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Monday, December 6, 2010

California or Bust Pt.2

New Mexico

Finally out of Texas.  I have never explored New Mexico, like most travelers I have passed  through many times on I-10 or I-40 with the only stops being for gas. Never gave the state much thought and what I did was limited to how barren it was with a few small dusty desert towns which never seemed very welcoming.

When traveling in a car through New Mexico typically I would drive 70-80 MPH, windows rolled up and the air conditioning blasting away. Nothing to see and no reason to stop, New Mexico takes about 3-4 hours to pass through by car and if you fill up before entering there is no reason to stop, not even for gas. When in a motor home the rules all change. It's about an 8 hour trip and stopping for gas is required.

About half way across the state I found it necessary to stop for gas in the town of Deming. Deming is basically a wide spot in the road with the over priced gas, and a few fast food restaurants along with a few residents surviving in weather beaten small house or mobile homes all of which had seen better days which were so far behind them few people even remember those days.

Now it's late afternoon and if we continue driving the closest town of any size is Tucson AZ. which is about another 6 hours away. Total surprise to find a campground about 8 miles north of I-10 in Deming and it was also one of the Passport America discount campgrounds. After consulting the DW which I always do,  I like be able to share the blame just in case it is a real dump. Sorry for letting out a trade secret men but I think the wives allready know that little trick.

The campground was named Hidden Valley, sounds real enticing maybe even romantic tucked away in a beautiful valley watching the sun set behind the surrounding mountains. Let me assure you Hidden Valley does indeed live up to all we envisioned. Getting there is the problem. It is 8 miles north, 3 miles of nice smooth paved road then 5 miles of dusty, dirty, bumpy dirt road with maximum speed of 15 mph. After what seemed like hours of eating dust and no sign of life you come to a little rise in the road and there before you is Hidden Valley, a beautiful oasis in the middle of nowhere. The RV park was beautiful and well maintained, and the view would take your breath away. If your ever in the area do not over look this park it is well worth the adventure it takes to get there. The only drawback is that the back of the motor home and the car were covered in a thick layer of dust and due to limited water in the desert washing the RV is not permitted.

That evening while planning the next days trip I decided that since we were in no real hurry now would be a good time to see more of New Mexico. I discovered that Highway 180 would take us north the length of the state and pick up I-40 at Winslow AZ, Of course you know of Winslow through that great Eagles song, Take it Easy. This route would take us over the mountains in central New Mexico and on to Williams AZ where would would camp for a couple of days and explore the Grand Canyon. Sounds great, right, but hold on one little detail was overlooked. I totally forgot to consult the God of Fate.

The next morning the sun was shining, not a cloud in the sky the temperature in the mid 70's, a perfect day. 1-80 was a smooth and wide, the mountains calling us to come and enjoy natures beauty. O what evils lurk in them mountains. The first few hours were filled with jaw dropping beauty. Then we started to climb, twist and turn, the road got narrow and the speed dropped to a crawl. DW decided that the thinner air of the elevation, the exhausting beauty of the scenery and the rocking motion of the motor home made for a perfect time to nap, so off to the bed she goes. Though the drive had turned tough I am enjoying the views, the aspen trees which had started change color and the tall ponderosa pines.

Here comes fate.  In the middle of the Gila National Forrest topping the mountain at 7,000 ft a warning light came on. Being that replacing an engine in the motor home is $15-20,000. I don't take chances and pull over as soon as the light shows up. Luckily 1 mile from the time the light came on was a scenic overlook with room to stop. As I exited to inspect the engine I couldn't help but to pause long enough to take in the view. We were at the crest of the mountain overlook, a beautiful endless valley. Wish I had thought to take a picture to share but at that moment I was just a little distracted. When I reach the rear of the motor home which being a diesel pusher has the engine in the back, I was assaulted by a spray of hot water. After having my hand scalded by the water while opening up the engine compartment I discovered a steady stream coming from a hole in the plastic overflow tank for the radiator. For those that are not familiar with the overflow tank, every vehicle has one it acts a reservoir for radiator. As the water heats up it expands and the tank provides a place for the water to be held until it is cooled and then returned to the radiator. That's a simplified version but you get the picture.

We are now 40 miles from the nearest town and unable to drive the motor home in this condition. After consulting the DW it was decided that I would disconnect the car and drive to town and pick up something to patch the hole while she guarded the motor home. A 40 mile trip through the mountain, even in a car, is at least an hour each way but it sure is a beautiful drive and at this time I'm not to worried, we have plenty of time and once fixed we will just have to spend the night in Winslow and lose a day but we're still in no hurry so no problem. Springerville, AZ is a very small town but luck was with me and there was one auto parts store. Then the luck ran out. After consulting with the clerk who informed me that overflow tanks are made of polyethylene which can not be repaired. Seems all adhesiveves are made of a chemical which will not stick to polyethylene and if applied will dissolve the tank.  Not having the DW available to consult with (share the blame) I made an executive decision and purchased an epoxy just to try in case the clerk was wrong. Also purchased a couple of highly overpriced gallons of antifreeze to replace what boiled out.

On the way back the wind picked up the clouds rolled in, the tempture dropped and the rain started, the weather can change very quickly in the mountains.  By the time I got back the motor home the wind was blowing about 40mph the rain was blowing sideways and the motor home was rocking like it was ready to sail off the cliff. The beautiful valley view had turned ugly. Having lived in Florida where it's always warm  there I was is a cold wind driven rain with no jacket trying to make repairs that couldn't be done with a product not suited for the job. When using epoxy it is necessary to mix together the resin and the hardner, after mixing you have very limited time to apply it before it hardens into a concrete like blob. With teeth chattering and hands shaking due to the cold and rain I manage to apply a over sized glob which appeared to be sticking. Epoxy takes at least 24 hours to totally adhere but we are not going to stay on this mountain for 25 hours.
Duct tape!!! Being somewhat of a shade tree mechanic I always keep a roll of duct tape handy after all it may not fix the problem but is helpful as a temporay fix and will get you to someone that knows what their doing. I'm not waiting, I get out my roll of duct tape and proceed to wrap the entire tank with it, right over top of my epoxy patch. Back in the warmth of the motor home feeling rather proud of my patch job and thinking with the epoxy and the duct tape as backup support I'll give it an hour before heading down the mountain to Springerville. We decided that I'd drive the motor home and the DW would follow just in case the patch didn't hold. DW was supposed to stick close to the bumper and watch for water squirting out the back. Away We go!

We made it!  At last on level ground in Sprinerville I pull in to a small shopping center just as the warning light came on, guess the patch didn't hold but just long enough. At least here we have phone and Internet available so looks like I'm doing a good job of kicking fate's butt. On line we search for a nearby RV park where we can setup get comftortable while I explore our option for a permanent fix. After an extensive online search the only RV park available was located less the 1 mile away. It's dark, raining, cold and I'm tired so any port in a storm. At this time it does not matter what the park looks like as long as they have hook up. It's late so after I'm exhausted so it's just dinner and to bed, we'll worry about repairs in the morning.  Stay tuned more to come in Part3

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