Friday, June 18, 2010

Pikes Peak or Bust

Well we made it to Pikes Peak or at least close to it in Colorado Springs. We can see the mountain from our campground, the Wrangler RV Ranch in Colorado Springs. Let all visions of horses and cowboys vanish from your mind, we are in a dumpy trailer park at the north end of airport next to Peterson Air Force base. And no, we did not bust, but we sure did break, getting here.

For those of you that like to hear the tales of woe, here it goes. We left last Saturday after loading up the coach. The heat index was well over 100 and we both felt like sweat balls. Our new $2,000 air conditioning repair worked like a champ. If you are ever in the area, there are very few campgrounds between Fort Pierce and Orlando along the Florida Turnpike. Our search took us twenty miles off the turnpike to a place that was closed. We parked the coach in the middle of a big field that had an electric plug. Someone wandered by and said watch out for the alligators with that dog, they have gotten two already this month. That is all that Linda needed to hear. Needless to say she was not very comfortable staying, but it was late and there was no other choice.

We left early the next morning after Jake walked in the middle of the field, but nowhere near the water. It took about three minutes to realize that our $2K A/C repair had failed. That was OK, we started the generator and ran the two roof top house air conditioners and the coach kept cool. Did we mention that now it was close to 100 degrees outside? That night the main house unit started tripping off the circuit breaker. The next day it quit and would not restart. The rear unit alone was not enough to keep us cool, and it was hot. We found a garage near Pensacola that said they could repair the unit the next day, so we stopped and “camped” in their driveway. They did have an electric plug and we could run the rear A/C unit, so it was not too bad.

They were on it first thing in the morning and by noon we were on our way, both the dash air and the house air working. The coach was lighter now that we left $750 with them to clean out a spider web that was shorting out the main A/C unit and to fix a leak and recharge the dash air system that we had fixed at home. We made it to the other side of Baton Rouge before we stopped. We had hoped to have some of that fine Cajun cooking, but there was no place to eat near the place we stopped. The next morning we were on the road again early, but it was already hot. It took about two minutes to realize that the dash air had failed again. But at least both house A/C units were working and we certainly needed it as we sat in 100 degree heat in Dallas rush hour traffic. We stopped that night in the middle of nowhere between Dallas and Amarillo, TX.

Mike shut down the generator and plugged in the power cord and the main A/C unit was dead. We were not too worried about the night as the rear one will cool the bedroom. We tried to make arrangements with a mobile mechanic to repair it, but found that when we started our generator again, the A/C worked. It turned out it was a bad plug at the campground that was our problem. Wednesday we were running northwest through Texas.

After leaving Amarillo and hitting the most desolate stretch that we had seen so far, the truck started to overheat. It was fine going downhill, but every time we started up a hill the temperature climbed to close to 220 degrees. Our motor has an automatic system which shuts it down if it gets a little hotter than that. We slowed down to 45-50 mph and made it into the only town along the route at 5:30 PM. Like an oasis there was a sign that said Peterbuilt truck service. Mike knew what the problem was. The radiator is in back of the engine instead of in front like a car and it gets dirty and plugged up from the road grim. It has to be degreased and steam pressure cleaned. We had a lot bigger hills and mountains to climb, so it had to be done before we could go on. They were still open so Mike went in. We were hoping that they would be able to get to us the next morning, but were not looking forward to “camping” in this dirt and mud lot next to a cattle yard. To our surprise they told Mike to drive around back and they would blow it out now as best as they could before they closed at 6:00 PM.

At six we were back on the road with a clean radiator and drove to New Mexico where we camped at 6200 feet. The coach ran well with no overheating. We got out of the coach and it was 70 degrees, the coolest weather we have felt since last April; and it felt good. That night we slept without any air conditioning and it was actually cool enough to pull on a blanket.

Friday we drove from New Mexico to Colorado Springs and experienced out first full day without any new truck problems. Of course it was only a short drive. To say it was a long and tiring trip would be an understatement. Linda said it felt like we were in the coach for five months, not five days. Needless to say there was some tension. We both were starting to wonder what we were doing traveling in a hot box instead of enjoying our beautiful air conditioned home in the Keys.

Now we do not want to paint too negative of a picture. We had some highlights along the way. Sunday we stopped on St. George Island near Apalachicola, FL and visited with our friends, Rick and Cindy Alexander. They have a house right on the beach and we parked the coach next to it. They knew that we like oysters and had bought a half a bushel for dinner that night. We had oysters on the half shell and on the grill cooked all different and wonderful ways. We had a great time visiting with the Rick and Cindy again. Rick and Mike even got to exchange birthday greetings. Linda and Jake had some wonderful long walks along their beautiful dog friendly beach, some say the prettiest in all of Florida.

Monday we stopped at the Wray Ranch to visit Jennifer Wray. Jennifer is the breeder that we got Jake from five years ago. Jake got to see and play with three of his brothers and one of his sisters. They all had a ball. Linda has been worried that Jake was getting too heavy. As it turns out he was the lightest of them all. One of his brothers weighs 115 pounds and has a head like a small bear.

We spoke earlier of the Peterbuilt truck repair shop in Dalhart, TX. Not only did they get us in and take care of our problem a half hour before they closed, but they also did not charge us to do it. He had the perfect opportunity to put it to a gringo. Needless to say we left him a nice tip. We also met the friendliest family that owned and ran the little in town campground in Capulin, NM. The grounds were spotless and they really made us feel welcomed after a long hard day on the road. We sent a note to the campground in Texas with the bad electrical connection and got a reply from the owner with a very sincere apology and an offer of a free night of camping. This is indeed a great country and it is the people that make it that way.
When we arrived in Colorado Springs, we were met by our friends Frank and Linda Archer. Frank and Linda live in Pittsburgh and spend part of the winter at our house camping in their motorhome. They are now going to join us for part of our summer adventure.

We hope that your week had fewer problems than ours did. We really feel the problems and marathon days of driving are now behind us and the fun times are ready to begin. Until next time, take care.

With Love,

Linda, Jake and the Fat Man