Salida, CO and an Update

First an update – I’m in Santa Fe, NM for some warranty work on the scooter.  It wouldn’t start one day, and rather than drive over to Sportique in Colorado Springs I got an appointment at Centaur Scooters in Santa Fe.  We were already heading to New Mexico to meet some Lazy Daze folks at Abiquiu Reservoir on Sept. 20th, then to Albuquerque for the Balloon Fiesta in Oct.  I just had to do a little side trip before getting to Abiquiu.  Good news – the problem was a failure by the starter solenoid and was fixed less than 2 hours after I dropped it off yesterday.  They diagnosed it quickly and had a solenoid available to use.  Also, they filed the warranty claim so I wasn’t out of pocket anything and was able to load up the scooter and be on my way.  Sometimes you get an early failure on a part, so I’m not worried about the scooter.  I really liked Centaur when Chris and I visited in June.  We had stopped in there to look at scooters and see about putting a rack on my prior rig (which ended up not being possible).  It seemed like a great mom and pop shop, well stocked and well run.  They sure did well to get me on my way with no delay.  So, I have scheduled my initial 200 mile service with them, before heading down to Albuquerque on Oct. 1st.

Anyway, after Leadville we moved down to Salida.  We had stopped in there for a week or so back in late June, early July.  There is a free BLM boondocking spot just east of town, on the Arkansas River.  Leadville was nice and cool (highs were in the high 60’s, low 70’s), but really cloudy and rainy.  My 85 watt solar panel couldn’t keep my batteries charged with just an hour or so of sunshine per day.  So, Salida seemed like a good next stop, usually sunny, hopefully not too warm at 7,000 feet, plus we had enjoyed it before.   Salida has a Walmart, dump station/water at the Chamber of Commerce and a decent laundromat.  I utilized all of them on the way to the campsite, that way I would be set and not need to move for 10 days.

Salida Campsite

Salida Campsite.  The Arkansas River is right behind our rigs.

Arkansas River at Salida East

Chris had fun fly-fishing in the Arkansas River near our site.

Chris and I unloaded the scooter that afternoon.  I was really excited to have it at this spot, since the town is cool (cute with a funky vibe) and just a couple of miles away.  The next day (9/6) I made a quick trip in to get something at the True Value hardware store.  The next morning was Saturday and I was looking forward to scooting to the Farmer’s Market and the big Fiber Fest (yarn and roving, spinning and weaving, etc.) in Riverside Park.  Unfortunately, the scooter wouldn’t start even though it ran fine the day before.  Everything worked except the starter button.  We checked the battery, fuses, whatever else we could see, but couldn’t find the problem.  I was quite bummed.

Then, I turned on the water heater and it wouldn’t start.  What is up with these failures?!?  I checked it all over, researched online for possible answers, cleaned the connections, etc.  When nothing worked we took the circuit board off of Chris’ unit (same Atwood model) and hooked it up to mine.  It fired right up.  So, it seems I needed a new board.  The RV dealer in nearby Poncha Springs quoted $323 for a new one, but I ordered one from Amazon for $124.  I had it sent to PakMail in Salida – they do package acceptance for $5.  (Some mail can come general delivery to the post office for free, but Amazon usually ships UPS or FedEx, which can’t go to the post office.)

Later in the day I rode into town with Chris in his truck.  We really liked Cafe Dawn downtown and went several times while in Salida.  Afterwards we drove by the park and Fiber Fest was still going on.  It was much bigger than I expected, lots of booths.  There was some really nice yarn, fiber art, felted hats, lots of interesting stuff.  I kept thinking how much our friend Melinda (who is on her way to Balloon Fiesta after summer in Alaska) would have loved it.  I meant to get a picture, but failed.  Here’s a shot I took of our favorite coffee place on July 4th:

Cafe Dawn

Cafe Dawn

Next on my failure tour, the batteries didn’t seem to be holding a charge, even though we had more sunny days in Salida.  Checking the cells with a hydrometer showed the batteries were only 50% charged.  I called my Dad and also my friend CB for advice.   They are both smart engineers and had good info, things to check/do.  Also, I spoke to AM Solar, the servicer for my solar controller.  I decided to check into the RV park next door and plug in for a day or 2 and get up to 100%.  After 2 days one battery was up to 75% and one was still barely above 50%.  There must be something wrong with them.  I had just gotten them at the end of August in Steamboat Springs, so I swung by Napa after leaving the RV park and explained the situation.  They had to order a set that would arrive the next morning as they didn’t keep the 6 volts in stock.  I asked them to put a slow charge on them and I would come by in the afternoon when ready (something I should have thought to do with the Steamboat Napa).  I picked them up Friday, the 13th, and this set seems to be doing fine.

While at the Salida spot Chris and I took the opportunity to wash and wax our rigs.  It takes a while using just buckets of water.  The wax didn’t seem to do well on the silver/grey paint on the part I waxed, leaving swirly streaks where I applied it.  Figures, everything that could go wrong was going wrong lately.  Now I had ruined part of my paint. Terrific.  I read online that 3M makes a restorer for heavily oxidized paints and was able to pick some up at Napa.  Haven’t had a chance to try it yet.  Hopefully it will work OK to restore the silver.  Chris’ rig looks really good all washed and waxed, though.

When I got back to the campsite after leaving the RV park I found that my friend Carol, who I had met in Caballo Lake last year, was camping near us.  I didn’t remember that she was from the Salida area.  She makes really beautiful sets of cloth napkins and potholders and had a booth at the farmer’s markets at Salida.  I drove in to town on Saturday to do the market and run errands. It had been raining for a few days and more was forecast, but it turned out to be a really nice morning, great for the vendors.  I hoped to get some cranberry/almond/cinnamon swirl bread at the baker’s booth.  I had gotten some in July and had lusted for more ever since.  Luckily they had some and I’ve been enjoying it for breakfast.  If you ever get to the Salida farmer’s market look for it, it’s fantastic.

Salida Farmer's Market

Lovely day at the Salida Farmer’s Market

Carol at the Farmer's Market

Carol (on the right) at the Farmer’s Market with her beautiful napkins and potholders.

I really liked Salida.  It’s a good size, has a nice Safeway and a Walmart, walkable area downtown with parks and residential nearby, renovation of historic buildings downtown, etc.  As I said, it’s got a funky vibe.  There are a lot of cool refurbished vintage bicycles that people ride around town (didn’t get a pic), they have thrift shops with names like “Free The Monkey” and “Wanderlust Road”, and houses of different eras are intermingled, like Victorian next to a mid-century craftsman, next to adobe… I loved looking at the houses as we drove into town:

Salida Houses

Salida Houses

Salida House

Salida Houses

Salida’s a town that I could live in, but it’s been ‘discovered’ and real estate seems to be  pretty expensive.  Well, it’s a nice place to visit for now.

House

The little house in the middle with the for sale sign was about $300k!

Just before leaving we had more Lazy Dazers roll in.  John and Linda (and Sadie), who stopped to see us at Rabbit Ears Pass, stopped by on the way to Abiquiu from their home in Colorado Springs.  Also, Frank and Cookie, who I had briefly met in Quartzsite, were traveling with them, so we had 4 Lazy Dazes at the campsite for the night.  It was great to have a visit with them, and we all went out to Amica’s Pizza for dinner.  Great pizza and company, a terrific evening.  Can’t wait to spend time with them and a whole bunch of Lazy Dazers in Abiquiu over the next several days.

Hanging out with Cookie, John and Linda (and Riley and Sadie)

Hanging out with Cookie, John and Linda (and Riley and Sadie)

I think/hope the troubles I have had recently are done.  Sometimes trouble comes in waves.  Hopefully it all doesn’t sound like too much of a bummer.  These things happen, sometimes all at once.  Just the normal life of an RV’er.  It’s all probably less than when I had a house to take care of – when the A/C went out a few times (replacing the whole HVAC was fun), sections of fence falling over in storms, having to fix sprinkler heads, replacing the roof, etc.  You have a moment of upset, breathe, figure it out, maybe replace some piece of equipment, and move on.  Literally – you move on to some new piece of real estate that offers stunning mountain views, or forests, or lakes and rivers.  You move to where the weather is nice and the town is interesting.  It’s all good, and I’m loving it.  🙂

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Keeping Cool in Leadville

After Wolford Campground Riley and I headed to Leadville, where there were some forest camping spots not too far from the town.  Chris took a side trip back to Hot Sulphur Springs for a couple of days, where he had good fishing right next to the campground.  I went ahead and scouted out a place for us so we could have a good campsite well before the Labor Day weekend.  Arriving on Wednesday, 8/28, the first place I checked was a good spot, so I set up camp.  It was just about 4 miles straight west from town off county road 4, very close to Turquoise Lake.  Although we didn’t have direct mountain views from our site due to the dense forest, the views were good just down the forest road where I would walk Riley.

Walking with Riley

Walking with Riley, towards Mt. Massive

This next shot includes Mt. Elbert, the highest point in Colorado, at 14,439 feet.  It doesn’t look that high, but Leadville sits at 10,000 feet, so it just looks like an average mountain from there.

Mt. Elbert and Mt. Massive

Mt. Elbert on the left and Mt. Massive to the right

I hadn’t used the scooter since leaving Denver, since there just wasn’t anyplace worth scooting to in Hot Sulphur Springs or on Rabbit Ears Pass.  But, we did unload it in Leadville.  I needed to run to the post office a few times for a package of mail my folks had collected/forwarded for me, and for my new license with the motorcycle endorsement.  Texas Department of Public Safety would only mail to me out of state.  If you give an in-state address (my folks place where my mail goes) they say you must be in TX and should just go to any DPS site and get the license.  After going around and around with the guy I had them send it to general delivery in Leadville.  Then when it finally came, just after Labor Day, it was wrong.  They hadn’t actually put the motorcycle endorsement on it.  Figures!  So they had to remake/resend it to my next stop in Salida.  Fun times. 😦  Anyway, I got to ride the scooter to town a few times, so that was good.

Leadville

Leadville

We hiked a bit at Turquoise Lake.  Hike isn’t really the word, it was more like a stroll.  There is a mostly level trail that goes right along the shoreline most of the way around the lake.  We did part of it one day, then started mid-way on another day and walked another section.  Such a beautiful lake.  This was another spot where I couldn’t stop taking pictures.

Turquoise Lake

Turquoise Lake, looking south to Mt. Massive and Mt. Elbert

Turquoise Lake2

Looking West

Chris and Riley on the Turquoise Lake Trail

Chris and Riley on the Turquoise Lake Trail

One day I saw a post from Glenn (ToSimplify.net) pop up in my Feeddler and the title was “Leadville”.  I had been following his travels for about 3-4 years, since I first started researching RVing.  (I was envious that he got to hang near the Grand Canyon with my friends Bob, Randy, CB, Laurie and others on his way east from LA.)  So, when I saw he was in town I sent him an email pointing out the great boondocking spot we had, with many great sites right along our forest road in case he needed a hang spot.  A few hours later Glenn drove up in his new “Go almost anywhere adventure rig” that he built himself!

Glenn

Glenn with his new go-anywhere rig

It was really fun visiting with him for a couple of days in the forest.  That rig is so well done, such great design and craftsmanship by Glenn.  He chronicled the whole process on his blog, so if anyone wants to strip down a VW Vanagon and build a new home on wheels, that’s the place to read all about it.

Next we headed for Salida, where we had camped in late June/early July, just before I headed to Denver.  We really liked the town and the camping was right on the Arkansas River, where Chris could fish close by.  It was quite cloudy/rainy in Leadville, being so close to the mountains.  In Salida we figured it would be sunnier – I needed more sun for my solar panel and new batteries.  Will select some pics and write about Salida soon.

Five Weeks in Denver

Tomorrow we leave the Denver area.  I can’t believe it’s been 5 weeks already. We arrived on July 12th to check out the 26′ mid-bath Lazy Daze for sale in Aurora.  I bopped around Aurora for a week, staying nights at a couple of Walmarts, while running errands and negotiating/completing the new RV purchase.  Our last night in ole Myrtle was spent at Cherry Creek State Park, a full-hookup park.  Bev and I had stayed there last August, right before she flew back to Austin.  I knew I would need hookups to dump the tanks before moving into the new rig and storing the old.  And, it was so hot I needed the electric to run the A/C.

Cherry Creek Site - our last night in the rig

Cherry Creek Site – our last night in the rig

Is it just me or do these clouds look like the Starship Enterprise?

Sunset at Cherry Creek

Sunset at Cherry Creek State Park

Also, during that time I worked on getting my old rig up for sale and managed to find an RV park where I could stay for a month in the new RV.  Plus, I was able to find a secure storage spot for a month for the old rig.  Lucky for me they were running a $1 move-in special, with no minimum time limit. I only had to pay a $23 administrative fee. So, I got an $85 monthly spot for $24. Score!  I hoped one month would give me enough time to find a buyer for the old rig, get the new rig set up how I need it, choose/buy a scooter and take the class to get my motorcycle endorsement on my driver’s license.  It was a lot to do in a month, but it all got done.

The best part of the month was when Chris came for a visit and reserved a week at the same RV park.  He helped me get the scooter and carrier, mounted the carrier on my hitch, devised a system to store the scooter ramp on my bumper, and drove me to the meeting with the buyer of the old rig, to the bank, etc.  One day we rode the light rail from the Golden station near the RV park to Union Station downtown.  It only takes about 40 minutes and avoids the hassle of driving, traffic and parking.  There is a “Mall Ride” free bus system that picks up at Union Station and runs down 16th street, which is pedestrian only (except for the Mall Ride buses).

Clock Tower and Mall Ride

Clock Tower and Mall Ride

The first stop was the Tattered Cover bookstore.  We both like big bookstores with character and a coffee shop.  It’s in a great renovated old building.

Tattered Cover Bookstore

Tattered Cover Bookstore

Larimer Street is supposed to be hip and trendy and the guide book said not to miss it. It has several restaurants with outdoor seating and some boutique stores.  I bet it really comes alive at night.

Larimer Street

Larimer Street

The middle of 16th Street has big trees, tables and chairs, vendor carts, and there are several pianos along the way.  Folks are encouraged to make music.  One guy was banging out a tune, and his friend was singing and really putting on a show. (At least I think it was his friend.  Could have been some random dude just singing along.)  I thought it was fun.

Piano Man and Friend

Piano Man.  His friend, on the right, was very entertaining.

We had planned to eat at a food court that Chris remembered from a prior visit.  We didn’t really see a restaurant there that we wanted to eat at, and back outside we ran into a guy passing out flyers for a lunch spot.  It was for a bunch of food carts that are set up in Civic Center Park every Tuesday and Thursday.  Our lucky day – it was Tuesday!  So we headed on to where the 16th St. mall ends, near Colfax and the Civic Center Park.  It has a neat arch entrance from that side.

Arch at Civic Center Park

Arch at Civic Center Park

Inside there were many, many food carts.  It took a while to check them all out and decide where to eat.  I finally decided on a salad from the Greek place.  Chris had found us a site under an umbrella in the amphitheater area, and we ate there.  Such a great lunch!  Good food, lovely view, nice weather, great company, all-around fantastic!

Food Carts

Food Carts

Our lunch spot

Our lunch spot

After lunch we headed to the US Mint.  I had tried to sign us up for a tour, but they were booked up through mid-September.  We visited the gift shop, then I checked to see if they had any cancellations. Maybe we could get in on the spot.  Nope.  Never hurts to ask!

US Mint

US Mint

We headed back to 16th St. to walk back towards Union Station on the other side of the street.  We stopped at Peet’s Coffee for a break and iced beverages.

Resting at Peet's

Resting at Peet’s

A little further up the road we visited the Federal Reserve Museum.  (I’m a finance person, had to get a tour of one of the big monetary establishments while in town. :-))  I really liked this history of currency.  Also, there is a picture of 30 million dollars in the slide show at the end of the post.

History of Currency

History of Currency (Click to see a bigger version)

About 4:00 we got back on the train for the easy 40 minute ride back to the Golden station.  I had dropped Riley off in the morning at the Rover’s Retreat doggie day care that’s right next to the RV park.  They will also do a bath and brush, so he got that done, too.  Spa day for Riley and I didn’t have to worry about it being hot in the RV or him needing to go potty.  Perfect!

It was great to have Chris here to help me and to do touristy stuff with.  It’s very nice to have your boyfriend come down from fishing in the mountains for a visit when parked in Denver for a month!  Tomorrow I head up to the mountains to join him again.  We will be camping in a couple of areas between Hot Sulphur Springs and Steamboat Springs.  Definitely will be cooler than Denver, where it’s been mid-80’s.  With no shade on the tin can, my rig heats up into the 90’s during the day.  I hate having to run the A/C.  Looking forward to some cools.  And to letting Riley run around off-leash a bit.  And to meeting up with Chris again.

One more shot of Golden – tubers floating down Clear Creek in the middle of downtown.  Neat little town they’ve got here.

Floating Clear Creek in Golden

Floating Clear Creek in Golden

By the way, I hope to get a picture of my new RV posted to the top of my blog soon.  Currently I have just the pictures I took in the Home Depot parking lot, and at the RV park where we’re packed in like sardines.  I’d like to get a good shot like I have above now, of the old rig at Jackson Lake in Grand Teton National Park.

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Denver and onward

So we left Mueller and headed to Colorado Springs, then on to Denver.  Bev had a flight back to Austin on the 8/22 so she could be back a few days before school started on the 27th.  We figured we would get a site at Cherry Creek State Park, which is in Aurora in the Denver metro area, to be close to the airport.  We thought we would get a rental car using my brother’s special rate (he travels a lot for work), but the company had no cars.  I checked Enterprise and several other companies, but the rate was over $50 per day.  We didn’t really have anything planned to see/do in Denver, so it seemed a bit spendy to get a $50 car, then figure out what to do in the area.  We really wanted to not travel for a couple of days, get some laundry done, make sure Bev was all packed and ready to go, etc.  So we hung out at Cherry Creek.

Site # 15 at Cherry Creek State Park

Cherry Creek is a full hookup campground, with a really nice camper services (restrooms, laundry, showers, vending, etc.) building.  The building was almost next door to our site, so we had an easy time getting our laundry done.  (Again, I used CampsitePhotos.com to view and select a shady site before reserving.)

While there I spent some time researching Yellowstone and Grand Tetons National Parks.  When I knew we would be going to Denver, I figured it would be good to go on to Wyoming and visit them, which I had wanted to do for a long time.  I had picked up a Yellowstone/Grand Teton travel book in Austin, but hadn’t really planned it out, focusing on the Texas to Colorado part of the trip first.  At Cherry Creek I had a phone call with my friend Dwight, who is from that area and goes back-country camping in Yellowstone with a group of guys every year.  Turns out we had a few overlapping days when we would be there at the same time, and we both planned to stay at Norris Campground.  So, we made plans to meet just after Labor Day at Yellowstone.

On Wednesday, the 22nd, Bev and I packed up and headed to the airport.  Initially we didn’t think that we could drive a motorhome to the airport (one other reason for the rental car idea), but my brother found out that we could drive to departures, which is on an upper level and has no low-clearance areas.  We had to say a quick goodbye at the drop off area and I was off.  Sad time.  Now it was just Riley and me.

While in the Denver area I wanted to run a few errands, including replacing the radio in the cab.  The Alpine stereo that was there was overly complicated (not easy to set or select the pre-set buttons) and then it died a few days before leaving on the trip.  Now that I didn’t have Bev to talk to I would really need to get a new stereo installed.  The rig is set up with extra speakers behind the couches above the back window, so I can listen to the radio while relaxing in the evening.  This is why car stereos with remotes are very handy.  I was able to find the Pioneer model I wanted (with Ipod controls and USB port for charging) at the Best Buy in Loveland, north of Longmont, where I was staying at the Boulder County Fairgrounds.  I had originally wanted to go to the Missile Site Campground in Greeley, but it was dry-camping only and the weather there was warm.  I needed an electric hookup for A/C, so went to the fairgrounds site.

Longmont, Colorado at Boulder County Fairgrounds

The next morning I would visit downtown Longmont (very cute main street), weigh the rig at the trucker stop (only 200 pounds under max weight, must dump some stuff soon), swing by Best Buy, and then head into Wyoming.

To Mueller State Park

Mueller State Park was supposed to be very pretty, and very forest-y, my favorite kind.  So, we headed out of Buena Vista on Hwy. 24 towards Colorado Springs.  This was on Saturday morning, 8/18.  We made a couple of stops: grocery store, Wilkerson Pass, etc.

Wilkerson Pass – 9,507 feet

We got to Mueller about 12:30 or so.  The campground was FULL!  Darn!  I should have tried harder to get there early, given that it was Saturday.  I knew there were some National Forest Service campgrounds in the area, so we went back to the town of Divide to fire up the Mi-Fi and Ipad to check AllStays for options.  North of Woodland Park (a very nice city, by the way) is South Meadows Campground, so we headed there.  The site was $20, with no hookups, but worth it.  Check out the site.  The camphost said it was the best site in the campground.

Our site at South Meadows CG

Our backyard at South Meadows Campground

South Meadows Campground Site

Dinner cooking on the fire

The next morning we headed back to Mueller.  Lots of campers head back home on Sunday mornings, so we were confident we would be able to get a site.  The ranger working the check-in booth was the same lady who gave us the full campground news the day before, and this time she was happy to give us a site that she thought was a great location.  It was.

Mueller State Park

Mueller Site #44

Mueller Site

Mueller sits next to Pikes Peak, and most of the park has great views (backside views).  Mueller has lots of trails, but dogs aren’t allowed.  But, our site was special.  There is a secret trail behind the site.  There was a solo woman camper next to us from Denver, who visited Mueller often.  She said our site was the best in the campground, because of the secret trail.  Somehow we kept getting the best sites!  I’m not complaining.

Riley and Pikes Peak View

Secret trail behind site #44

Beautiful Colorado

Flower at Mueller

Deer visiting our site

Mueller was a very nice park.  I would have stayed longer, but we had reservations at Cherry Creek State Park in Denver for the 20th and 21st, before Bev’s flight out on the 22nd.  So we headed towards Colorado Springs to pick up I-25 and on to Denver.