our potential route, noting the time restrictions we have, we have plotted our course to San Juan Capistrano, California. We have opted not to cross the Rockies which would be the most direct route to follow. It is getting too late in the year and with the recent heavy snows that the Rockies have just experienced, we could be risking a snowfall event. Since we do not have snow chains, the thought of being stranded in the Rockies, covered with snow, until the roads are safe for travel just is not pleasant. I have been through that a few times and it is not fun!
Also, we are anxious to return to the Pancho Villa State Park in Columbus, New Mexico to better explore that area and see our new friend, Martin, who is the park ranger there.
By following the southern route, we should be able to avoid the risk of snowfall and, at the same time, explore some of the areas we blew by on our trip up to Denver. These especially include Albuquerque, and the Kartchner Caverns west of Tucson. Also, by returning to the Pancho Villa State Park, we should be able to drive our little Fiat to the Mexican border and walk into that country. The village there is Puerto Palomas. Martin, strongly recommended a wonderful little restaurant there which he swears offers the most remarkable Mexican food and also has a large store that specializes in Mexican crafts.
Here Is Our Planned Route. The Distance Is 1530 Miles.
Besides planning our route to the west coast, it was also a work day. Mary Margaret out the vacuum cleaner out and vacuumed each room and cleaned the kitchen including the stove. She rolled up her sleeves and also did laundry.
Today was what we call a “catch as catch can” day. These means that Mary Margaret gets a day off from cooking and we can dive into the left overs that we have in the frig for our dinner. After our meal, we went outside to start our campfire and enjoy the evening. Before we could, we were hailed by our neighbors and invited to join them with their campfire already blazing away. I had met Dale yesterday evening but now we both were introduced to his wife, Judy, and her two brothers, Richard and Dave. It was great to get to know them while enjoying their roaring fire. Another great evening!
We really have been going to school this last week in regards to learning how to drive LeuC. We learned how to handle freeways with their big rigs blowing by, country roads with their mule deer jumping across our path, narrow dirt roads with no guards along the steep cliffs, road construction with one lane closed and concrete barrier guards reaching out trying to grab LeuC’s sides, and sandy desert roads where you need to push through brush and cactus without scratching the bus. Well, today, we added a new lesson in driving a 40,000 pound bus: driving over mountains on a curvy, narrow, steep road!
Poor Mary Margaret had to sit in the passenger sit as I navigated LeuC up and over the last of the Rocky Mountain Ranges to reach today’s destination of Trinidad Lake State Park in Colorado. I say, “poor Mary Margaret” because it is always harder to sit and watch instead of actually having your hands and feet on the steering wheel and pedals, respectively. It was a white-knuckle day as we drove through the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Along the way, we discovered that US Route 64 is one of the top scenic routes in New Mexico. Fortunately, to help ease her anxiety, she grabbed our cameras and shot a lot of pictures to capture the spectacular views that presented themselves during our drive.
There are many tall mountains peaks within the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, some reaching an elevation of over 14,000 feet. Fortunately for us, US Route 64 twists and turns through the lower passes. I believe we topped out at an elevation over 8,000 feet but I was so busy man-handling LeuC through the mountains that I did not notice any elevation signs.
Here Is Our Route From Pilar, NM to Trinidad Lake State Park, CO
The scenery was breathtaking as not only were the evergreen trees and mountain sides beautiful but at this altitude, the fall color change was in full force with the Quaking Aspen trees covered in brilliant yellow. Along much of our route ran streams carrying the snow melt down to the deep valleys below. This must be a trout fisherman’s heaven as we saw many cars parked along pullouts and fly fishermen standing thigh high in the water.
Instead of trying to describe what we saw, I will let Mary Margaret’s photos do the talking.
These Are The Cimarron Palisades The We Passes As We Approached Cimarron, NM. When we dropped down off the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, we entered the small town of Cimarron. Its slogan was “Where The Rockies Meets The Plains”. This could not be truer. We immediately were now in the flat grassy plains.
As we turned north to travel along eastern flanks of the Rockies, we saw numerous herds of wild deer forging in the open grassy plains. It reminded us of driving in Southern Africa with herds of antelope running free. We had visions of the pioneers crossing these plains in their covered wagons, being pushed to the south by the tall mountains acting as a barrier to their march to the west.
As we approached the Colorado border, we left Routh 64 and took I-25N for the last few miles. Trinidad Lake State Park is just a short way north of the border. The park is on a plateau overlooking the lake, which is actually a reservoir. Our day’s driving lesson would not be complete without experiencing the narrow road over the dam as pickup trucks coming the other direction squeezed by.
After we set up camp and enjoyed Mary Margaret’s delicious dinner of buffalo meatloaf, steamed chard and sweet potatoes, I went outside to build a fire. As I was splitting our wood, a camper from nearby came over and introduced himself. His name was Dale and he then proceeded to show me his “sure-fire” way of starting a fire. He had made a fire-starter by pouring melted paraffin into a carboard egg cartoon and then sprinkling wood chips into the wax. He completed his fire starter by poking a cotton wick into its center. By doing so, he had a dozen fire-starters. Dale then offered me four of his fire starters. The one I used worked like a charm and now I will be making Dale’s fire-starters from now on!
Another neighboring camper then came over and introduced himself. Rick had seen my Michigan sweatshirt and had to share with me he grew up in the Wolverine state. So far, we have discovered how friendly and helpful fellow campers are and it is wonderful!
Once again, our day ended in front of the fire, armed with a Cuban and a scotch. Such is the life of an RV’er.
The weather during our first month of boondocking has been remarkably nice. During our stay in Tucson it was very hot the first week but we remained very comfortable with two of our three a/c units running. At Richard’s place we had 30 Amp service so we were limited to running just two of the three units but it is enough to keep LeuC nice and cool. It was a good learning experience in marshaling our energy use. After that first week, things cooled down from about 106 to the mid-90s. When we left and then gained 2000 feet elevation in Columbus and Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, the highs were only in the mid-80s. Now we are up above 6,000 feet here, Pilar and the highs are in the mid-70s: very comfortable. At night, it drops down to the mid-40’s but we use one of the heaters (our three units are actually heat pumps so they can do both a/c and heating) and it keeps LeuC nice and snug while we sleep. There have been a few times while in New Mexico when it has rained but it has always been at night and then only briefly. The weather just doesn’t get much better than this!
Today, we decided to hop in our little Fiat and explore up the Rio Grande Gorge and then Taos, just 10 miles to the north. We knew there was a famous bridge over the gorge to the west of Taos and we were hoping that we could go up the side wall of the gorge, get to the bridge and then circle into Taos.
Since we do not have Internet accesses here in the gorge, we did not have Google Maps to guide us. I had previously inspected our area using Google Earth and there appeared to be two roads that could lead us out of the gorge, one on each side. Thus, fat, dumb and happy, off we went.
Here is an aerial view of the area we explored. It shows how long and deep the gorge is.
Along the way we stopped a number of times to take photos of this very scenic river, tucked between the steep sides of the gorge. We passed a number of small campgrounds, each holding just a dozen or less sites. We finally came up to a fork in the road. To the left there was a narrow bridge crossing the river, to the right, a dirt road. We opted for the right and headed down the dirt road. Soon we saw a sign that said the road ended in ½ mile. Damn!
Looking up the gorge that we set off to explore.
One of the small campgrounds we passed going up the gorge.
We turned around, returned to the fork and headed across the narrow bridge. Once across the river, the road turned to dirt and in the distance, we could see it climbing up the steep wall of the gorge. However, it was filled with ruts which gave us pause.
Now, as you may know, Mary Margaret and I are very adventurous and we longed to follow this dubious, rutty, steep, steep dirt road. However, we were in our little Fiat. What you may not know is the Fiat 500 Pop, does not come with a spare tire. It only has its four tires and a patch kit with an electric pump. We had visions of us bumping along this rutty dirt road and losing a tire to a sharp rock and being stick in the middle of nowhere with no cell coverage or Internet access. Gulp! With our tails tucked between our legs, we opted to turn around and return to the narrow paved road that would take us back to Pilar and the main road to Taos. As we drove down the gorge, we vowed to buy a little spare tire and stuff it into the trunk when we got to Denver.
The view as we drove back toward Pilar
As we approached Pilar, we came up to a short line of cars and a RV all stopped. We got out and discovered that a tree had fallen across the road. One of the people had a chain saw and was sawing off the many limbs. We all then pitched in, carrying the various limbs and then rolling the cut pieces of trunks off the road. It was a community moment as we laughed and joked about what one has to do to travel the back roads of New Mexico. It was a lot of fun!
The tree blocking the road.
If you look closely, you can see our little Fiat waiting in line due to the tree across the road.
We then were able to drive up to Taos, which has become an artsy community. Here we went shopping for some perishables and some more little things that somehow had snuck onto our “must need to get” list. Once again, we were impressed with how friendly and helpful everyone we talked to was.
The view of the gorge as we approached Taos
We then had lunch at a very nice little restaurant. Since the tourist season is over, we were the only ones there and we had a wonderful time with the waiter.
Once our tummies were full, we struck out in search of the famous bridge over the gorge. About 10 miles or so we saw it in the distance and when we approached it, we joined the host of other cars that had pulled off the road. It seemed the thing to do was to get out of your car and walk across this bridge, which spans the gorge far, far below. Mary Margaret is not a great fan of heights but she surprised me as she insisted she come along. The winds were really howling, blowing up the gorge at around 35 MPH. It felt like we were going to be blown off!
Once in the middle of the bridge we stopped, took a number of pictures which I will post, then then clawed our way back. Whew! That was a hoot!
Here’s Mary Margaret Out On The Bridge WIth The WInd Howling!
The Deep, Deep Gorge!
When You Look Down And Zoom Way In, Here Is What You See!
Just In Case You Are THinking Of The Great Jump, Help Is Here!
Your’s Truly Once Off The Bridge. Notice The Snow Up High.
With our adventure lust satiated for today, we returned to LeuC and snuggled down to a cozy night inside.
This morning we both slept in a bit. It was great! However, by 0900 we had bundled up the RV, stopped at the park’s dumpsite and discharged our grey and black water tanks and were on the road. Our destination was the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land near Pilar, NM. It is called the Orilla Verde Recreation Area and is located within the Río Grande Del Norte National Monument and is along the Río Grande Wild and Scenic River. Nestled along the banks of the Río Grande and within the steep-walled Río Grande Gorge, the two campgrounds which can house RVs of our size are next to the fast-flowing river. The river offers great rafting trips with a number of rapids and whitewater.
Our route today was about 2/3 freeway (I-25N), 1/6 divided 4 lane road (US 285) and 1/6 windy, two land road (NM 68), totaling about 270 miles. During today’s journey we gained about 2000 feet in elevation as Pilar is about 6000 feet above sea level.
Once again, we rotated drivers with each of us getting more and more used to driving LeuC. Mary Margaret was rock solid in keeping LeuC within her lane and at the end of her shift, she felt very confident in the skills she is quickly developing. I am so comfortable with her driving that I am now ready to nap while she drives.
Along today’s journey, Mary Margaret snapped a number of photos of the scenery that we were driving through and I will post them so you can get an idea of the raw beauty we soaked up.
As we drove north, we passed the well-known scenic and historical towns of Albuquerque and Santa Fe. We didn’t have time to stop and explore these destination towns this time but they are on our list of “must sees”, so we know we will be returning someday in the near future.
For lunch, we stopped off at one of the Indian Casinos and enjoy a big bowl of refried beans covered with carne asada, grilled peppers and onions, Spanish rice, lettuce, diced onions, tomatoes, cheese, salsa, and guacamole. It was so large that we both only could eat about half of what we were served. The rest was saved for dinner.
Before we reached Pilar, we also stopped at a Lowes that we spied and picked up a number of things that we had on our “need to get” list. This included some fire wood for our campfires at our campground.
Here are some views along Route 68 before we reached Pilar.
When we reached Pilar, we turned left and entered route NM 570, a very narrow two-lane road that was canopied with beautiful trees. We were pleased that we did not come up against a car or another RV because if we did, the passing would have been extremely tight on this curvy but scenic road.
We decided to check out the first of the two campgrounds that could take RVs. This campground is called the Pilar Campground. We found a wonderful site and decided to take it. I will post photos of this campground and our site so you can see for yourself.
We feel we are in heaven, not only because of the raw beauty of the gorge we are in but also because our site has 50 Amp service and water. Whoo Hoo! Such luxury for such a remote area! Plus, our cost for the two nights is just $15 because we have the National Park Lifetime Senior Pass. Double Whoo Hoo!
As night crept over our site, I grabbed a Cuban, some scotch and my lighter. Soon I had a nice fire going and settled down to a wonderful evening of relaxation. I love watching campfires as the flames dance up and over the firewood, licking up toward the sky. It’s mesmerizing. Life in a RV is good!
Today was a day of opposites. I was very tired so I decided to be a couch potato and just take it easy today, watching football on the boob tube. Mary Margaret, the “nester” of the two of us, decided she wanted to explore and armed with our camera, went for a walk.
As soon as she stepped out of the RV, she snapped this photo of a road runner inspecting our campsite.
She then headed down the road, with the best intentions. However, her walk was for naught as she met a couple from El Paso, Texas who were camping just a few sites down from us. She stayed there, chatting away for well over an hour before returning home. She had a great time and enjoyed her visit.
I did get outside for a bit and while doing so, I snapped these pictures. The first is of our campsite.
The next is of the view of Elephant Butte Lake from our campsite.
This next photo is a closeup of the lake and shows that you can camp down by the water’s edge if you can get your vehicle down there.
Tomorrow we continue our journey to Denver. Our next boondocking site will be up near Pilar, New Mexico. It is another 270 miles to the north. Pilar is just south of Taos, New Mexico and has an elevation of over 6000 feet.
Once there, we intend to check into the local BLM office to see if one of their two campsites that can handle a 40 foot RV, and if they have a site available for us. We hope to be setting up next to the Rio Grande River, in the Rio Grande Gorge.
Because of the steep, narrow sides of this gorge, we are not expecting to have Internet reception. Thus, this blog entry may be the last one for the next few days. I will continue to write the blog and take pictures which I will post but it may not be until Tuesday. At that time, we hope to be up at the Trinidad Lake State Park in Colorado.
I wish to add that we have recently received an email from a Leu Cat Adventures blog friend who somehow obtained a photo of the remains of Leu Cat in Sint Maarten.
As you can see, she has been bashed into little pieces with just a part of the bow showing. We are still grieving over her demise even though we sold her a week before Hurricane Irma blew over Sint Maarten with over 200 MPH winds. How tragic!
Our day started with Gabe Diaz, the local truck mechanic, driving up to our campsite this morning in Pancho Villa State Park. He was soon joined by Martin (pronounced Mar-teen) Nunez, the gregarious park ranger who help us yesterday and Armando, another park ranger who had today off.
I explained to Gabe that a mule deer jumped into our path yesterday while we were doing about 50 MPH which resulted in LeuC’s ride being a bit bumpy and my suspicion that the air suspension bag on the front passenger side had lost air.
In no time Gabe slid under LeuC and disappeared from view. After a few minutes, he confirmed that the bag was deflated but the sensor rod was still intact and not damaged. He next inspected the air supply hoses and fittings as I turned on the air leveling system. The airbag did not inflate but he did not hear any hissing which would mean a leak somewhere in the system.
We next opened the cowling at the front of the bus and he showed me the various solenoids that control and regulated the airflow to each of the four air bags, one for each wheel (note: the rear wheels are tandem wheels but each tandem set only have one air suspension bag). He shared with me that the problem was either the solenoid that controlled the airflow to the front passenger side or the module that regulates all of the solenoids. The module is a computer that monitors the road conditions constantly and instantaneously decides which wheel suspension system gets more air or releases air to keep the ride smooth and level. Holy cow, what a complex and intelligent suspension system! We now have a better understanding as to why we usually have such a remarkable smooth and even ride.
He decided to pull each wire leading to each solenoid and then reconnect the respective lead to its solenoid. He then had me restart the air suspension leveling system. On LeuC, when we park and set up the bus for the night, we can level the bus using either a set of jacks that are run by a hydraulic system or we can use the air suspension system to keep our floor flat and level even through the ground is uneven or sloping. It is simply amazing to us that we have such options with each system controlled by its own computer.
As it turned out, the front passenger suspension bag now began to fill with air and soon LeuC’s floor was flat and even. Whoo Hoo! Problem found and solved! It was just a wire connection which had come loose due to the whomp of the bus hitting the mule deer at 50 MPH.
Next, Gabe spent about 1/2 hour realigning the front cowling which the deer had bashed into. Thus, after about 2 hours, Gabe had LeuC all fixed and beautiful once more! Mary Margaret’s and my feet were doing our respective happy dances! Double Whoo Hoo!
I asked Gabe what the bill would be and he scratched his head and suggested $65 dollars. Wow! I was so pleased with what he was able to do and so quickly that I paid him $75 and threw in a nice cigar as he had ruined the one in his shirt pocket when he crawled under the bus.
I shared with Martin that we would be on the road within the hour and I saw a look of disappointed pass over his face. We had bonded while Gabe worked his magic and Martin was sad to see us go so soon. I quickly explained that we had to be in Denver in 7 days but we were planning on returning in late October to better explore this beautiful area. He then suggested that we swing by his museum on our way out as he would open it up especially for us. Mary Margaret and I immediately agreed and started getting LeuC ready for our drive up to Elephant Butte State Park.
When we arrived at the museum, Martin was there to greet us and then proceeded to give us a personal tour. It was a very impressive museum for such a small town, filled with a 1916 Curtiss JN-3 (Jenny) airplane hanging from the ceiling, cars used by the US Army while camped in Columbus during Pancho Villa’s attack, a replica of a tent which was outfitted similar to the city of tents that the Army had in its camp, machine guns, lots of exhibit signs explaining how and where the three attack pincers that Villa led hit the Army camp and town and an hour by hour timeline of the events. There was even a replica of an armoured car that General Pershing was so famous for.
This is the 1916 era armoured tank that General Pershing and his 10,000 troops used to chase Pancho VIlla into and through northern Mexico.
When we left, Martin was kind enough to give us his card and told us to call him a week or so before we would arrive so he could reserve a campsite for us since the snowbirds are in the process of coming into New Mexico and by mid-October, the park’s busy season begins. How great is that! Such a nice man!
We then said our goodbyes and once again headed down the road. The beautiful sea of grass and scrub bush greeted us as we stuck to the backroads going north. We marveled how the topography slowly changed from wide open range lands to gentle rolling hills leading up to the Rocky Mountains.
Around 1500 we arrived at our next destination, Elephant Butte State Park, near the historic town of Truth or Consequences. It is a sleepy little town and is the only one that I know which renamed itself in 1950 after a famous radio show of the same name. Go figure! Its original claim to fame was its hot spring baths of the 1800s. The state park overlooks the long Elephant Butt Lake, which is dammed at one end.
After we set up LeuC for our two night stay, we decided to return to Truth or Consequences for an early dinner. We found a quaint little café called “A Little Bit of Heaven” and ended up being befriended by the owner and his aunt. We had a wonderful time chatting up a storm only topped by the absolute best tacos we have ever had! Ben had learned his recipe up in the high mountains of Mexico where he was adopted for a year by an Indian family who lived in a remote village. He first starts with a corn tortilla cover with queso (Mexican cheese). Next comes another tortilla with a large mound of carne asada (seasoned shredded beef), some lettuce, cilantro, an avocado slice, and a slice of mango. You then top it was the most delicious mango salsa that has just a hint of chili peppers. We died and went to heaven!
What a day! We had LeuC fixed, a personalize museum tour, a simply beautiful drive up the open lands of New Mexico, a remarkable dinner and it was all topped with meeting the nicest people. Whoo Hoo!
Today, we had all of the excitement any adventure can offer. The day started innocently enough with us striking out from Tucson at 0700 with the destination of Pancho Villa State Park as our objective, about 270 miles away. Just west of Tucson we stopped at a truck stop to discharge our grey and black water tanks. We were not quite sure when the next sump dump would be so convenient.
Our next stop was the first rest area we came across heading east on I-10. Here, we changed drivers and Mary Margaret boldly moved into the driver’s seat to begin her first experience of driving our beast, LeuC, down a freeway. She drove 68 miles, until we reached the next rest area, and during that distance she was great! It takes some real backbone and some nerves of steel to keep a 40 foot, 40,000 pound bus between the lines of your lane while either passing or being passed by big rigs that are 54 feet long and just inches away from you, barreling by at 65 to 75 MPH. Her anxiety level was pretty high during her stint behind the wheel but she demonstrated to me and, more importantly, to herself that she is up to the task. She has vowed to drive each day for at least an hour so she can become more at ease with handling LeuC down the road. The way she drove today, I believe it will take no time at all before it is just second nature to her.
As we continued down the road, we left Arizona and enter into New Mexico. Whoo Hoo! Our third state that we can caulk up on the “States Visited” ledger.
Soon we left the freeway in favor of drinking in the beauty of New Mexico’s high plains via back roads. As we motored down a narrow two lane road we commented on how the views we were beholding reminded us of sailing across the open ocean. With not a soul in sight, our view was of miles upon miles of flat open range. Only in the far distance were mountains poking up over the horizon like remote islands in the ocean. It was awe inspiring!
We basically had the road to ourselves as it was rare to see an on-coming car or pickup truck. We were skimming along the border between the US and Mexico and we saw more Border Patrol SUVs parked up on bluffs (4 of them) than any other vehicle. Seeing the empty, unimpeded land running from horizon to horizon underscored the folly of Trump and his wall. What a joke!
We were now getting close to Columbus, New Mexico where Pancho Villa State Park is located. Columbus is just a four corner village, filling the intersection corners of State Highway 9, which runs east and west, and State Highway 11 which runs between Deming to the north and the border of Mexico, just three miles to the south of Columbus.
We were only 11 miles west of Columbus when tragedy struck. I was keeping my eye on the pickup truck approaching us from the east. The road was so narrow that we only had about foot between our wheels and the two lines that marked our lane. Thus, passing an on-coming vehicle was time to really focus on keeping LeuC right in the middle of our lane or even a bit to the side.
When the pickup truck was less than a 1/4 mile away, unknown to us, a mule deer was grazing in the tall bush along the side of the roads. As we approached her, she was startled and jumped out of the brush and started running down the edge of the road right in front of us. I veered in bit into the opposing lane to pass her but as I did, she decided to try crossing the road and sprang right in front of us.
With a loud thump, we knew we hit her and I quickly moved LeuC back into her lane before the on-coming pickup smacked into us. We then slowed down and stopped the bus. Since there was no real shoulder to the road, we had to stop in our lane.
The pickup just continued down the road, as nothing had happened. As he faded from view, l tried to see if I could spy the deer in the road. I could not, so I suspect that she was thrown back into the brush.
If you are not familiar with mule deer, you need to understand that they are not like the spry white-tail deer that most people know. These are broad-shouldered, hefty beasts who carry a lot of weight with them. I had vision of the front of our bus caved in with broken headlights. In other words, major front-end damage.
To my surprise, there was no visible dents or dings. The cowling that covers the entire front of the bus was intact. Close inspect did show that the bottom of the cowling was pushed in a ¼ inch and the top edge of the cowling did protrude out about an inch. However, the cowling is attached to the bus with nuts and bolts that slide through adjustment slots so I believe we can realign the cowling so it is once again flush.
Of more concern is that once we started driving down the road we noticed that LeuC was much more sensitive to each little bump in the road. Thus, I stopped the bus once more and inspected the front wheels and underneath the bus. I did not see anything out of place and the wheels and tires looked fine.
The tire pressure monitor that I had just installed yesterday showed that the tires were maintaining their pressure and when we resumed driving again, I felt no wheel shimmy that would indicated a bent wheel or damaged linkage. Nor did the bus pull excessively to one side or the other. My concern now is that the front, passenger side air suspension bag may have been damaged and it not fully inflated, yielding the smooth ride that we have become used to with LeuC.
Thus, we slowly motored down the road to Columbus and entered the state park. Once there, we went to the park ranger’s office and discussed our situation. Martin, the park ranger, told us that there is a good truck mechanic just a mile away and called him. Gabe, the mechanic, agreed to come to our bus at our campsite tomorrow morning. Thus, we wait here in Pancho Villa Sate Park, with our fingers crossed that things will be right and ready once Gabe comes.
This photos shows where the deer hit our bus. I was so relieved that the cowling was not dented or scratched. It just goes to show you have well built this beast we lovingly call LeuC is.
This next photo show how the upper right corner of the cowling was skewed out a couple of inches.
This is the simple but very nice camping site we have. The park was mostly empty.
Tomorrow we start our first real journey. Our destination is Denver, Colorado, where we have some friends (Shalene and David) who we have not seen in a number of years. Our son-in-law’s brother, Nate and his wife, Katie, also live there and we hope to see them too. Using the route, we hope to follow, the trip is about 1,050 miles.
We planned our trip in hopes of arriving on Friday, October 6th. Along the way we plan to boondock in state parks and on BLM land in New Mexico and Colorado. Our first stop will be in Columbus, New Mexico which is just few miles north of the Mexican border. Columbus’ claim to fame is that it is where Pancho Villa invaded the US and fought the battle of Columbus against the US Army 101 years ago. He fought against General Pursing and the young George Patton. We will be staying at the Pancho Villa State Park.
It is about 270 miles and with stops, it should take us 5 to 6 hours to get there. This is a little longer than what we wish to drive on each hop but it is the closest place where we can easily get into. It is a bit out of our way since we drive to Deming, New Mexico and turn south for 36 miles, instead of turning north toward Denver.
We spent our last evening in Tucson with our daughter and her family, sharing a wonderful dinner that Chrissy made. It has been great seeing the grandkids again and we are looking forward to seeing them again for Thanksgiving in a couple of months.
Today we were able to get together with Christina’s husband’s parents, Peggy and Jim, who we love very much. We are so lucky to have in-laws on our kids’ spouses side who we get along with so well. This applies to David Paul’s wife’s (Allison) parents (Pat and Phil) as well.
Peggy and Jim and their youngest son, Mark, came over today to see our new home and to share lunch. Jim made a special loaf of gluten free bread that was delicious. They live here in Tucson and have just returned home from a visit with their middle son, Nate and his wife, Katie. We were to happy that they were back in Tucson before we leave for Denver in two days.
We really enjoy being with them and chatted the afternoon away, catching up on everything. After lunch, we went into our host’s backyard to share with them the beautiful oasis setting that Richard has created. It was shady and cool and wonderful.
In a little bit, Richard returned home from doing some errands and joined us. We all had such a wonderful time.
After Peggy, Jim and Mark left to return home, Richard invited us to have a dinner of grilled cheeseburgers and bake beans with him. I eagerly accepted but poor Mary Margaret had to decline as she has been a bit under the weather these last couple of days. While she hopped in bed and tucked in, Richard and I tucking into a juicy burger, grilled to perfection. Oooooo, it was soooo good!
We followed dinner up with some Scotch and Cubans and talked well into the evening. Afterwards, we said our goodbyes as Richard will be gone the next couple of days and will not be here when we strike off to start our journey to Denver on Thursday morning.
Tomorrow, we will have dinner with Christina and her family and say our goodbyes to them. Our stay here in Tucson has been fun and very productive. LeuC is now well outfitted and ready and raring to start out seeking the adventures that lay before us.