Year 1 Day 26 A Day Of Rest

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!

Year 1 Day 25 Like We Said, It All About The People

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!

 

 

Year 1 Day 24 A Tragedy In New Mexico

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.

 

 

Year 1 Day 23 Getting Ready To Head Down The Road

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.

Year 1 Day 22 Getting Together

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.

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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.

Year 1 Day 21 It’s In the Genes

I am very fortunate and married well.  My lifemate, Mary Margaret, is as adventuresome as I am and maybe even a bit more.  While she is a “nester” and loves her home, she has discovered that she can get the best of all worlds by living on a mobile platform and taking her home with her as she explores exotic places and meets very interesting people.  This pairs well with the mentality that my parents, Don and Anne, instilled in their 5 kids.  While my parents have passed away, as have my oldest sibling, Doti, and my middle sibling, Dwight, my two other brothers also have the wanderlust built into their souls.

My older brother, Don, also married well as his wonderful wife, Debbie, enjoys exploring and meet new people too.  They have a 40-foot Grand Banks trawler called “Change of Latitude” up in the Pacific Northwest and they sail the waters of the San Juan Islands and the inland passage to Alaska.  Their boat is beautiful as they have shared it with us a few winters ago.  Don is in the process of retiring from his position as a Distinguished Chair at the University of Connecticut and they have just bought a gorgeous house up in Blaine, Washington.  They will be moving out there this coming spring.

My youngest brother, Del, has led a dual life oscillating between working full time and being a nomad full time.  During his nomad years, he just jumps into his pickup and takes off, exploring the North America while living out of his truck.  Amazing!

They both have very exciting blogs and I encourage you to check them out.  I have added a widget to the sidebar of our blog where you just need to “click” and be whisked away to their lives of adventure.  Enjoy!

Year 1 Day 20: It’s All About The People

One of the main reasons we love to travel is it gives us the opportunity to meet so many wonderful people.  Our ten years of sailing around the world really restored our faith in mankind as everywhere we went, we met people who were kind, generous and just plain nice.  Before we sailed, we had a rather biased perspective having watched all of the horrible things that the 24/7 cable news shows focus on.

We discovered that while there is evil in the world, the vast majority of people are very considerate, kind and are just trying to make the world a better place for their families and future generations.  This discovery has had a major impact on us and we now view things with a fresh perspective given our firsthand experience with reality.

Given how polarized the US has seemed to become given the current political situation, we are anxious to see if this has impacted how people interact and discover what concerns they have and what they are doing about it.  We have hope that our faith in mankind will be maintained.

Our first set interactions at our first boondocker’s stop has been wonderful.  Our host, Richard, decided to join Boondockerwelcome.com so he could pay his good fortune forward and help others enjoy life and experience living in the Arizona desert.  He has been so kind, generous and interested in helping in anyway possible.  To return his kindness, we hosted him and his former wife, Utta, to dinner.  While no longer married, they are still the best of friends.

Mary Margaret spent last night whipping up her delicious spaghetti sauce and then letting it steep overnight in our Quarter Acre pot.  Utta brought a killer salad she tossed together once she and Richard arrived. We enjoyed their company very much as we got to know them over a nice bottle of wine that Richard brought.

As anticipated, the meal was fabulous and was only outdone by the companionship we all shared.  We ended up getting a tour of Richard’s house, which they both had decorated beautifully.  Each room had its own theme and each room was filled their beautiful artwork that they had painted and furniture that Richard has built.  Utta is a very talented artist and while Richard modestly denies it, he is also!

We ended the night sitting outside overlooking their pool and the stars in the dark sky, while the girls talked and laughed and Richard and I enjoyed some scotch and some Cuban cigars.  It was a great end to a great evening.

This is the view of Richard’s backyard which is an oasis in the desert.

This is the back part of his beautiful house.

This is where we are able to park the Beast (which my cousin Bill has suggested we name LeuC).  We are able to plug into 30 amps of power and hook the hose up to Richard’s water.