Here we are, free spirits on the road again! We reached our goal of Los
Alamos, NM this afternoon, one day later than planned.
Actually, the original plan was to remain at Palo Duro Canyon
State Park for seven nights. Not only did we change that
plan (Plan A → Plan B), we
had to change our new plan twice, too (Plan B
→ Plan C → Plan D).
PLAN B: HEAD TO NEW MEXICO ON FRIDAY
I mentioned at the end of one of the Palo Duro Canyon
entries several reasons why we
decided to abbreviate our visit there. One of the biggest
reasons was the foul weather predicted for the Texas Panhandle
this weekend and early next week.
Along the Lighthouse Trail at Palo Duro
We really enjoyed the campground and trails at Palo Duro Canyon
State Park but we are glad we made the decision to leave sooner
than planned. The weather today has been nasty. We got out just
in time before the heavy rain and wind began -- and those
low-water crossings in the canyon became flooded! It would not
have been any fun to remain down there with the nasty weather
that was predicted for the next five days, stuck in the camper
without an internet connection, spotty TV reception, and messy
and/or unsafe trails to run and hike.
Yes, we have books to read and other diversions, but we're
pretty hooked on the internet, TV, and running! However,
technology is not just entertainment for us. It's our
lifeline when we're on the road in our camper.
Folks who go camping for the weekend or their annual two-week
vacation sometimes try to escape their electronic tethers --
ringing cell phones, insistent e-mail and voice-mail
messages, the same old TV sitcoms, the reality of daily
news broadcasts. They want peace and quiet. They want to forget
the pressures of the real world for a few days or weeks to
recharge their mental and emotional batteries.
And that's a good thing. I worry about people who "go on
vacation" but are incapable of leaving their work or other
responsibilities behind for a little while.
Another Palo Duro scene
People like us who RV most or all of the time may seem like
we're trying to escape reality (we are, partially) but those
electronic tethers are much more important to us than folks who
are simply "on vacation." We aren't just going into the woods or
the wilderness for a few days, then returning to our sticks and
bricks house and getting back to "normal."
No. Our RV is our home. We still have to pay bills, make
phone calls, keep in contact with friends and family, know what
weather is coming our way, and keep up with world events. That's
why decent phone and internet and TV connections are critical to
PLAN C: HUNKER DOWN IN AMARILLO DURING
By the time we reached the canyon rim yesterday morning, it started
to rain. Not only was it not a good day to be down in Palo Duro
Canyon, it was not a good day to be hauling a fiver down the
We decided it'd be best to stay overnight at a WalMart or Sam's
Club in Amarillo for the night, then assess the weather between
there and Los Alamos, NM, our next destination, in the morning.
We didn't have campground reservations there, so we weren't in a hurry.
We'd hunker down as long as necessary.
View of Fortress Cliffs
Soon after it started raining, Jim noticed a problem with the
camper brakes as indicated by the brake controller in the truck.
Oh, great. That is Not a Good Thing, especially in a driving
rainstorm, even though we were back on fairly flat Texas
Panhandle terrain again. Our concerns were suddenly more about
the possibility of high winds, hail, and tornadoes than
We stopped so Jim could measure the brake temperatures. One was
very hot, so we did some shopping at the WalMart store in the
town of Canyon to let the brakes cool down. Jim investigated as
much as he could while it rained but wasn't able to determine
what was causing the problem.
He was able to get
online to hunt for local Carriage dealers (none within 100
miles), other RV dealers, and brake shops in the Amarillo area.
He talked with several RV and brake technicians about the problem, what might
be wrong, and how safe/unsafe it would be to continue any
farther than Amarillo, which was only ten or fifteen miles away.
The consensus was "get it fixed ASAP" before further damage was
done and/or we lost control of the camper -- especially
in the storm.
PLAN D: GET THE BRAKES FIXED *NOW*
Luckily, we were able to finally find an independent brake shop
(Young's Trailer Sales and Service) that was willing to work on
the camper on Friday afternoon AND get Carriage's approval to
have the work done by them under warranty. It took a flurry of
phone calls but was eventually worth our efforts.
It turned out that the "hot" brake was the only one that was
functioning correctly! It was "taking the heat" from the
other three that had loose wire connections, which was most
likely a Carriage, Inc. quality control issue.
Jim running at Palo Duro Canyon
Meanwhile, the storm raged around us all afternoon. We felt very
sorry for the two guys at the brake shop who were out in the
rain working on the brakes for over an hour. The Cameo was too
big to back into their building. They sell and service horse and
other types of trailers, but usually not RVs.
We finally left the brake shop about 5 PM, negotiated some
flooded streets, and drove to a nearby Sam's Club to spend the
night. Local news reported that 1½
inches of rain fell during the afternoon. The rain stopped
for a bit in the evening but the wind continued to
howl around us.
Although we had a stressful day, I am grateful for several
- Jim noticed we had a brake problem.
- We didn't have an accident.
- We found someone competent (hopefully!) to fix the brakes before
doing further damage to them -- on a Friday afternoon when most
workers just want to go home.
- We'll get a refund from Carriage for the cost of the repair.
- We weren't in the middle of nowhere when the problem occurred.
- It would have been better if this hadn't happened at all, but we
lucked out with the location and timing; a day's delay
right now is no problem and we needed to spend the night in Amarillo anyway due
to dangerous driving conditions.
TIRE PRESSURE MONITORING SYSTEM (TPMS)
Ironically, while we were at Palo Duro we received a new tire
pressure monitoring system for the camper from TST (Truck System
Technologies). Here's what it looks like on the passenger side of the
dash; we will probably adhere it more permanently with Velcro on
the driver's side:
Jim had read on the Carriage internet list that such systems can help RV
owners know when a tire is overheating or gaining/losing air pressure,
thereby preventing a blowout and costly damage to their rigs. Since we
had three or four tire blowouts with the HitchHiker -- and some collateral
damage to the coach -- Jim decided to order the TPMS about a week ago and
had it sent to us at Palo Duro.
The reading on the left is the Cameo's tire pressure; tire
temperature is on the right. The device reads each tire separately and
displays the numbers for ten to fifteen seconds at a time. After Jim
mounted and calibrated the sensors on each tire he programmed the alarm
to go off when the pressure or temperature gets too high.
We will watch to see if the tires are all within a fairly close range
as we're driving. If not, Jim will get out and check the one out of
sync. If it needs air, he'll add air (we brought our air compressor this
trip). If it needs to cool down, we'll sit until it cools down.
Our Dodge Ram has an internal monitoring system. It doesn't give
individual pressure and temperature readings but is supposed to let us
know if something is amiss. Hopefully, we'll be safer with both systems
in place and with the Cameo brake wires now properly attached.
A NEW DAY
After our eventful day yesterday, today's 319-mile drive from
Amarillo, TX to Los Alamos, NM was quite pleasant.
We awoke to overcast skies but found sunshine by the time we
crossed the state border on I-40. That's also where we entered
the Mountain Time Zone; it's always nice to gain an hour
when we're traveling west!
More canyons: visitors must drive
through the canyons and up on the mesas to reach Los Alamos.
Despite the uphill journey from about 3,400 feet elevation in
Amarillo to over 7,000 feet in Los Alamos, we got fairly good
fuel mileage. It also helps that we've been keeping our speed at
60-62 MPH on the freeways most of the time this trip. Traffic
was not heavy today. a Saturday, so we didn't annoy very many
speed demons where the limit (suggested speed??) was 75 MPH. We
did see lots of semis and RVs on the road today but folks seemed
to be less frantic than on weekdays.
This is an enjoyable, fairly scenic drive, especially after the
terrain gets hillier in New Mexico. We turned north off the
freeway onto US 285, knowing from last year's trip through Santa
Fe to Los Alamos that this two-lane road is smooth, fast, and
has great views of surrounding ridges. We hopped on I-25 for
just a bit in Santa Fe, then followed 285 north to 502 west and
climbed up into Los Alamos.
Our "home" for the next five nights is the county RV parking
area at the eastern entrance to Los Alamos, the same place we
camped for the Jemez Mountain race last year. The cost is
$10/night. There are no hookups but we have a dump station and
water on-site and great canyon and mountain views in every
Our new "campground" with the Sangre de
Christo Mountains to the east
This time we have a different form of entertainment at this
location. Last spring a large facility was being constructed
right below our mesa to house various city and county
maintenance buildings. That's finished now:
Above and below: part of the new
city/county maintenance facility below our mesa
This year there's a new building right behind us (and the
popular De Colores Restaurant) that has been built on the
hillside and construction crews are meticulously building
interlocking retaining walls and filling them in with dirt. It
will be fun to watch them working on weekdays.
To our surprise, city or county crews were busy at work until
8:30 PM tonight repairing a water and/or sewer main close by. We
aren't sure if that has anything to do with the new building or
As I said, lots of entertainment for us here. It's fun to
Jim has entered the 50K Jemez Mountain race this time. We'll
move to a free parking area across from the start/finish of the
race on Friday and plan to stay there until Sunday morning, as
we did last year. That's a very convenient arrangement for the
runners, especially ones finishing the 50-miler late on Saturday
night, and we appreciate being able to park there for two
Next entry: revisiting our favorite trails around Los
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil,
and Cody the Ultra Lab
© 2010 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil