Monday, September 24, 2018

T.Ex. 1.0 (Turtle expedition) Wrap Up

This was a "Journey of Discovery" from the beginning and it has lived up to its name. We discovered stuff mechanically with our camper. We discovered stuff mentally with us. And finally we have discovered stuff physically with us.

The main thing that we discovered is that we had affectionately called this camper our "vacation home." Now it has  turned into the "Hobbit House." It is so much smaller than our 40 foot fifthwheel. It is about a third of the size. I remind you that it has 2 slideouts so that makes it big for a pickup camper, but it was still small when we had to be stuck inside it for any period of time. Even our 2 cats have felt the smallness of it. It is so small we have to dress in the kitchen which means I am usually teabagging everything. We still like it but we will be happy to get back into our fifthwheel.

Mechanically we have discovered some issues. For one, I don't think the batteries are charging when we are driving in the truck. Maybe they don't because the camper is always plugged into the truck when it is on the truck. Maybe that is to save on draining the truck when not running. I don't know the answer to that yet. The only reason I know that that is a problem is that we had a long day of driving and I checked the battery meter and it was low.

So problem number two is that when the refrigerator is on auto and you are on AC and then disconnect, the fridge picks DC over LP thus draining the battery. So if you manually pick LP then it doesn't light. Not even a spark unless I reset the board by disconnecting the DC power to it. Then it lights right away. So then, do I take it in and spend the hundreds to get it fixed or I know what the problem is and just live with it?

Problem number three is our wet bath. A wet bath means that your toilet, sink and shower are in one unit. The shower head runs off of the faucet with a little lever. They are cheaply made and ours quit working so that needs to be replaced. The sink part quit so at least we could still take showers. But inconvenient when you forget about that and run the sink and all of a sudden you get a shower. It is funny though when it doesn't happen to you and all of a sudden you hear "F**K!" in the bathroom and a drowned rat comes out.

Problem number four is that we have 2 propane tanks and that they are supposed to switch over automatically when one empties. That feature doesn't work. Not even manually. In fact the tank on the left doesn't work until you physically swap it with the tank on the right. Things that make you go "hmmmm".

Storage is a problem. One we knew of when we bought it and we will have to work around that somehow. I would like to get a solar panel for charging the batteries. We can run our generator but as Jim will tell you, it is loud and scares the deer away.

Physical problems are mainly me I guess. Like the day we climbed the sand dunes and I was so tired I just wanted to collapse into my recliner, except my recliner is in the fifthwheel.  Then there are the stairs. Those steps can be pretty big depending on where you park. We need a step or something. We used a bundle of wood we bought and used that as our step for nearly a week. We couldn't burn it because we needed it for that reason.

Other than that it has gone pretty well. Those problems are minor inconveniences at most. We can travel faster and farther on a tank of fuel. That I like. It has gotten a lot easier to unload the camper and load it up again. Knowing that being in it is only for shorter lengths helps to tolerate it.

We think it will work great for our future plans.

So we officially declare T.Ex. 1.0 (turtle expedition) over with and it was a success. We are planning T.Ex. 2.0 for next year already and it promises to be a good one. To bravely go where turtles have not gone before. That is our mission.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

T.Ex. (Turtle Expedition) Campground Reviews Part Deux

Campground reviews for our second leg or our journey.
James M. Robb state park.
James M. Robb Island Acres s State Park outside of Palisade Colorado. This is a state park so the camping fee was $26.00 plus $7.00 for a vehicle pass making it $33.00 for the night. You get 30 amp electric at the site and a fire ring, grill and picnic table with a shelter over it. Water and a dump station available along with showers and laundry. Big rig friendly. You have great views here but the park sits in a canyon with I-70 on one side and railroad tracks on the other so if you are looking for solitude, this probably won't work for you. The noise didn't bother us that much.
Ward Lake campground, Grand Mesa Colorado.
Ward Lake Campground on top of Grand Mesa in Colorado. This is a forest service campground and the fee was $18.00 for a site and is first come, first serve. Not big rig friendly at all. We checked out 4 different campgrounds up there and they all were very tight. Vault toilets in the campground. Fire ring and table at the site. You get great views and peace and quiet and very little oxygen because you are above 10,000 feet.
Black Canyon of the Gunnison NP
Black Canyon of the Gunnison is a national park campground in Colorado. This was $16.00 a night without electric. $22.00 a night if you wanted electric. There is no dump station or water up there so come prepared. Fire ring and table at the sites. Not big rig friendly. There are 3 loops. 2 with reservable sites and one loop is first come first serve. We got there early and got a first come, first serve site.

KOA in Alamosa Colorado. We only stayed here because we needed electric and internet. We have been to several KOA's and none of them have been worthy of the amount of money they charge. We had 30 amp full hook ups for $47.00 a night. Big rig friendly. Fire ring and table at the site with bathrooms and a laundry on site. Sorry but I didn't even get a picture of that one.
Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado.
Great Sand Dunes National Park is like I said a national park campground. $20.00 for a site. These sites are reservable but if not reserved for the night they are first come first serve. So you kind of take your chances. Not big rig friendly or very level. We got there early and got a very nice site that had a great view of the sand dunes. Fire ring, table and bear box at the site. No electric but you can run generators. Water and dump station available. No showers but they have bathrooms.
Muller state park, near Divide Colorado.
We choose this park to be near Pikes Peak. This was a very nice state park with a very large campground with paved roads and most sites were pull throughs so they are big rig friendly. Electric only at the sites for $26.00 a night and $7.00 for the vehicle pass making it $33.00 a night. We stayed 2 nights so that we could unload the pickup camper and drive just the truck to Pikes Peak. You get a fire ring, table and a bear box at the site and it was paved. Water, dump station and showers and laundry available. These sites are reservable but we drove up and luckily got the last site open for 2 nights.
Gothenburg City Park, Gothenburg Nebraska.
This is a city park and if you are traveling down I-80 and need a stop for the night this is it. $25.00 for a site with 30 amp electric and water. Dump station, shower house available on site. Fire ring and table at the site and all of the free firewood you want to burn. Big rig friendly.
Sandy Shore Recreation Area, Watertown, SD.
We usually stay at the city park here in Watertown but they were full, so we tried the Sandy Shores WMA area. Nice park with electric and water at the sites. $31.00 for the night and they are big rig friendly. Fire ring and picnic table at the site. Not sure of a dump station because I didn't see it.

Just like that T.Ex. 1.0 is over. Next up is the Great River Road tour. So stay tuned for that.

$29.11 a night for campgrounds. 
A little higher than the previous weeks. But if you average the whole trip out.

$262.00+$218.00 divided by 25 days = $19.20 which is below the $25.00 a day we set as a budget.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

T.Ex. 1.0 (Turtle Expedition) Week 3

This post is going to be late because there are so many places we have been this week without cell service or internet. I work from a chromebook and you can't do anything without an internet connection. So here goes.

We said our farewells to Heidi and Dan in Oak Creek, Colorado. We enjoyed a couple of evenings of good food and good conversations. Dan made us elk burgers the first night and then the second night it was elk and fish tacos. Dan showed me a couple of guns he was building and I have to say they were awesome. I even got to fire one and it was a blast, literally.

We headed south and then east along I-70 to St. Kathryn's Winery in Palisade so that Lisa could stock up on a delicious lavender wine she likes. Once fully stocked we then headed over to James M. Robb State Park along the Colorado. There are great views there nestled in between canyon walls.
The park had a wildfire this summer but the campground was okay. They added nice picnic table shelters to all of the sites. We were going to go to the top of Grand Mesa next so we made sure to be charged, dumped and filled.

Grand Mesa is the worlds tallest flat top mountain at over 10,000 feet. It was 91 in the valley and 67 at the top. It felt nice. The drive up is very long and nearly a 5,000 foot climb so make sure your vehicle is ready for that. There are pullouts to cool it off if it gets hot. I wouldn't bring a large RV up here because there is no place for big rigs. We checked out 4 different campgrounds until we found the perfect spot for us at Ward Lake campground.

Sunset on Grand Mesa

Since we are flatlanders we are not quite used to the elevations even though we have been in elevation for 2 weeks. Like I said it was over 10,000 feet here and very hard to get our breath and it was the highest (no comments please) that we have ever camped. So this was just a one nighter. Next stop, Black Canyon of the Gunnison.

We were up early the next morning because we couldn't sleep due to lack of air. So we packed up and headed to lower elevations. What a difference a couple thousand feet make. We found a store and loaded up on geocache goodies for the geocache emergency and then headed up, again, into the Black Canyon National Park. This is at 8,000 feet. Found the campground and got a spot. We have learned to get in the National Parks early to get a site and then do your exploring.

What spectacular views. To the bottom it can be as far as 1,700 ft. to 2,750 ft. down.  This was also an overnighter. It's not like I am going to hike to the bottom of that thing. No way! Next stop, Gunnison and Alamosa.

We spent a nice night in the Black Canyon and then headed down, again to take care of the geocache emergency in Gunnison Colorado. Geocache Emergency Also to buy a printer because Lisa needed to work while we had cell service and internet. Geocache emergency averted, we then went to Alamosa Colorado to the KOA. We needed power and internet for a few things. You can read all about the KOA in my campground reviews when I can get around to that one. Next day we headed to the Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado.

Again we headed up to another 8,000 ft. elevation. We are beginning to feel like fish out of water. We have never been here and it was truly an amazing site.
We got to the campground early and got a nice site. From the campground you can hike out to the sand dunes and climb them. We thought we would just walk out there a little ways but we went further and further. About half way up we thought we could never make it.
She looks like that because I am so slow.

As usual, nobody waits for the invalids..
There are many factors against us. The main one-the altitude. We are already at 8,000 feet  and we are still climbing another 700 ft. in sand. Every 6 inch step up you sink 3 inches. Talk about the thigh master work out. The sand is hot. The air is thin. We kept telling ourselves that we would go to the next level and then rest. Then the next. Finally we got to the top.
This was the hardest hike we have ever done. I did not complain at all. Mainly because Lisa was 100 feet above me all of the time.

Going down was much easier. I was motivated by all of the cold beers in the refrigerator.  We were spent. We built a fire and ate dinner and then the next day it was off to go to Mueller State Park near Pikes Peak.
Grouse Mountain views.

See, nobody cares about the invalid.
This park had some great views also. We did a short hike to the top of Grouse Mountain. Over 9,000 feet. It was fairly close to Pikes Peak. We wanted to stay a couple of days so that we could unload the camper and not have to bring it to the top of the mountain. So glad we did. 20 miles up climbing 7,000 feet would have been way to much.

The view from the top was nothing but spectacular. You are up so high, over 14,000 feet,  that everything is so far in the distance, but if you zoom in you don't get the feel of the magnitude of the entire view. Lisa read somewhere that if you want to drive your own vehicle up, you have to go early or late in the day. Parking at the top is very limited due to construction up there so they limit the number of cars during the busy times and then you have to ride a shuttle.

We are not big thrill seekers by any means but this was a big step for us and kind of a bucket list item. So we drove our truck, "The Beast" up to the top. That was one white knuckle drive. Going up all you see is giant drop offs with no guard rails and clear blue sky ahead of you. We didn't take any pictures going up but the following pictures are of us going down.

The "Beast" turned 150k up on the mountain. I think it could do it another 100 times. We couldn't. One and done is what we said. After that we went to the Garden of the Gods. We have been to the Valley of the Gods and were curious to see how they garden. It is a free attraction so why not.

More excellent views. 

Well our time is coming to an end here in Colorado. We are so tired of not being able to take a deep breath and going "Oh yeah". 

Where will we pop up next. We had a great time here in Colorado. Now we are enjoying some good old fashioned oxygen.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Geocache Emergency

Tick, tick, tick, tick,------- tick, tick, tick,-------tick, tick, tick,tick, tick,----tick, tick.

"Holy telegraphs Batman! What is going on in the batcave?" Batgirl said to me.

"I don't know, the telegraph machine is going crazy Batgirl" I said "Read what it says."

"Goecache emergency. Stop. Can you help. Stop. Geocache missing. Stop. Please verify. Stop. In your debt forever. Stop. STD. Stop. End of message. Stop."

"Odd, very odd Batgirl. Do we have any friends with STD's?" I said. "You know it could be any number of people. Check the teletype machine. See if there is any more information."

"Good idea Batman. That probably has more information. It says 'Our geocache in colorado has been reported missing. Can you swing by since you are out of your undisclosed location and check on it. We will be in your debt forever and ever. Steve and Deb.' Oh, that's where STD comes from. I mean the initials. Sheez." a blushing Batgirl said.

So with coordinates in hand and the Batmobile gassed and loaded up we set off to Colorado to look for the elusive geocache that went missing. Normally we only go on missions like this to look for Sasquatches but we made an exception this time. The geocache was located outside of the town of Gunnison, Colorado.  The information we were given was that it was called Pirate Mack's Booty. "Booty" obviously referring to the pirates butt, but we don't judge. The cache was loaded with pirate "booty".

In my opinion, if you load a treasure with pirate "booty" and put an "X" on the map and put that map on the internet, pirates are going to get it. That is what they did. The cache was gone, so we did what we could do. The new cache has Halloween eyeballs and dinosaurs in it. Hopefully that will deter the pirates in the future.
Finished product

Me doing all of the work

Record of the new cache

We came out of the wilderness for that mission and now we have gone back off the grid.