Beaver Creek & Trip Summary

Chillaxing

When leaving Wyoming I considered whether to revisit the Black Hills of South Dakota, the vastness of Montana, or spend some lazy time in Beaver Creek, Colorado. BC won out.

My good friends Walter & Doris own a condo in Beaver Creek and were kind & generous to let me stay there a few weeks. The earliest I could get into the Vineyards in Grapevine without having to relocate from site to site was October 12 so I hung in BC until the 9th. Three weeks stationary—a change of pace that would resume once I got back to G’Vine. . .

I dropped Synko off at the Wolf Lot in Beaver Creek, set her up with the solar panel juicing the batteries to keep the ice in the freezer and a couple beers in the reefer cold, and then settled into Borders Lodge.

The timing was good, as my truck had developed a significant oil pan gasket leak; I poured six quarts of oil into it within a weekish. Finding a diesel mechanic was a challenge in the Vail Valley/Frisco/Silverthorn area. So I ended up driving 82 miles to Columbine Ford in Rifle. I can’t recommend them enough. They worked me in and, although the parts had to be brought in from Denver, had my truck squared away in a week (oil pan jobs on Ford diesels are a 2-3 day event). Although the work was covered by warranty, the dealer didn’t have loaners available or a car rental on-site. I ended up renting a Hertz SUV at the Rifle airport. When I say renting I actually mean it felt like buying. I may take that up with Ford later. . .

The rest of the time I took a few hikes (but not while my hiking gear was safely stored in my truck in Rifle), hit Vail Brewing Company and Bonfire Brewing, and perfected being a lazy bum. I didn’t even find the motivation to visit Vail, Frisco or Breck. Been there; done that.

So on Friday morning the 9th, I hooked up Synko and headed back to the flats. I was ready to be “home” but not looking forward to the drive. I am not a fan of the long, first/last day drive from Grapevine; it’s just boring, familiar scenery. Initially I planned to stretch the 1-2 day drive into three so I could watch some college ball and see what creative way the Cowboys could find to score 38 points and likely lose—again. #WorstDefenseInFootball

Instead, I muscled through to Amarillo the first day and then Day 2 I detoured through Denton for a badly needed rig wash (with a 90 minute wait). As the Vineyards was full up, I stayed in the beautiful Elk’s Lodge parking lot for two nights. Spent Sunday at Ryan’s watching the Cowboys win the game and lose a quarterback. Ugh, there goes the season. . .

All-in-all, ’twas a decent trip.

Trip Summary
  • Racked up a total of 4315 miles
  • Synko hung with me for 3320 miles (77%); most of the non-towing driving was in Wyoming looking at potential property purchase locations)
  • Drove a total of 111 hours
  • Traveled through 4 states
  • Crossed the Continental Divide just a few times, unlike last summer when I lost count of how many times I crossed the Divide
  • Visited Yellowstone National Park (but just a quick drive-thru)
  • Saw a couple elk fighting for love rights, a moose when I stopped to pee, and several antelope.
  • Enjoyed an early season winter storm in Laramie
  • Stayed in 17 different campsites and one condo (twice) over 56 days
  • Averaged 11.2 MPG in fuel consumption
  • Got oil service in Alamosa and oil pan gasket repair in Rifle for the truck


The Last (Broken) Leg

While this trip had its fun moments, overall it was my least favorite trip so far. I blame it mainly on Covid response.

From Greenville I headed a couple hours east  again to Rock Hill. I was getting Synko’s wheel bearings repacked and the Morryde suspension installed. I’d waited an extra week for the parts to arrive after the factory went back to work after a Covid shutdown. While backing the rig into the service bay I had my head up my ass and busted out my back window on a too-tight turn. SonofaB! 😡

But I got really lucky as SafeLite in Charlotte had me fixed up by 10am. Those guys rock. When I left SafeLite and got on the highway a rock took a good chunk out of my windshield—right in my field of vision.  😤 By now the SafeLite guys were full for the day and advised me to get it replaced when I got home. Good enough; I could live with it.

Then when I was having lunch the RV service guys called and said the suspension parts hadn’t come in. So I waited around a week for nothing. Dammit. 😩

As I headed west I had to keep resetting my route because the bitch in the box (my navigation app) kept trying to send me through the hell-hole that is Atlanta. Plus, I wanted to stay off interstates and enjoy the scenery of north Georgia. Nearing my destination for the night I pulled in for fuel in a small station. And broke out my rear window reacting to an unseen obstacle. SONOFA&$#%€¥@!BITCH! 🤬

I overnighted in a crappy campsite at the Cartersville KOA—after screwing with my inverter which would not pass commercial power through. Took me an hour to figure out my surge protector was only passing one of the two legs of power. A couple G&Ts (ok, three) took the edge off. In the morning I dropped into Lowe’s and patched the rear window with yard sign material and painters & duck tape. Worked great!

The Final Respite

My drive from the north-of-Atlanta area took me through Georgia into Alabama and the small, pretty campground at Davis Lake off the Natchez Trace Parkway south of Tupelo. I’d been here two years ago and thought it was a cool place then. It still is, sitting on a small no-wake lake with nice water views. I stayed two nights. As I was puttering around a man came over to say hello. We had met each other two years ago here and he and his wife were back now for the first time since then. What are the odds? Anyway, I enjoyed chatting with Harry, especially since we share the same political and patriotic beliefs. It was a nice couple days!

 Into Texas

US-82 is a really good drive across Mississippi and Arkansas. Much much better than the interstate. I hit Texarkana early but was a little saddle sore so I stayed the night there. Sunday morning I joined 121 in worship online and then headed into DFW. It was a good trip in that no major issues arose but I missed out on a lot of what I’d hoped to see thanks to our Covid over-response. Stats for the trip, including Spring 2020 to Utah & Nevada:

  • Racked up a total of 7492 miles
  • Synko hung with me for 6419 miles (86%)
  • Drove a total of 181 hours
  • Traveled through 12 states
  • Stayed in 45 different campsites
  • Averaged 10.9 MPG in fuel consumption (I thin the drop in fuel efficiency is due to the air running all the time.
  • Repacked Synko’s wheel bearings.

I’m now back at the Vineyards in Grapevine for a month to get my license to carry and then I’m heading west into the Rockies. That’s where I belong.

To the Bears Ears

Finally back on the road my primary destination this summer is the East Coast — by way of the Southwest. I’m picking Julie up at Las Vegas airport the last week of May and then we’re going up to Pahrump to visit Pam & Billy.

But first I planned to visit a few places I’ve missed so far.

The first hurdle is to get through North Texas. It’s such a beatdown drive with simply nothing to see. I do like Caprock Canyons State Park in the Texas panhandle but for a stupid reason state parks were still closed due to the Corona virus farce. So I spent the first two nights in unremarkable Lubbock and North Albuquerque KOAs.

Day 3 took me to a Harvest Hosts location—Mancos Brewery, where I stayed last year. It’s a cool spot in a sleepy Colorado mountain town but, of course, they could only sell food and beer to go thanks to the Corona virus farce. Still, good food and a free night with a solid view is a deal.

Monument Valley
Monument Valley
After watching church Sunday morning I drove to Monument Valley Utah and pitched camp early, throwing a rack of baby backs on the grill. The lazy afternoon included visit from a small herd of sheep and then ended with a beautiful sunset across the mesa.

My layover day gave me the opportunity to visit a couple areas I’ve missed in past trips: Bears Ears National Monument and Natural Bridges NM. Like other massive national monuments, Bears Ears is managed by the Bureau of Land Management while Natural Bridges is part of the National Park System. The entire area with its bluffs, monoliths, arches and bridges is beautifully raw, bold and intimidating. I love it!

Bears Ears is named after an Indian legend:

One of the more popular Navajo stories is that of Changing-Bear-Maiden, who was very beautiful and desired by many men. She would have nothing to do with them. However, Coyote, the trickster, persuaded Changing-Bear-Maiden to marry him in spite of her brothers’ warning that the union would bring evil.

Changing-Bear-Maiden began to change and by winter’s end her transformation into a mischievous bear was complete. Realizing that the only way to save her was to change her into another form, her brother killed Changing-Bear-Maiden, cutting off her ears and throwing them away. They became the buttes seen today.

Ok then.

The area includes Monument Valley and is quite remote. I was impressed that the campground had reliable power and good water. And while I know it defies physics, cell and internet coverage seems to vary with the wind, of which there was plenty. Another interesting feature is the Moki Dugout, a two-mile section of steep, narrow gravel road between two paved state highways. It ascends/descends an abrupt cliff face so I guess would be pretty expensive to widen and pave. It’s kinda cool… Anyway, check the photos below for this period of the trip. They don’t do the landscape justice but you’ll get an idea of why I travel. And with that, and a thin layer of dust throughout my rig, I continued on toward the north rim of our Grand Canyon. Stay tuned!

The Final Stretch

Wrapping up summer . . .

After a two-year hiatus I returned to Beaver Creek, my stomping grounds of several of the past nine summers. Met up with Shelley & Brett and just lazed around for a few days. We also met with our friend Dennis (from Puerto Rico days) and his bride in Breckenridge on Saturday. Sunday brought sailing on Lake Dillion. Or not.

We had a 18 footer rented for two hours at the Frisco Dillon Marina but by the time we crawled through ridiculous holiday weekend traffic at the marina and I dropped S&B off to check out the boat while I parked, we were 40 minutes into the rental period before I found a parking spot 3/4 mile away. I opted to just hang in Frisco and prep for the evening’s fantasy football draft. Didn’t make sense to delay them getting out on the water. I was fine with it.

Monday was recharge & refuel day. Synko was parked in the Elk lot at Beaver Creek Resort. Very cool benefit—free, pretty secure parking, albeit without power. I hung out in Synko for an hour or so to let the generator bring my house batteries up to 12.5 volts. The solar panel just wasn’t keeping up and I’m still not sure why. Anyway, that earned me a trip to Eagle to fuel up at Costco, saving 39 cents a gallon on diesel. Savings which I used at one of my favorite breweries: Bonfire. Great place, great always-changing brews, great people.

The final stretch—perhaps “slog” is a better term—back to north Texas took me first 20 miles outta the way to Gypsum, CO for wheel bearing repacks and suspension lubing on Synko. She already has more than 10,000 miles on her and I’m pretty diligent about trailer wheels & tires. Bearings, suspension and brakes were all in good shape; the wheel bearing grease was more than ready to be changed but I caught it in time. After the upcoming trip to Orlando later this month I’ll likely replace her tires, too.

The relatively short & easy drive Thursday to Leadville landed me at the RV park/parking lot in town. I really just wanted a place to watch the NFL kickoff game! So I pulled into the weary & weathered parking-lot-called-rv-park—but within walking distance to Periodic Brewing and with clear skies to the Dish satellites. Turned out to be a poorly played game.

Since it was only a couple hours out of the way home I visited Great Sand Dunes National Park in southern Colorado. Cool place. I like how the two creeks that run down each side of the dunes carry sand to the lower valley where predominant winds carry the sand grains back to the dunes. Interesting cycle of generating and regenerating the massive dunes.

A few hours later I arrived in Raton, New Mexico and debated just continuing toward home but decided to hang in the utility KOA for the night and set up a 500 mile drive to Brushy Creek Vineyards in Alvord, a Harvest Hosts location. Brushy Creek is a cool little Texas winery with, perhaps, the best Texas wines I’ve had. Turned out to be a great stopover with the Texas/LSU game playing on the outside TV.

And with that, my summer 2019 trip came to an end with an hour-long drive in the morning to arrive at 121 Community Church, just in time for the 9:15 service. Trip summary:

  • Racked up a total of 9897miles
  • Synko hung with me for 7864 miles (79%); lots of non-towing driving in Yellowstone, Ouray, British Columbia)
  • Drove a total of 286 hours
  • Traveled through 9 states and 2 Canadian provinces
  • Crossed the Continental Divide countless times
  • Visited 6 National Parks, 6 National Monuments and 5 Canadian National Parks
  • Lost track of which time zone I was in three times
  • Saw innumerable bison; lots of elk; a couple moose; several bighorn sheep, mountain  goats, pronghorns, eagles; and an otter. And wolves across the Lamar Valley, which were there but couldn’t be seen with the naked eye.
  • Stayed in 45 different campsites, one motel and one condo  over 97 days
  • Averaged 11.6 MPG in fuel consumption (I was averaging 11.8 until the last day of the trip when I had persistent cross winds from Raton, NM to Alvord, TX). Overall, happy with the fuel economy given all the mountain driving.
  • Got oil service and new tires for truck; repacked Synko’s wheel bearings.
  • Used about 50 pounds of propane for cooking & cooling.

I’m now back at the Vineyards in Grapevine, adjusting to the slow-to-end Texas summer. Turned on the air conditioners for the first time this summer!…

Thanks again for your prayers for safe travels and to the Good Lord for looking out for me and blessing me with incredible weather, sights and an always-renewed appreciation for His beautiful creation. I’m ridiculously blessed.

Early Summer Route
Late Summer Route
Initially Intended Route

On the Road Again…

… Just couldn’t wait to get on the road again! After getting evicted from my home-away-from-home at The Vineyards on Lake Grapevine for the second time due to lake flooding, I became a squatter at the Elks Lodge parking lot for three picturesque weeks. I suppose it’s a nice enuff parking lot, as parking lots go. And I spent a good chunk of that time installing an inverter that will allow me to get off the grid and still enjoy the necessities of life (Keurig & TV).

But I was antsy to get rolling again and so this morning, after a much appreciated prayer sendoff from my 121 Life Group I headed west, settling in at Caprock Canyons State Park. What a hidden treat in West Texas where the Texas State Bison Herd roam throughout the park and chirpy prairie dogs entertain with their chatter and goofy antics. Pretty fun to watch. Who knew this Utah-esque place was out here? A great find!

I’m gonna spend much of Wednesday hiking a few of the canyon land trails and probably smoking a rack of ribs in the late afternoon. Join me if you’d like in site 30! Thursday I’m headed to New Mexico where I plan to spend a couple weeks in the northern part of the state.

I was gonna post a high level map “plan” of what I think summer looks like this year but that’ll have to wait until Google Maps decides it’ll play nice (I suspect it’s the marginal cell signal out here). Look for that in the next post. There’ll be plenty of detours and side trips along the way, and I usually lean toward roads less traveled. Should be a great trip in the Mountains West. I appreciate your prayers for safe travels and opportunities to grow in and share my faith. Love y’all.

Outta Texas & into the Rockies

Note: This post is maybe kinda a few days late. Vagabumming respects no timelines.

While at Caprock Canyons in north Texas I went hiking, planning on a 7 mile loop. But about 2 miles into the trek I got turned back at a river crossing. The river narrowed between rock outcroppings and had a really silty shoulder, where I quickly sank to mid shins. Poking around with my trekking poles I found the river bottom a couple feet away had a fairly firm surface but a quicksandish layer underneath. I was already having to use my poles to free my legs from the muck so … seeing no way around the crossing and discretion being the better part of valor, I backtracked to the truck, washed the muck from my boots and settled into camp to smoke a rack of baby backs.

Five hours of slow cooking the salt & pepper marinated ribs delivered outstanding results. I was pretty pleased with the job my thin-skinned propane smoker did. And I know I harassed neighbors with the great smell of smoking meat! Pulled the ribs off the smoker just before yet another storm front rolled through. ‘Twas perfect timing and a good way to round out the day. Yet I was ready to move on; New Mexico was recalling…

Here’s my high level don’t hold me to it just as I see it today route plan for the summer. We’ll see how many detours I find along the way. There will likely be many. Vagabumming requires pretty inexact planning.

On the Road Again!

New Digs!
New Digs!

After laying low for 4½ months I’ve finally hit the road again! In the meantime, I dug into my wallet a bit and upgraded B to a new 4-season 5th wheel trailer. Lotsa research led me to the Grand Design Reflection 337RLS. It has a very similar floorplan as B but adds a slide-out in the bedroom for more floor & closet space and a larger bath (especially the shower!). Plus, the basement is heated so freezing temps aren’t an issue—except for the massive amounts of propane I seem to have been burning the past few weeks in Grapevine.

Today was an easy 3-hour scoot down I35 to Mother Neff State Park, with the namesake of one of my favorite ladies: Isabel! Landed a beautiful campsite—one of the nicest. From here I’m going to Austin to visit the state capitol (have heard the building is kinda cool) then through the Texas Hill Country, out west to Big Bend National Park, then to the Phoenix area for some favorite pastime spring training, and then as far west as Las Vegas to visit my cousin Pam & Bill. Brad & Jonathan are joining me in Arizona; Julie is catching up in Vegas. Then I’ll be back in G’Vine for Easter and a couple weeks of pre-hot north Texas, before heading back to the Rocky Mountains in mid-May.

Feels good to be hitting the trail again. Glad to have you tag along!

Lone Star State

Getting Away

My first day towing the new rig was designed to be a short drive. As I was headed toward Austin to visit the state capitol (turns out, I didn’t) I mapped out a state park that was sorta en-route. Mother Neff, west of Temple, is an understated but nice park and I landed a superb campsite—one of the nicest in a state park. After a short hike in the morning to kick a tree stump and try to break my toe, I headed down the road to McKinney Falls State Park.

This campsite was less inviting and my apprehension about unhooking the fiver from the truck was discernible. But all went well and the rig stayed where I parked her. The auto-leveling system even handled the grade. Very pleased.

I headed into town to grab lunch at Lazarus Brewing where the carnitas tacos were good and my flight of tasters was fair—and then hit REI for a new pair of boots because hiking in athletic shoes is apparently stupid. Got some good boots.

New flash: Austin traffic sucks! I decided that if I was gonna visit the state capitol it’d be another time. For this trip, I’d hang at the park, check out the hiking trails and lay low before heading west. After Friday’s hike I scouted out St Elmo Brewing, whose Merle is an excellent oaked Czech Pilsner. Highly recommend!

After some tax return work (yuck) in the morning I headed out on another couple-hour drive to Fredericksburg and a free overnight at Messina Hof Winery.

Saturday brought a 385 mile, 7-hour drive from Fredericksburg to the Stillwell Store campground, 8 miles outside Big Bend National Park. Lots of good border patrol activity going on as I neared Del Rio; cleared a couple checkpoints. And now I’ve got enough miles with the new rig to get a feel for its fuel economy versus my previous, 5,000 pound lighter and less-tall trailer. The numbers did not go the direction I had optimistically hoped, lol.

Big Bend

Unable to join church online because there was no internet in the campground, I spent all day Sunday checking out the national park. I’ve wanted to come here for 30 years but it’s so dang far from anywhere! But it is worth it! Despite being spring break and the park being fairly crowded (no in-park campsites available), the place is so big you feel like it’s yours alone. And given that it’s spring, the desert was in full bloom! I know a blue bonnet when I see one but that’s about the extent of my flora knowledge. Suffice to say, the desert floor was painted in reds, yellows, whites and blues. Simply spectacular. A few of the images in the slideshow fail to capture the incredible blue bonnet field I came across. And the smells were amazing. God does an incredible job!

Big Bend National Park
Big Bend National Park

The 30-mile Ross Maxwell  Scenic Drive is aptly named. This road winds throughout the park and offers great views and side trips. It eventually ends at Santa Elena Canyon where the Rio Grande spills out into the valley floor. I chose to not backtrack but take Old Maverick road toward Terlingua. The speed limit on this dirt road is posted 25 MPH but the severe washboard surface kept me to about 15. Nevertheless it’s another pretty road and led me straight to Terlingua.

Quickly viewed the iconic Terlinqua cemetery and stopped in for some (appropriately) very good chili at the El Dorado hotel.

Texas Mountains!

Monday’s drive was through the Davis Mountains of West Texas and Guadalupe National Park. Who knew Texas had real mountains? Reminded me of the San Gabriels in Southern California. Made for a really enjoyable drive (except for 30 miles of I-10 blahs). Wrapped up the day with a visit to Carlsbad Caverns. More on that in the New Mexico post…

 

Southwest Spring Summary

An alliteration of S’s for my spring in the southwest: stunning, superior, scenic, sensational, spectacular, striking, splendid.

From the boldness of Big Bend to the uplifted canyons of Utah to the fun of spring training and a week visiting Pam & Billy, this was an awesome six weeks! Checkout my posts for this phenomenal Southwest trip.

Trip stats:

  • Racked up a total of 5752 miles
  • The trailer hung with me for 3956 miles (69%); lots of non-towing driving in Big Bend, Death Valley, Bryce, Canyonlands)
  • Drove a total of 151 hours
  • Traveled through 7 states
  • Stayed in 21 different campsites over 44 days
  • Averaged 12 MPG in fuel consumption (that’s as good as I got last summer towing a traditional trailer that was 5 thousand pounds lighter; I’m very pleased!)
  • Used 90-100 pounds of propane for cooking, cooling, and lots of heating

I’m now back at the Vineyards Campground on Lake Grapevine until mid-May when I take off for the Rockies for the entire summer!

I appreciate God giving me this awesome opportunity and for looking over me while I traveled this region of our great land. And thanks for your prayers for safety. Love y’all. God’s best,

Mark

 

Texas Woods

Day one is in the books. I got away from G’Vine about 11am and headed south. Good trip. Tons of beautiful wildflowers along Interstate 45—yellows, pinks, reds, whites, blues. Really pretty stuff.

The trailer (she still needs a name I suppose) followed along pretty well. But I did coax her with a loving “c’mon B” a couple times when road conditions on the smaller state highway caused some unexpected sway action. I’ve moved my heavy tool boxes from the front storage bin to my truck bed to unload trailer tongue weight; we’ll see if that straightens B out some.

Martin Dies is a cool state park. Lotsa trees, lotsa water, lotsa lotsa lotsa skeeters. Grilled up some Trader Joe’s marinated chicken & zucchini and paired that with a Franciscan Merlot. And with that, the day is a wrap! Headed to the Big Easy tomorrow.