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we supposed to be at Kenosha Pass??)


"I am still determined to be cheerful and happy, in whatever situation I may be;
for I have learned from experience that the greater part of our happiness or 
misery depends upon our dispositions and not upon our circumstances."
~ Martha Washington

Well, today was a lot more stressful than we expected.

Almost always the optimistic Little Susie Sunshine, however, I tried my best to be happy about the good things that happened (like the beautiful drive to Leadville and getting settled in again at our new home) and dealt with the challenges as best as we could.

Just to show you that I've maintained my sense of humor, here's an amusing shot I took of two cows along the Pike's Peak Greenway during one of our bike rides recently. I grew up on a farm and have seen many cows in my life but I've never, ever seen any in this position:

What's with that? An inept attempt at mating? Hurdling gone wrong? They were untangled an hour later when I passed them again.


Today's original plan was a leisurely drive west of here to spend a few days at a National Forest Service campground we like at Kenosha Pass on our way to Leadville.

The drive went well but we changed our initial destination.

Yesterday we loaded up on groceries and supplies since we wouldn't have any stores nearby for several days, and Jim got the truck and camper ready for the trip -- he checked fluid levels, filled the tires that needed more air, put the tire pressure monitoring system on the camper tires, made sure the black and gray water tanks were empty, filled the 72-gallon fresh water tank** because it's a hassle to get water at Kenosha Pass, and did other routine things we do when we get ready to haul the camper to the next place.

**The water heater holds an additional 10 gallons of fresh water, for a whopping 683 pounds of water when both tanks are full. Water averages 8.33 pounds per gallon.

View toward Pike's Peak and the Rampart Range as we drove out of the USAF Academy this AM.

We got up about 7:45 this morning. What a pretty day after yesterday's storms -- temperature in the low 60s F., some clouds but mostly sunny. All was well with our world, for a few minutes at least.

Note: all but three of the photos in this entry are from today. Most are "windshield shots" I took while we were driving so they're a little fuzzy.

OMG!!!! (or something stronger)

One of the first things we do each morning is go outside to feed Cody. His food is in a gray plastic box in the basement on the door side of the camper.

I opened the basement door and immediately noticed that the wall next to the fresh water tank had moved inward several inches at the bottom! The lower edge was pushed against the fire extinguisher, laundry detergent, boxes of dog items, and other things stored in the basement.

It looked like it would have moved farther if all the *stuff* didn't prevent it:

See the leaning wall? The water tank is to the right. The basement extends another
couple feet to the left and all the way across to the other side of the camper.

I almost freaked out, wondering if the whole camper was about to self-destruct!

OK, I'm being a drama queen but I did go tell Jim right away so he could look at it. Our initial fear was that this was a supporting wall and it might be A Very Bad Idea to move the camper, even to get it repaired.

Upon further investigation Jim figured out itís just a wall to hold the fresh water tank in place and make the basement look more finished. The plywood is fairly thick next to the water tank, with another thin layer of wood covered in carpet on the basement side. The pieces of wood are separated by about 1Ĺ inches of wood pieces like a very thin box -- you can see that in the photo above.

The top of this wall is screwed into metal framing beams and is bent but still intact; the bottom screws came out from the flooring, allowing the wall to move.

From an RVTraveler.com e-newsletter

Apparently when Jim filled the tank yesterday, in anticipation of several days of boondocking at Kenosha Pass, it was ďthe straw that broke the camelís back.Ē

The tank bulges when it is full. Until now we didn't know that. Jim has filled it to capacity many times before when we don't have a water hookup and the camper is sitting still for several days or weeks, although we donít often travel with it that way because it's too much extra weight to be hauling around.

We were lucky that the wall gave out while we were stationary and not when we were moving.

Pike's Peak from I-25 in Colorado Springs

Jim called Carriage and talked with a guy named Roger. Over the past 18 months we've talked with several folks at Carriage but we havenít talked with Roger before; he said he was the only one there right then that could talk to Jim about repairs.

Roger confirmed that this is covered under warranty if we want to have the wall repaired at an authorized dealer. He acknowledged there is a problem with the wall not being supportive enough. Later models supposedly have stronger and/or double walls in that location.

Frankly, I was amazed that Carriage admits knowing about the problem. I'm glad the company readily views it as a warranty issue but why didn't they bother to tell us so we could get it fixed before we had a problem???

And what about a stronger tank that doesnít bulge?? Maybe we should have asked for a replacement tank while we were at it . . .

Above and below:  heading west on US 24 toward Manitou Springs

Jim has researched the location of Carriage dealers in Colorado previously about other issues. We knew the closest dealer is Kettleson in Denver, with ones farther away in Poncha Springs and South Fork, Colorado.

Roger looked at the list of current dealers but couldn't find any that are closer to Colorado Springs, or even within several hours east.

Jim called Kettleson and the dealer in Poncha Springs this morning. Since we didnít buy our rig from either dealer, both places said it would be three to four weeks before we could get in for the repair. It's much too far to take it back to the dealer in southern Texas where we bought it even if they could do the work sooner. 

So Jim asked Roger about repairing it himself. He's done several previous repairs himself and Carriage has sent us the materials/parts/supplies for free.

One of Jim's previous repairs was to the water pump.

Roger said Carriage would pay for any supplies we need, like plywood and hardware, if Jim does the work again.

Jim thinks he can probably do just as good a job as a dealer whoís never seen this problem before. Itís been mentioned on the Carriage forums only once that Jim recalls, so I donít think most owners have had this problem. It doesnít seem like very many of the people who participate on these forums boondock as much as we do and ever need to fill their tanks to the point they'd bulge out.

Jim plans to post a question to one or both of the Carriage forum tonight to see if someone can offer any suggestions re: reinforcing the wall.

Too bad Dick and Kay left the campground several days ago. They have a 2011 35SB3. It would have been helpful to look at their wall/tank to see if theirs was equipped differently than our 2010 version.

We did the next best thing, though Ė we looked at Paul and Paulaís 2011 unit across the road. Although it's a different floor plan Jim wasnít able to see any difference from ours re: the water tank and construction of the basement wall. With the wall intact it's hard to get a good look inside the compartment with the tank.

Finally ready to pull out of our site at the Academy this morning

Fortunately we weren't in a big hurry to leave. The campground office said we could stay in our site longer if needed and we didn't have to get to Kenosha Pass anytime soon; you can't make reservations in the campground where we were going.

In fact, we didn't have to get to Kenosha Pass at all. It was just a nice spot to hang out for a few days before heading to Leadville. I had planned to hike on the Colorado Trail and Jim was going to ride his bike on the nearby forest roads.

However -- until Jim is able to fortify and secure that basement wall, we couldn't drive a hundred miles through the Rockies with a full or even half-full tank of water. We had to empty it. The best plan was to forget Kenosha Pass right now and go straight to Jack's house in Leadville, where we have a water connection and Jim can work on the wall in a more leisurely manner.

The arrow points to the Incline that hardy runners/hikers like to climb on the face of Rocky Mountain. It's
an abandoned section of the cog railway that goes to the summit of Pike's Peak, which is in the background.

Tip for other RVers -- even when you have a water hookup, always keep some fresh water in the tank in case your source of water is cut off. We've had that happen at campgrounds several times for various reasons including freezing weather, scheduled maintenance, and unexpected repairs.

Jim completely drained the fresh water tank down our sewer connection at Peregrine Pines and we set off from the Academy about 11 AM. It was sunny and 72 F., about the same as when we got to Leadville three hours later.


We had two basic choices for routes since we were leaving from the north side of Colorado Springs.

The first was to go north on I-25 to I-470 and I-70 west and down CO 91 to Leadville. That route is longer but probably faster with all the freeway miles. However, we'd have metro Denver traffic to deal with and two 11,000+ foot passes to climb and descend.

US 24 west of Colorado Springs

We chose the more scenic route with less traffic and several lower passes -- south on I-25 through the Springs to US 24 west and north. That way was 141 miles and took us three hours with one stop along the way.

US 24 is fairly slow through the western part of Colorado Springs and as it winds around the north side of Pike's Peak. It remains four-lane through the towns of Cascade and Woodland Park, then becomes mostly two-lane the rest of the way to Buena Vista and north to Leadville, where it runs contiguously with US 285 for a while. It's a hilly road but you can drive pretty fast if you want.  The pavement is smooth and we didn't run into any construction today.

Traffic in Colorado Springs doesn't begin to compare with Denver, fortunately (that's a compliment to Colorado Springs).

By leaving late in the morning we missed rush hour. There wasn't much traffic at all through the mountains and broad valleys between Woodland Park and Antero Jct. where US 285 joined US 24. Traffic was a little heavier from the junction to and through Buena Vista and on up to Leadville.

Above and below: approaching South Park, a scenic valley with huge ranches


The weather was mostly good the whole way. We could see some storms over the mountains that form the Continental Divide to the north and west of us but we got only a little bit of rain where we were.

The scenery is simply fantastic in either direction on this road and today I was also fascinated by all the clouds:.


Going westbound you can see the Continental Divide to the north, then west.

There is more snow on the peaks than usual for this time of year. Two of the 14ers in the Collegiate Peaks are dead ahead when you drop down to Buena Vista; that's when we got into some rain:


The 37-mile drive north on US 24/285 from Buena Vista to Leadville is also very scenic with more 14ers, including Elbert and Massive on the left and the Arkansas River on the right:

The broad South Park valley and other range and forest lands are very green now. This part of Colorado doesnít look like itís in a drought, nor does Leadville.

We saw a range of diesel prices from $3.76/gallon in Colorado Springs and Woodland Park to $4.19 in one little isolated town along the way. The price in Leadville where we will get fuel is $3.84. That's still plenty high but lower than we expected.


We arrived at our friend Jack's home construction office, which is really a nice house he built to serve as his office for several years, on McWethy Dr. about 2 PM. Weíve stayed here many times over the past eight or nine years.

It looked like it would pour down rain any time, but we didnít get all that much through the afternoon and evening. Temps were in the upper 60s F.

Jack is in Canada on business for a few days. We called him this morning to make sure it was OK to arrive a few days early. He was fine with that and told us to just park in the same place we did last year. He would like to build several houses on the acres he owns around the office/house but the economic recession has gotten in the way of the project the past five or six years. That's bad for him but good for us, because he continues to let us park temporarily on the land while it's still vacant.

When we arrived we found some changes that Jack didn't mention on the phone. Several trees in a little "island" in front of the parking area were gone and the side of the yard where we would be parking was dug up recently for a sewer connection. That caused some difficulty with backing into our spot -- one more thing to stress us out today.

We parked the camper in the driveway (below) and got out to survey the scene before moving into our spot:

We could see that we'd have to back the Cameo in next to the side of the house by driving over some very soft dirt. It took some extra effort and we both added a few gray hairs in the process but we got 'er in.

While Jim was backing up the camper and truck tires on the driverís side sunk into the dirt several inches near the sewer connection and the rear end of the Cameo nearly bottomed out. The rear Big Foot levelers scraped the soft dirt but didnít get harmed. Without 4WD Jim couldnít pull forward so he continued backing up until he was on more solid ground. Then he was able to pull forward and back in a little farther over. 

The site is sloped enough that he had to park pretty close to some little aspen trees to prevent the off-doorside tires from being suspended in the air like they were last year.

Anyway, it will work. We can get into and out of our door OK and there's enough room to extend the awning. I haven't taken any other pictures of the site today but it looks like this view from last year:

Sweet, eh?

We have water, 20-amp electricity, protection from the wind, some shade, a scenic view of the two highest mountains in Colorado from the yard, a near front-row seat for the bike and foot races, a paved, 13-mile multi-use path a couple hundred feet away, and very nice neighbors inside the house.  

Jack's gone temporarily but a cardiologist named Bill is staying inside the house/office for a couple weeks. Jim talked to him for a few minutes to let him know that it's OK for us to be here, too. Bill's here to acclimate and train for the LT100 bike race, the first time heís ridden it. The house has several bedrooms and guests often stay here in the summer.

Jackís daughter was in and out today, too. She welcomed us back again like we are family.


We made a good decision to drain the fresh water out of the Cameo tank and come to Leadville earlier than expected. The wall doesn't look like it moved any farther in transit and the tank no longer bulges since it's empty. Itís OK being hooked up to water, just not filling the tank all the way full until Jim strengthens the wall.

Even after making it stronger we probably won't ever fill the tank with 72 gallons of water again unless we'll be stationary. We don't like the way it bulges out and it just adds weight when we're driving.

Jim can get supplies to repair the wall locally and will work on it in the next few days. We'll be here until sometime after the LT100 bike and foot races (about three weeks).

If Jim thinks a more permanent fix is necessary we'll take it to the Fox RV repair shop in northern Indiana on our way back to Virginia this fall. We took our Cameo there for some warranty work last year and we were very pleased with their work. They have an excellent reputation with other Carriage owners, too. It's much easier to make an appointment when you want one at Fox than it is at the nearby Carriage, Inc. factory; it's usually booked up for five or six months.

The view out my desk window is forest-y.

After we got settled in this afternoon we were finally able to relax again. The weather wasnít very  conducive to walking or cycling so we stayed inside -- we're weather weenies. (When we could run it didn't matter as much because we could stay warm if it was cold or wet or both.)

We have a good phone and internet connection. We're using our MiFi again now; it was nice to save our gigabytes for more than half a month at the Academy when we had free WiFi. The only thing Jim misses is TV. We canít get any stations here without a satellite dish. I'm OK with the silence for a while; I don't watch much TV in the summer and I get most of my news from various sources online.

We're looking forward to seeing friends at the LT100 bike and foot races and getting out on some bike paths and mountain trails while we're here. Stay tuned for lots of stories and photos from Leadville.

Next entry:  beatin' the heat at 10,200 feet

Happy trails,

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

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© 2011 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil