Autumn in Full Swing!

Autumn is Here

Autumn camping arrived in short order a bit like a switch was clicked! Knowing that weekend traffic can be heavy at higher elevations during the explosion of fall foliage, we “rested on our wheels” (not laurels) at Denver’s Chief Hosa Campground in Genesee Park and left on Tuesday, September 25 to experience additional golden beauty! Because the September truck issues threw a tire-wrench into our reservations at Rocky Mountain National Park causing us to cancel, we were determined to score a stay at one of the national parks in Colorado. Dinosaur National Park and Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park were too far and the Great Sand Dunes National Park is extremely popular during autumn. Instead we opted for Mesa Verde National Park in the southwest corner of the state.

Boondocking Adventures

Our campsite budget has been higher than what we prefer, so en route to Mesa Verde we were anticipating some boondocking (no hookups and free camping) in the Rio Grande National Forest. We took U.S. 285 from Morrison and down to Buena Vista. We needed to locate a dump station to empty our black and gray tanks and also were low on water for our fresh water tank. The KOA in Buena Vista had a dump station, which cost us something like $10-15. They weren’t in a position to offer potable water since we weren’t camping there, but directed us to the Buena Vista Public Works, where we could purchase water at their fill-station for a per gallon charge. We just hooked up our water hose and filled the tank! In fact, we did the same thing nine days later when we passed through Buena Vista again.

Buena Vista Public Works Water Fill Station

From Buena Vista, we made our way down the San Luis Valley, over Poncha Pass, and experienced the beauty of the Valley with the Sangre de Cristo Mountains on one side and the San Juan Mountains on the other. Upon arriving in Del Norte, we visited the Rio Grande National Forest Divide Ranger District office to obtain detailed maps and recommendations for boondocking. With information in hand, we followed U.S. 160 to South Fork and then explored one of the National Forest areas for dispersed camping. Campgrounds were closed, so the ranger also suggested that if dispersed camping was full, to just park in the parking lot at Upper Beaver Creek Campground.

Boondocking at Upper Beaver Creek Campground

Bingo! That’s exactly what happened. As dusk quickly fell, we pulled into the campground lot within earshot of Beaver Creek and boondocked using power from our battery and LP gas for the furnace and stove top. We didn’t unhitch the trailer as we had two other potential boondocking areas to explore the next day. The forecast called for a 25 degree low, which was the coldest we had experienced thus far in the trailer. According to our thermometer, it did reach 25 degrees that night and we managed fine.

The next morning we returned to route 160 and headed down the road a spell to the Tucker Ponds Campground turn-off. As we drove this bumpy gravel road, we noticed dispersed camping in several locations. We were after a view that included the changing aspen! Finally, the road opened to a beautiful vista that screamed gold! This is where we chose to boondock for two nights.

We set up camp in quick fashion. Wanting to take advantage of the sunlight, Steve attached our Zamp 100 watt portable solar panel to our two deep cycle batteries. Without electricity, it’s important to keep the batteries charged so that we have power for our LED lights, water pump, opening/closing the awning and slide, and turning on the furnace blower. Due to our 9,500′ elevation, the LP gas option on the refrigerator didn’t work. We knew this so placed a bag of ice in the frig the day before that kept everything chilled. The one challenge of camping out in the open is that we had some pretty stiff winds, so we kept our awning closed. On the first night we braced ourselves for even lower temperatures.

Boondocking in the Rio Grande National Forest

Our trailer is a 2018 Nash 26N made by Northwood Manufacturing. Sporting a 4-season package, we have thermal pane windows, higher R-factor insulation in the roof, walls, and floor, a covered underbelly, and furnace ducts that surround the three tanks. Of course, for the furnace ducts to keep the tanks from freezing, the furnace needs to run. True to the forecast, the first night we experienced a 19 degree low! It was p-r-e-t-t-y chilly! We set the inside temperature at 54. Once up the next morning, the ample sunshine and boosting the thermostat to 60 degrees, warmed us nicely in no time.

Two nights at that location made for a relaxing stay. Having a 4WD Super-Duty truck made for a fun drive back into the wilderness area until we came to a hiking trail. This trail would soon connect to the Continental Divide Trail and some extraordinary views of the valley beyond Wolf Creek Pass.

Mesa Verde National Park, A Magical Visit

Our time in the Rio Grande National Forest flew past. Before we knew it, we were chugging up Wolf Creek Pass with our sights on Mesa Verde. Within a few hours we arrived at Morefield Campground, just four miles into Mesa Verde. Here we dry camped (not boondocking), so we relied on solar and battery power, LP gas, and a full water tank. We located a campsite that was partially shaded, which we needed the first couple of days with warmer temps and no electric to run the AC. Also fantastic was our campsite was only $15/night thanks to our National Park Senior Pass. We stayed four nights, which flew past too fast!

Touring the Balcony House Cliff Dwelling at Mesa Verde National Park

Between scenic drives, walks to vistas of Montezuma Valley, tours of ancient cliff dwellings, and hikes on a variety of trails, we were tuckered out each evening, slept quite well, and found Mesa Verde a magical and sacred place. The night sky was loaded with stars and the brilliant Milky Way! What a blessing to be away from urban light-pollution! This was Steve’s first visit to Mesa Verde and my third one. It certainly didn’t disappoint us. The benefits of visiting in late September/early October included cooler daytime temperatures and less visitors. The downside was not all of the tours were open as it was late season. When I visited Mesa Verde in July of 2005, the temperatures quickly climbed to a stifling 100 degrees by noon. I definitely recommend visiting in Autumn.

We leave Mesa Verde in the rain.

Back to Denver Yet Again

Just when we were getting into a nice groove, it was time to return to the Denver area. (We’ve returned to Denver three times in five weeks). Our truck topper was due back from the manufacturer in California after receiving an unanticipated warranty repair (fortunately they completely covered the freight and repair). Additionally, the necessary “key” used to unlock the spare tire to the truck had been shipped to our daughter. It was finally time to get the new spare back into place under the truck. We also returned to our storage unit to retrieve the items that we typically keep in the truck bed beneath the topper. Progress! Appointments and errands were needed: dental, haircut, and obtaining our election ballots.

Finally, we have the topper back and installed.

Fun and enjoyment with family and friends was desired including our first Punkin Chunkin in Aurora, Colorado with our daughter and son-in-love and special visits with family and friends over several meals.

Punkin Chunkin Fun with Stephanie and Shane
Punkin Chunkin Line-Up

Cold & Gray Weather Arrives

This week the temps have stayed rather moderate for Denver in the 40s and a thick layer of clouds has replaced the ample sunshine and bluebird blue sky. Needless to say, we have been shivering more. We’re taking measures to stay warmer.

Reflectix Insulation: Ready to Stay Warmer
Foil Backed Duct Tape Seals Furnace’s Air Leaks

We’ve switched out summer clothes for fall and winter clothes. Awaiting a tape measure and scissors is a 4’ X 25’ roll of Reflectix insulation that we’ll cut to size and place between the windows and blinds during colder spells. Steve also discovered that our furnace had some places where it was leaking air, so he taped those areas with HVAC foil duct tape. What a HUGE difference it made. The furnace runs more efficiently with more warm air blowing through the ducts.

Trekking Out of Colorado

By the weekend, we will be on a trajectory out of Colorado. We’re keeping close tabs on the weather, knowing that we have a couple of mountain passes to negotiate and fickle weather forecasts. While most people are quickly heading to Arizona, New Mexico, or Texas, we’re off to Utah, Idaho, Montana, Washington, Oregon, and California before heading to the southern states.

Planning Time for Utah, Idaho, Montana, Washington, Oregon, California

We’ll fill you in on more details as we travel those states. While we LOVE Colorado with our family, friends, and its beauty here, we’re ready to hit the road and leave knowing that several truck issues have been resolved. Flexibility and patience have been necessities!

Living “Life at the Speed of Sanity” as best as we can!

~ Diane

8 Weeks as Full-time RVers!

It’s been several weeks since our last post. The past few days we’ve reflected a bit on what we wanted to convey in this entry. It is our hope that what we share from our experiences will help others who are considering a full-time RV lifestyle. We are still newbies and will consider ourselves as such until we have at least a year behind us.

We’re still smiling!

Hindsight Leads to Insight

The pace that we kept from October 2017, when we decided to shift to full-time RVers, until July 29 of this year, when we launched full-time, was quite daunting. In hindsight, we should have slowed our pace and extended our launch date another few months. Downsizing was by far the largest task at hand, especially after 43 years of creating our household! Anticipating our house rent would increase in the crazy Denver housing market was part of the impetus for setting July 29 as our launch date. We also wanted to gain some experience with the trailer before autumn and winter arrived. (Ahem…we are certainly doing this!)

The reality is that our July 29-September 2 Midwestern Loop schedule didn’t permit enough “down time” for spending at our campsites. We wouldn’t trade visiting our family and friends for anything. Instead, we should have tweaked our schedule. It’s one thing to have a road trip with just a vehicle, but an entirely different situation when towing a trailer that is one’s home! In retrospect, we needed the extra time to decompress from the pre-launch frenzy.

We are now viewing the Midwestern Loop as our “shake down” trip. Literally, we had some screws loosen in the trailer and a fault develop with our truck bed topper! We also had a good dose of reality those first six weeks going from one campground to another and refining our abilities as far as unhitching/hitching and setting up/breaking camp routines. After 44 years of tent camping, this requires a different skill set! Problem solving through various trouble spots has helped us become better acquainted to the nuances of owning a trailer and big diesel pickup!

Back in Colorado

Alas, when we arrived in Colorado Springs on Labor Day, we spent several days as tourists with dear friends of ours from Pennsylvania. Our daughter and son-in-love drove down from Denver to share in part of one afternoon. It was fantastic to hike the Garden of the Gods, drive up to Pikes Peak, tour the Cave of the Winds, and witness the beauty of the Air Force Academy chapels. 

Balanced Rock, Garden of the Gods, Colorado Springs with our Pennsylvania friends.
Protestant Chapel, Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs

A few days later we shifted gears to a week’s stay in the Denver Metro area at Chatfield State Park. We had previously scheduled dental, doctor, and truck oil-change appointments knowing that we’d be back in September. Having time with family was the icing on the cake! Our daughter and son-in-love joined us for camping and hiking at Golden Gate Canyon State Park!

Golden Gate Canyon State Park, hiking with our family.

Truck Issues

The irony of our return to Denver is that with each appointment for the truck, we found ourselves needing to schedule more time in Denver to address truck issues. Thus, our time was extended and reservations to camp at Rocky Mountain National Park were cancelled.

  1.  Our four-month old SnugTop topper had a component break on the rear window when we were in Kansas. The topper was removed by our dealer in Littleton and freighted back to the manufacturer in California for repairs. It’s due back in two weeks. We will return!

    Back to storage we go with items from the trailer or bed of the truck!

    No topper makes a naked looking truck! At least we did some reorganizing and donated more items to ARC!
  2. At Big O Tires, we had a new set of four tires installed and decided to replace the spare too. Oops…the spare tire “key” wasn’t left behind by the previous owner of our truck. (Admittedly, we assumed that everything for changing a spare was packed with the tire-changing kit. Used truck buyer fail on our part). It took some doing with a trip to a different Ford dealer that had a “key” and removed the old spare for us. Back to Big O we went to have the new tire installed on the rim.

    Removing Spare Tire
  3. We left Denver last Thursday to head to the mountains for what we thought would be three weeks only to be faced with a truck engine that was losing power on steep inclines. The turbo boost wouldn’t engage. Fortunately, we made it to Golden Gate Canyon State Park campground, where we stayed for three beautiful days. We were able to schedule a service appointment at our Ford dealer on Tuesday of this week (one week after it was serviced for an oil change) plus get a rental car for a couple of days. Thankfully the drive back to Denver was mostly downhill. Answered prayers were being able to reserve a spot back at Chatfield State Park and having the truck repaired!

    “The Little Engine that Could” Rental Car 🙂

Intentional Awareness

In an attempt to create “Life at the Speed of Sanity”, this is our short list of “intentional awareness” on which we hope to stay focused:
Be flexible.
Be patient.
Balance our pace.
Have a Plan B at all times.
Autumn and winter weather are around the corner.

The list looks good. Now to put these into practice.

The mountains are calling!

Colorado Gold at Golden Gate Canyon State Park

Living “Life at the Speed of Sanity”!

~ Diane & Steve


Quest For the Best $5 Meal

We have embarked on this journey with many ideas for travel themes: Friends and Family (over 100 in the first month), National Parks and Monuments (one – Pipestone National Monument), Roadside Attractions (largest ball of twine in Cawker City, KS and largest peace pipe in Pipestone, MN),

and the best piece of pie. There is one candidate for the best piece of pie, the story is that cousin Doug bought the pie as part of a fundraiser.  We need to follow up and see if we can get to the pie source!

The exciting news is that we are adding a new quest. Where can you get the best meal for $5?

Our stop to see the largest ball of twine in Cawker City included spending some time in Mankato, KS for no specific reason other than it was close to Lovewell State Park, our camping spot. Well, we heard of a supper sandwich special, only available on Monday evenings, at a very, very local spot. The proprietress was a bit surprised when we walked in! Diane had the BLT and I had the Ham Salad sandwich. The meal included potato chips, potato salad, coleslaw, red jello with a dollop of whip cream, and white cake for dessert. All for $5. The ice tea was extra, but I still count this a great $5 meal. (I’m reluctant to publish the name of the local eatery, but if we hear from our Mankato acquaintances that they want the publicity, I’ll publish details.)

This would have been the end of the story, except that a couple weeks later we were visiting Aunt Lavonne at the Wakefield Care Center. She invited us to lunch the next day. We found out that the meal would be $5! Fried chicken, scalloped potatoes, corn, peaches, a dinner roll, and angel food cake with a scoop of tapioca pudding. This time the coffee was included!

So, it looks like there is a whole new world of under appreciated $5 meals. Currently, I am calling this a tie for best $5 meal. Each meal had its charms and each meal was a delightful experience.

Sitting in the honorable mention spot is a Runza sandwich. If you have no idea of what a Runza is, you can look it up here. One cheese Runza cost $4.75, so it is not really a meal, but at the time it hit the spot.

Let us know if you have any suggestions!