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"Security is only a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men
as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure.
Life is either a great adventure or nothing. To keep our faces toward change and
behave like free spirits in the presence of fate is strength undefeatable. 
~ Helen Keller

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).


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 Canyon

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 us.


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 highway, either!

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 flooding.

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.


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 1 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 things:

  • 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.


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.


After our eventful day yesterday, today's 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 direction!

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 not.

As I said, lots of entertainment for us here. It's fun to "supervise!"

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 nights.

Next entry: revisiting our favorite trails around Los Alamos

Happy trails,

"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, and Cody the Ultra Lab

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2010 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil