Thursday, June 19, 2008

Colorado USA, Fun Valley 2008

At the end of our last trip I checked the front differential lube on the 4x4 Jeep and noticed the oil was darker and gray metallic sludge was affixed to the little magnet. The seals were leaking on both wheel hubs. Not good signs at 150,000 miles. a call to the dealership confirmed an expensive repair. I then referred this problem to CROWN COACHWORKS
  • in Albuquerque NM. Remembering the quality repair they made on the Motor Homes Air Conditioner system.

    'Red' located a replacement front drive assembly with 42,000 miles on it at CAPO Wrecking. Within another day he replaced the unit and aligned it, driving like new, the Jeep was now ready for another trip. A new replacement for the Jeep was the other option. We are happier to spend the money for the front drive assy. Thank you once again CROWN COACHWORKS
  • for exceptional service.

    We picked up the three local Grandaughters on Wednesday, took them out to a Chile's
  • Restaurant for an informal birthday dinner, then to our home for a night of watching their favorite videos while laying in their sleeping bags on the den floor. After staying up later than allowed at home and sleeping late, they awoke to a pancake breakfast fixed by their Grandmother.

    The day was cool but did not stop them from spending leisure time in the grassy back yard, just laying around in their sleeping bags talking, watching birds and our always present herd of turtles prowling around looking for snails, little dollops of cat food and chunks of apricot and the occasional 'Superworm', placed for their finding.

    Friday night, two of the girls will spend at the Albuquerque Rio Grande Zoo
  • Interpretaive small group tours will discuss the animals, they will then sleep in their tents after an evening of entertainment. A Mom willing to forgo the comforts of her home will also join other parents spending the night with their kids. I heard later that the Peacocks yelled "MEEOW" all night long and prevented a quiet nights sleep. Fun the girls will always remember. Mom did look a little bit sleepy though.

    Sunday we pick three of them up for their 2nd annual trip to Mack Henson's
  • Fun Valley Colorado near Wolf Creek Pass
  • and South Fork Colorado
  • The large campground at an altitude of well over 8,000 feet (2,438m), with a security force, has many various attractions.

    The south Fork of the Rio Grande river running right through it, also fishing in many closed stocked ponds, paddle boats, miniature golf, swings, a little shuttle train pulled by a Jeep, snack counters including ice cream, a buffet restaurant, gift shops, trail hikes, rental bike riding, rental river 'tubing', rock climbing, lots of other kids, a recreation room and lots of evening dances.

    Cabins and rental trailers are open to families without their own RV units or tents. There are hundreds of RV spaces. For reservations Oct 1 to May 15 call Granbury Texas 1-817-279-1016, May 15 to Oct 1 call South Fork Colorado 1-719-873-5566

    The days before the trip are always busy. This time getting supplies and food for five people for 7 days. No small quick little shopping trip, because over 65 individual meals in all are consumed this week, not even allowing for a few 'road meals' at various dining establishments.

    The 8Th of June on Sunday was going fine but late, and a rush was involved with pulling the Rig out of the back yard. A combination of many last minute details, a small inattention to procedure and a fast disaster was in the making.

    While pulling out of the gate with inches to spare, a rear compartment door was ajar with the electrical cord still attached. I followed the pointing directions of my spotters (Grandaughter and wife) and made a serious error (As Starship Commander, I personally should have known better). Never turn while the back end of the RV was not being monitored closely for 'Tail Swing', as the rear wheels become the pivot point. The gate was an inch (25mm) away and the rear storage compartment door was torn off with a resounding crunch, within seconds.

    After a string of words, cursing myself for not following protocol, my wife and Grandaughter assured me it was not a total loss. She called Eric from Crown Coachworks. We dropped off the twisted door and proceeded to pick up the remaining two Grandaughters with their gear, for the 7 day trip. The time was getting late, so we stopped at McDonald's in Bernallio NM
  • just 15 miles (24km) North of Albuquerque NM
  • A fast lunch and finally we were on the highway after 2:00pm.

    Following I-25 North toward Santa Fe NM
  • is always an interesting, ever changing panorama of mountains, mesas and colors on the surrounding horizons. A Santa Fe by-pass is just over the hill called 'La Bajada'
  • . In the early part of the century, cars sometimes had to back up the road, as the climb in reverse gear was easier for some models. Even moved 3 miles to the East and redesigned for high speed modern traffic, it is still a hard climb with 45 mph (72kph) being our maximum speed in the truck lane. The old road
  • is still open for exploration by the inquisitive.

    An interesting project is being built in the center of I-25 called the New Mexico Rail Runner Express
  • It is a high speed Heavy Rail commuter train that will run from the State Capital Santa Fe to many points south in the very near future. Many long years ago a similar system existed but used a far different, much slower rail route including a transfer.

    The Santa Fe Relief Route
  • was found and the nice 14 mile (22.5km) State 'Veterans Highway' 599, around the city proved a time saver. The merge comes just Southeast of the world famous Santa Fe Opera House
  • located on a high hill overlooking the Rio Grande valley. Turning North toward Espanola
  • and crossing the Rio Grande River, we turned on State highway 285 North toward Alamosa Colorado. This is a steady climb in altitude and uses a lower gear than typical highway driving. The road starts to deteriorate as the traffic use decreases. Maintenance of this highway becomes less important to the State of New Mexico.

    The scenery is always changing with mountains and wide vistas always in the large windshield. This year the mountains still have snow on them. One Grandaughter crawled up front for a time, as she watched the world go by, she proclaimed "Wow, big picture, This is just like being at the movies".

    As the Colorado border is crossed, the highway instantly becomes well maintained and levels off somewhat on the high plains and passes through the little village of San Antonito. The little Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad
  • trip from Chama ends there. Many people say it's worth the trip just for the scenery.

    At Alamosa
  • we pick up highway 160 and follow it to South Fork. The same countless hundreds of railroad 'spine Cars' in storage are lining the 50 miles of highway, as were there last year and the many years before that.

    At South Fork we start the short 5 mile (8km) climb West following highway 160 to Fun Valley Family Resort. The girls have been playing and napping for the entire trip, now they awaken. We pull in and register, then proceed to a spot of their choosing. They agree on a grassy space with the windshield of the Motor Home just a few steps away from the rushing South Fork of the Rio Grande River.

    This years recent record snowfall and cold winter has the snowmelt fed, South Fork of the Rio Grande river, flowing fast down the mountains toward the Gulf of Mexico. Spring is late this year. This part of the river comes down from the area known as Wolf Creek. The Wolf Creek Ski Area
  • is known by skiers world wide. Last winter, two young snowboarders did not return from their day on this snow covered mountain. Their bodies were just found a few days ago, as the snow is now melting. As the website warns, "know your limitations".

    The calm water last year was mild and warm enough to float down with the rented inner tubes. This year it is rushing and freezing cold. We set up our electrical and water connections for the week ahead and check out the park a little before getting ready for bed. The girls always like to watch a DVD or VCR movie before falling asleep, this time it was midnight for them.

    The morning came very late for all of us. The trip from Albuquerque New Mexico is about 260 miles (418km). We were a little tired so slept in before fixing breakfast. The bikes were unloaded when we arrived so the girls got to check around a bit in this very large, family style recreation park. Each day amounts to lots of bike riding in this high security resort park.

    A day for them involves not only lots of bike riding and walking, but many little rides in the 'peddle boats'. Also hours of grass court games like rope toss and horseshoes to occupy their time. A small store sells tourist attractions including shirts and the girls found some they liked, good thing they brought their own money.

    Of course the separate little grocery store sells candy, you can guess they also found a sweet tooth satisfaction there. Gifts for their parents as well as post cards were found and mailed. Fishing of many types are available with either temporary park permits or State of Colorado licenses
  • available in South Fork. The most popular for kids, is the '35 cents an inch' (24mm). They caught 41 inches (1m) of Rainbow Trout in the private pond. We ate them one evening. They would have liked to fish a lot more but the price has to be weighed against the end results.

    Watching the river right in front of us and it's wildlife of Geese, Ducks, and birds attracted to the riverside feeder, occupies a little of our spare time. A very small bird flys low then lands in the rapidly flowing water. It them dives and remains on the bottom looking for aquatic worms.

    The American Dipper
  • is a real athlete in this fast cold mountain stream. According to the bird books, it ranges throughout the mountainous western states, preferring the fast clear water. A Black Bear visits the edges of the campground at night looking for an easy garbage can snack. Deer visit for a drink and some green grass. The cougars stay higher up in the mountains.

    This area is world famous for it's millions of acres of National forest high country hiking trails, including multi-use for 4X4, horseback camping, touring and mountain bicycling. One out of every three acres in the USA is publicly owned and accessible, that is a huge area for people to enjoy.

    This also is just one of the enormous areas to be protected by the government. Have patience, they have a big job to do and they are doing it very well. These recent years have seen a large increase of money spent for it's management. Thank President Bush appointee, 'Dirk Kempthorne', Secretary of the Interior, for his innovative approach of asking private enterprise for their help.

    On one day we disconnected and drove the Jeep we towed along with us, North, following The Rio Grande River
  • to Creede Colorado, 22 miles (35km), following the recommendations in this months Motor Home Magazine
  • It was a great little trip including our 4 mile (6.4km) portion of the 4X4 side road up through the old mining district.

    This entire loop with it's high country scenery, looks like fun if a family had more time. The Jeep suffered only a few scratches from the bushes and the loss of it's always present US flag. We stopped in the local restaurant for burgers then continued further up the 'Silver Thread' National Scenic highway, to a waterfall reported to be flowing like it did over 20 years ago. We were not disappointed.

    This Spring Creek waterfall is located near the top of a mountain range where you would not think a waterfall would be. It is 21 miles (33km) Northwest of Creede, just South of Spring Creek Pass on the East side of highway 149, South of Lake City
  • Watch for the signs on the right.

    This is just one of the many small feeders to The Rio Grande river as it starts it's 1,885 mile (3,034km) journey to the gulf of Mexico. Our last months post had a description of our visit to The Big Bend National Park in South Texas. Well that is the very same Rio Grande River flowing along the Southern border of Texas.

    This also was the site of just one old Stage Coach Station in the 1800's. This years recent record setting snow and it's resultant melt is resulting in lots of water flowing away from the continental divide. The reservoirs in NM will profit from all of this water as I am sure the others in Arizona will as well.

    Another day we drove up over the famous Wolf Creek Pass just up the highway from our campground. The scenery is always great on the drives over the passes. We stopped to watch chipmunks at an overlook, then continued down the other side of the mountain to Pagosa Springs. Anyone contemplating speeding over these passes, be aware of the numerous high flying aircraft and cars of the Colorado highway State Patrol
  • endlessly citing speeders and reckless drivers.

    A lunch in a very nice Chinese restaurant in town was a nice little break in the day trip. Of course we check out a few little shops in town. Local thrift Stores supporting local charities are our favorites. You never know just what treasures you will find and the profits go to a good cause while recycling items that would otherwise end up in a dump.

    Pagosa Springs was an Indian known, hot springs for relieving their ailments. It is fed by an underground volcano heating the mountain runoff water. The area was developed in the mid 1960's and is now a tourist destination as well as a resort area. The grandaughters fished quarters out of the hot water. People's wishes will not be fulfilled? Many fine homes in the mountainous areas around town are used during the warmer summer months only. Some are occupied year round by tough people that can withstand the winter temperatures in the sub-zero range. Elk hunting is also an attraction.

    Our Grandaughters attend a summer camp North of Pagosa Springs for a week in the later summer. Last year we took two with us and picked one up after camp. Then we spent the few days afterward in Fun Valley. This year will be a little different due to timing in conflict with the start of school earlier in August. Fun Valley is happening now because of that timing. Two will be attending this years camp.

    I watched a man from Dumas Texas, fillet numerous trout for his families evening meal. Now that takes patience. Turns out that he and his family were here last time we visited Fun Valley. He works for Valero Oil and was camped near us with a cpuple of other Valero employeees last year. Nice to know that Texas comes North often to spend some money. I think they like to escape some heat as well.

    The last few nights in camp were spent talking to a couple camped next to us. They built a little fire that our girls found excellent for toasting marshmallows over. The couple were from Beaver Oklahoma and set up their 5Th wheel camp trailer for the summer. Their family all share in it's use throughout the nice summer months away from hotter Oklahoma. They stay in shifts away from their family owned Feed store.

    The dances this time of year were all 'Square Dancing'. We went over to watch them one evening. As soon as the Square Dancing is finished, the local band will show up to have Country and Western and Popular dancing. Sunday morning we started to pack up for the trip home. After having a 'microwave lunch' and finishing the holding tank clean out procedures, we disconnected from the park facilities and started our 260 mile (418km) drive South toward Albuquerque New Mexico.

    Another enjoyable week traveling through just one small area of our great nation. The Greatest Nation the world has ever known. Originally programed and built by our founders and our Constitutional Law as ..... "ONE NATION UNDER GOD"
    May, God willing, for the sake of the entire world, it always remain so, in spite of it's detractors.

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