Friday, June 28, 2013

Loveland Repairs

DM RV and Loveland RV Resort, Loveland, Colorado – June 24 through June 28, 2013

The appointment in Loveland at DM RV to get our air conditioning unit repaired has not necessarily dictated our schedule over the last few weeks but has definitely influenced it. We might have lingered longer in Frisco or RMNP, but need to get this taken care of.

We discovered we had a problem several weeks ago in Salida, Colorado but since we were still experiencing cooler temperatures we could do without it. Besides, we’ve been camping without services all this time and would have had to run the generator if we needed to cool down.

Our air conditioning system has two compressors in it, one for just a little cooling and two for a lot of cooling (tech speak). Our problem was that as long as we only needed a little cooling, it was fine. When we needed a lot of cooling it would run for about 5 minutes and then just quit. Nada! So Frank got the unit manual online and proceeded to run all the diagnostics he could with the tools and instruments he had available and narrowed down the potential problem list to an outdoor fan motor and a freeze probe. He also consulted with folks at and got their opinions. Based on all this we identified DM RV of Loveland as the best and closest place to get the air conditioning fixed.

So early in the morning we left Timber Creek campground in the RMNP and proceeded east on highway 34 (Trail Ridge Road), a twisty, windy, steep road headed towards Estes Park. Our strategy was to leave early enough that we would beat all of the “looky lou’s” who stop in the middle of the road and back up traffic to take pictures of wildlife. This is in spite of signs specifically forbidding stopping in the roadway.

Except for being stopped by a rockslide and to to let a Marmot cross the road our plan worked out pretty well. We still can’t get over the feeling of being on top of the world.
As a result we ended up in Estes Park at about 9:30am, just in time for breakfast before we walked around downtown where Frank saw a sign in a jeweler’s window that he thought quite clever.

By 4pm we had arrived at DM RV (The name DM stands for Don and Mary Ann). After a few minutes they were ready for us and we moved into the spot where we would spend the night with a 30 amp electric hookup.

The next morning, bright and early, they began testing the AC unit to determine what was wrong with it. I was impressed that they spent quit a bit of time on the phone with the factory to verify suspected problems. The final verdict? Not only was the outdoor fan motor bad, but so was the indoor fan motor. As precautionary measures we asked them to replace a bearing and the freeze probe as well. BUT (you notice the big but?) they didn’t have those parts in stock and had to order them from Wichita, Kansas. We were assured the parts would arrive on Thursday. So they buttoned everything up and we proceeded on over to Loveland RV Resort to see if they had a spot for us for two nights.

We went by Walmart, checked out the outlet stores and saw the movie “Now You See Them” with Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman. It’s a well acted movie with a surprise twist at the end. See it if you can.

So Wednesday was a free day for us.  Time to catch up on some chores, laundry and Frank investigates an LP gas smell that EJ has detected. Frank’s “smeller” is not as good as EJ’s so it hasn’t bothered him. A leak is detected under the coach in a hard to reach spot but it appears to be a loose connection. Ah, a little tightening and we’ll be good to go. Wrong! Once tightened the gas leak is worse. Uhoh!

A rerouting of gas pipes including new valves is in order to isolate the leak so we can continue to use the refrigerator. At least Frank got a brand new aluminum pipe wrench out of this debacle.

We also asked to stay one more night at the RV park and pay in advance. The place has had a slow but steady trickle of new arrivals and we want to make sure we have a place to stay and plug in because it is hot!

Thursday morning we’re back at DM RV where they start removing the AC from Big Guy. Frank also informs them of the gas leak and they agree to fix it. Here’s the big hole where the AC unit used to be.
The unit sitting on the lift dolly in the shop.
And the condenser fan compartment which is filthy because there is no way to clean it without removing the AC unit.
Well the anticipated 2pm UPS delivery time comes and goes and no new motors have arrived. There is no way we can spend the night in Big Guy without AC in these temperatures. It was running 99 degrees inside BG. Conversations with the owner results in us being furnished a room at the local Best Western.

Much work ensues with EJ getting us and the cats ready to move out of Big Guy for the night and Frank cajoling the RV park into changing our reservation to Friday night. Seems their computer system doesn’t allow them to move a reservation but they finally figured out a way to comp us a night so it all worked out.

So we loaded the cats into the Element and headed for Best Western.
Once in the room, both cats scattered and looked for hiding places. EJ used pillows to stuff all the potential cat hiding places she could find. Finally Mocha and Taz decided that the best place to be was back in the cat house. Taz is being pretty cool about it all, but as you can see Mocha is stilled weirded out by the relocation.
We built steps out of drawers so Taz could sleep in bed with us as is her habit. Her arthritis limits her ability to jump so we try to make things easy for her when possible.

Friday morning Mocha woke us up with her yowling, demanding her breakfast. Once fed she quieted down somewhat but was still fairly vocal with her displeasure at being relocated. So we turned up the TV volume while we went to eat.  We enjoyed the free breakfast at the motel. Scrambled eggs, sausage patties, waffles, and biscuits with sausage gravy were all consumed. We arranged for a late checkout to give DM RV as much time as possible to finish up with Big Guy before we had to reoccupy him.

Yesterday Frank had also told the owner that they hadn’t even looked at the gas leak while they were in limbo waiting for the motors to arrive. So right after breakfast he went over to switch the refrigerator to electric and they were just beginning to work on repairing the leak.

We drug our feet as long as possible keeping the cats in the air conditioned car since it was in the 90’s.

Finally, after lunch we drove back to DM RV to check on progress. Turns out they had met the UPS truck somewhere on it’s route earlier this morning to intercept the shipment. This meant they didn’t have to wait until the normal 2PM UPS arrival time to start the AC repairs. Finally around 3:30 everything was done and we were able to turn on the AC in Big Guy again. We let it run for about an hour and half before we left to make sure the problem was fixed. And the gas leak? Yup, cracked pipe. And when Frank tightened it, it only made the crack bigger.
But the Loveland adventure isn’t over yet. Once we were satisfied with the repairs and had paid the bill ($$$) we moved Big Guy back to Loveland RV Resort. We were back in our old spot #189 when we noticed the voltage inside kept dropping. We were in the older neglected area of the park on a 30 amp connection. After just paying big bucks for repairs we didn’t want to jeopardize our investment so we asked and got permission to move to a site with adequate voltage.

After we just got settled in the new spot the skies got dark as a storm was rapidly approaching. And then the downpour began. Only it wasn’t rain. That’s right, it was hail.
By the time it ended it was too dark to see if there was any damage.

Since Big Guy did spend almost 2 days in plus 90 degree we figured some things must have suffered.  We  did find that several things in BG didn’t take the heat real well, especially the chocolate mints! I’m sure we will find other things as we get them out.

The next morning revealed that the hail hadn’t caused any damage but had knocked a lot of leaves out of the cotton wood trees and even knocked down a few branches.

We are glad to get away and continue our northwestern trek. We hope this will be the worst of our surprises along the way.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Rocky Mountain National Park

Timber Creek Campground, Rocky Mountain National Park – June 18 through June 23, 2013

We are sad and excited at the same time to be leaving Frisco. It’s an area where it would be easy to spend a summer but we’re eager to move on to RMNP and explore it. We have an appointment in Loveland, CO on June 25 to get the A/C worked on, so we will only have a week to take it all in.

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When we rolled into Timber Creek Campground it was much more crowded than we expected. Timber Creek is on the far west side of RMNP and is definitely not as convenient to the Denver metropolis as is Estes Park. Plus it has no hook ups so we thought it would not be as popular. However, with the help of the campground host we moved into the last remaining spot that could accommodate our size.

When we pulled in we fired up the generator because we had run the batteries down pretty low before we left Frisco and like to get them up to at least 90 percent of full charge for the night. A fellow in an Airstream trailer right next to us took issue with this and we explained it would be about an hour before we shut it down. Well he didn’t like it and moved. The camp host came over and apologized for Airstream’s behavior and said we were fine, not to worry about it. Besides it was in the time window campers were allowed to run their generators.

So we thanked him, Jep was his name, and asked if we could have Airstream’s spot because it was better than ours. He said sure and we stayed in it for the duration of our visit. Here’s a view of Timber Creek after it cleared out a little.


This time we really did have wildlife roaming through the campground.

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The next day we decided to drive to all the visitor centers to get current information and to get our National Park Passport Stamps. The Big Meadow Fire has several of the hiking trails closed. We also hoped we would be smart and beat the Denver crowds which we anticipated would be arriving later in the week.

The Trail Ridge Road goes from one side of the park to the other and is a pretty exciting ride. It has lots of banked switchbacks, sweeping curves, shear drop offs (w/o guard rails) and altitude changes from 8,900’ to 12,000’.  This is the shortest route to Loveland, so we wanted to see if Big Guy could make it.

We couldn’t resist stopping at many of the pullouts along the way. There were Elk and Moose all along the road and the views made you feel like you were on top of the world. There was still plenty of snow on the Alpine Tundra and the altitude and cold temps made for some challenging short hikes.

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After visiting 4 visitor centers (missed the 5th one because it was being remodeled) we returned to Big Guy enduring delays caused by Elk and Moose blocks along the way.

This old VW camper actually made the trip from Austin, Texas. We don’t know how the passengers survived the 100+ degree Texas heat. They were camped next to us for a couple of nights. Quite a few people stopped by to admire this old bus. The windshield actually opens out for ventilation.


Rejuvenated for another day, we headed out for a walk along the Colorado River. We thought it would just be a simple uneventful stroll next to the water. Surprise! EJ spotted this moose and her baby hiding in the trees.

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Frank gazing out over the river. And of course we ran into another moose on the way back to the car.

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Another hike took us to the Holzwarth Ranch also known as the Never Summer Ranch because the snow never melts off the mountains in the background. John Holzwarth was a German immigrant and a saloon keeper in Denver until prohibition shut him down. In 1917 he moved his family to Never Summer Ranch where he invited his friends to come visit. He turned it into a trout fishing lodge then dude ranch in the 1920’s. He sold it in 1973 at which time it was restored to it’s 1920 condition which was considered to be it’s prime.

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On another day we decided to challenge ourselves and attempt the trail to Lulu City, an old mining area. It was a good hike and we got to see some ruins and watch the Yellow Bellied Marmots sun bathing on the rocks. We also came across some young Big Horn Sheep and another momma moose and her baby.

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We made several trips into Grand Lake. It is a quaint little town about 10 miles from the campground. Several good restaurants and coffee shop. On one of our walks around town Frank spotted this Amphicar and we caught it just as it was firing up to enter the lake. Too cool.

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Unfortunately it is time to say goodbye to RMNP. We have truly enjoyed the wonder of nature this park encompasses. The weather has been perfect and we are not looking forward to the high temps in Loveland, especially w/o the air conditioning. Hopefully it will be a quick fix and we can get back to our adventure. Looks like the girls are ready to go.

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Monday, June 17, 2013

Settled in Frisco

Peak One and Pine Cone Campgrounds, Frisco, Colorado – June 6 through June 17

It’s a good thing we decided to stay up on the mountain rather than  take our chances  at Copper Mountain resort. We played outside until late afternoon before pulling up camp and making tracks. We weren’t too worried as Copper was only 9 miles away.

But, it turns out our information was wrong and they now have no camping signs posted on all the parking lots. This is why it’s good to have a couple of potential over night spots in mind when you’re done traveling for the day.

We had remembered staying at a National Forest Service campground near Frisco several years ago when we were traveling in the Roadtrek (turns out it was June of 2009). Frisco was only another 9 miles or so away, plus there are 2 NFS campgrounds adjacent to each other. Surely we can find a spot for Big Guy!

Since remembering the Pine Cone Campground as basically a parking lot on  Lake Dillon, we decided to give Peak One a try. We found a nice pull through space and settled in. Frank hadn’t even had a chance to level the coach before the campground hosts showed up wanting money. Since there are 79 camping sites here and there’s only about 6 of us in the whole campground we were kinda obvious. But the good news was that the camping fee was reduced by half because we have the National Park “geezer pass” and since we towed the Element into the campground they waived the extra vehicle charge. Had we driven it into the campground separately they would have nipped us for an extra $5. We signed up for 3 days, thinking that would be plenty of time to see everything we wanted to see. Ha!

BG Peak One

Later in the evening Dave and Jan, the camp hosts from our loop, came over and introduced themselves. They told us that the campground had only been open a week and the water still had not been cleared for use. It seems they had a late snow that kept everything closed. They gave us some good pointers on Frisco, where to dump and get water, and said that we could only stay there for 6 days as they were booked solid for Fathers Day weekend which was also the big BBQ contest weekend. They were a pleasure to talk to and we appreciated their help. The weather is perfect and welcomed since there are no hookups. Forecast is highs in the 70’s and getting down to the high 30’/low 40’s. We may even have to close the windows for the night.

The next day we wandered into downtown Frisco and stopped in at Footes Rest for lunch. They had one of these bean bag games and EJ proceeded to clean my clock.


This is the second time we’ve played this game on the trip. You would think I would have learned my lesson by now.

We wandered on over to the visitor center where they loaded us up with information and maps. They recommended we tour the Frisco Museum, which we did. As you walk in the door, you are faced with a great model railroad setup complete with scale buildings and mountains.


Out in back of the Museum are a number of restored cabins and houses that depict life back in the early beginnings of Frisco and some old mining equipment.


EJ taking advantage of one of the displays. The fellow with her has been there a mite too long as he’s just about washed out.


In years past Frank, and EJ too, had spent quite a bit of time skiing at Keystone, Breckenridge and A-Basin. It seemed like a good idea to go revisit them and see what they look like in the summer. Breckenridge is set up to handle high dollar tourists, Keystone was kind of sad with no snow and empty condos, but A-Basin was still open on one more weekend for skiing. EJ and I briefly considered it until we found out only the Black Diamond slopes were still open. We gave those up years ago. Here are some pictures of the slopes at Arapahoe Basin.


Since we were this far up in the mountains, we may as well go on over Loveland Pass. We started out in t-shirts and quickly wished we had our woolies on. The wind was howling at 35mph or better. IT WAS COLD!!


On the way back to Frisco we decided to use the Eisenhower Tunnel where Interstate 70 goes through the mountain.


One thing you quickly find out is that a lot of these mountain towns have lots of activities to attract visitors. Bicycle races, foot races, cooking contests, outhouse races and the list goes on. In Frisco we had seen several posters promoting a show of daring and danger defying “Kayaks Under Lights” at 10 Mile Creek which was flowing pretty good due to the snow melt. That sounded pretty exciting so we checked it out.

Here’s some of the kayaking daredevils.


They spent about as much time upside down as they did right side up. (Of course the right side up pictures are kinda’ boring)

Naturally a good crowd showed up to see the acrobatics.


Oh yeah! The lights! This extravaganza was advertised as being under the “lights”. Well, one big issue with this is that it doesn’t get dark until about 9:30 here. Also EJ and I were concerned because we had driven by this site several times earlier in the day and there seemed to be no advanced preparation for the event. Then we found out why. Here’s Frank standing next to the extensive lighting system used to illuminate the kayakers.


That’s right there’s two, count’em, two work lights illuminating all the activities. However they were set up on the bridge so I guess you could say the event was “under the lights”.

Which is a nice segue into nights here in the mountains. The air is clear and the temperatures are perfect. A sweatshirt, and pair shorts and loafers and you’re all set. Oh yeah. And some adult beverages.

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The campground has only been open for a few weeks and the water hasn’t yet  approved for drinking by the Health Dept. So we are having to haul in water from about 2 miles away. This is my Rube Goldberg setup for getting the water container higher than the inlet on Big Guy. As you can guess by now, we have re-uped for 3 more days.


Father’s Day weekend is approaching so it’s time for us to move along as there is no longer room in the campground for us. So we pack up and move a whole half mile to the next campground, Pine Cone. It is right on Lake Dillon, which was really low when we got there. We took the #1 spot and had fantastic views. It was interesting to watch the lake rise everyday as the snow melt began to fill it back up.

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Wildlife sightings are occurring around our site and we are having to take extra measures to protect our food from becoming some critters meal. We were constantly on the lookout for these little fellows. They will steal you blind in a heart beat!


We were a little worried about our next anticipated destination, Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP). Research indicated that snagging a camp site was going to be a difficult proposition at best.  One of the campgrounds we were interested in had a 30 foot limit on RV’s. We needed to find out how firm they were about that. So we decided to drive over there one day to check it out.

Along the way we saw more mountains, snow and Elk were every where!

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We must have checked out a half dozen campgrounds and even some boondocking sites. But as it turns out, the campground we were worried about, Timber Creek in the RMNP, said they would welcome us with open arms and said not to worry about the length restriction. We’ll find a spot for ya’. It seems that since the bark beetles have decimated the lodge pole pines and most have been cut down, the sites in the campground are more open.

Back in Frisco the next day, EJ had heard about the Dillon Farmer’s Market. Dillon is the next small town over, about 6 miles from Frisco. There wasn’t a whole lot of produce for sale, but there was sure a lot of other stuff.


Then there was the big happening in Frisco that was the the reason for us getting kicked out of the Peak One Campground. The B-B-Q contest in Frisco. What a mass of humanity! While we enjoyed the atmosphere we were really disappointed in how expensive the food and drinks were and by how small the food portions were. It was fun and pretty much a ripoff. But the setting was beautiful


One day, Frank started getting cabin fever and needed a road trip. He told EJ about this wonderful place he had read about where we could see 1400 year old Bristlecone Pine trees. We asked our camp host about it and he said “Sure, your car will make it up there”. That was all the encouragement Frank needed. Of course EJ, being the navigator, wanted to know exactly where we were going so she could navigate.  Well it wasn’t quite that straightforward. The directions were nebulous, at best. But Hey! This is an adventure, right?

We’re pretty sure we’re on the right forest service road because every now and then we see a sign pointing towards Windy Ridge. We’re out in the middle of nowhere and up pops this unique looking house.


The Forest Service road goes on and on. We’re crossing creeks with the Element and when we pass a pick up truck unloading his 4 wheel drive ATVs, Frank begins to get worried. But the Element keeps chugging along, up the side of the mountain. Finally we reach a point where the Element says “I give!”, and we stop. By our best estimate, we’re half a mile from our goal.


It’s still all uphill, but we get to see some neat looking ruins along the way.


And EJ spots something neither one of us can figure out. (A concrete ant hill?)


An old miner’s cabin.


And finally, proof that we have reached our destination. The Element has scaled a mountain (well almost), we’ve hiked a mile in very thin air (queue the gasping and wheezing) and we’ve reached our goal.


As part of our hike we had to cross a creek. There are two methods for crossing a creek on foot. One is slowly and methodically, carefully choosing every step.


The other is to run really, really fast and flap your arms like wings and maybe your feet won’t touch the water.


And how are the cat’s doing you asked. Pretty darn well. We think they like the cooler weather and tend to huddle up for napping.

Cat huddle 

It’s been a great 12 days in Frisco, especially since we only intended to stay for 3 days. It’s that “Linger longer effect” again. But if we’re ever going to get to the northwest, we best be moving along.