Our Attempt at camping in Colorado in 2005

This is the story of our vacation in June 2005.  It was probably the single most challenging and expensive vacation we have ever been on and quite possibly the most comical when we look back on it and talk about the different things that happened.

The few photos we were able to shoot can be viewed at the following links:

Wiley's Photos (made with his Olympus OM2n 35mm camera system):

Linda's photos (made with her Olympus E-20p)

The sequence of events actually began one month prior to our vacation.

May 22:  I take my truck to the local garage for a transmission lube change.  When the plug is pulled, the magnet has parts of a bearing stuck to it. 

May 24: 

Truck is left at transmission shop and they say it will be ready in about a week. Price: $1350.00.  Linda interviews for a new job.  I tell her maybe we ought to put off vacation until later in the year.  She says “no!” --  she is ready for a vacation.  I still have three weeks to cancel mine if we need to.   

May 29:

Truck is ready.  Pick up truck at closing time.  The truck makes it all of about five blocks and the shifter locks up and will not downshift into gear.  I manage to “kick” it in gear and get it parked in front of a friend’s house.  Ask my wife “are you sure you still want to go” as ominous signs are appearing.  She says "yes!"—still have two weeks to cancel. 

June 05: 

Truck is ready again.  Pick up around closing time, again, after picking up Linda at work.

Guess what! no 2nd gear synchronization at all.  Use truck over the weekend and return on the following Monday.  Linda hears from her new boss.  The new job starts in two weeks.  She has choice of going on vacation or working and going later.  The choice:  VACATION! 

Seven days later:

Get a call from transmission shop. They had torn it apart again and put it back together but needed another week.  Still no synchronization.  Transmission is now going to be pulled the fourth time.  I tell them I need it for vacation! I ask Linda if she still wants to go on vacation.  YES!!!  Bad, ominous signs are there! 

Monday June 13

Linda starts her new job—too late to cancel my vacation!  Past the allowable deadline. 

Wed. June 15

Truck is finally fixed -- add $385 for main gears.  Took pulling transmission four times! 

Thurs June 16

The stereo goes out!  Can’t drive 1000 miles one way without a stereo!  Camper is about packed.  Plan to get a new stereo and oil change on Friday.  

Friday June 17

Have oil changed on truck at Wal-Mart, then get a new stereo for truck ($175.00)  Finish packing truck and hook up trailer.  We are ready to leave about 7am Saturday. 

Sat June 18

Leave for Colorado around 9am (2hours late!).  Stop at Wal-Mart for last minute items.  Have two extra ignition keys made just in case!  Give one to Linda for her purse.  It’s going to be a hot day!  At around 10:30am, it's too hot to drive with the windows down. Turn on A/C---NO A/C!  The stereo installation people had knocked the compressor on/off switch wires off the switch which requires pulling half the dash to get to!   It’s 99 outside the truck and 103 inside the truck (my dual temp digital thermometer on my dash says so!)—but we push on!  Price of gas is awful this year!  We decide to spend the night at Bear Lake, above Cuchara, Colorado.  Make it to Raton, NM around 6:30 pm MDT and gas up!  Truck has been running great, specially with out an A/C compressor dragging the power down.  Start up Raton Pass and the truck is still running great—pulling Raton Pass better than it ever has!  Almost to top, a sudden loud noise starts up. Sounds like a catastrophic failure of some type! I push to the top because we can’t stop on a 10% grade and there's no real safe place to pull off!  Get to the top, find an exit--the only exit in several miles of uphill climb. The truck dies as we pull off.   Raise the hood, check the oil.  Where did all the oil go?  Add three quarts (all I had and at least 1.5 quarts short!) and decide to try to make Trinidad before the engine locks up totally.  Started down the hill, go about four miles, and as we come to the only pull off on the entire north side of Raton Pass (and the only emergency turn around on the Colorado side of the pass), the engine dies and we roll off to a stop in the only really safe area for a vehicle to break down on the Colorado side of the pass.  Call 911!  30 minutes later, a Colorado State Trooper turns through the turnaround with lights flashing and says on the PA:  “I’ll be back later to check on you, I have something I have to do!”  He heads back down the pass.  Another 30 min later, a big highway truck with push blade and lights turns around.  We are still waiting!  Thoughts come to mind of this big truck pushing us to Trinidad—or maybe just over a cliff!  In the meantime, I try to contact my brother in Monument, Co (north of Colorado Springs) for help.  He’s in Indiana and his wife is in Canada!  He says we can have his Chevy Suburban if we can figure out how to get up to Monument, a mere 150 miles north of us!  Finally, the state trooper shows back up and says there had been a major rock slide onto the road on down the pass and he had to clear it.  That was the reason he couldn’t stop the first time.  I wonder where we would have been if the truck had not blown its engine?  The timing was about right for the rock slide to have occurred about the same time we would have passed that point on the road if the engine had not blown!  Do You Think…???  The trooper calls a tow truck.  I mention to the trooper that we may have to purchase a new Chevy pickup in Trinidad.  He tells me that the Chevy dealership owner is a crook and really sorry person to deal with (personal experience!) and advises us to not deal with him.  The assistant DA who is riding with the trooper that evening says the same thing (personal experience also)!  While standing around waiting on the tow truck, I hear the Asst talking about filing charges on some guy who was arrested for carrying a concealed weapon.  Figured I better keep quiet about my concealed weapon (found out in mid July that Colorado had started recognizing the Texas CCL a few months prior!).  The tow truck shows up after another hour!  The trooper and Asst DA had already left on another call.  It’s now dark—very, very dark!  During the ride down, I asked about the Chevy dealership.  The driver says that the owner is a crook (and something else not repeatable) and that he purchases his trucks for his towing business in Kansas because he doesn’t want to deal with this Chevy dealer!  The tow truck takes us to a motel in Trinida that has room for the truck and camper (vacant Wal-Mart parking lot next the the motel used by semi’s), find out there's one room available (smoking room which stinks of cigarette smoke but we are happy to get it!) at an outrageous price for a lower quality motel (boy did they have us over a barrel!).  We decide to just go to bed and hope God will show us a way in the morning!   


No luck finding a rental car in Trinidad on a Sunday morning to go to Monument (north of Co. Sprgs).  Linda calls our daughter, Shannon, to see how she is doing and let her know where we are.  She tells her about the Chevy dealer, what the trooper and wrecker driver had said.  Shannon then tells Linda that this particular man is the meanest man she ever talked to on the phone when she was selling automotive repair manuals and that we need to stay away from his dealership!  We decide to call the local Church of Christ and get the answering machine.  A call back a few minutes later is answered by a really nice man who immediately comes and picks us up.  Before we are picked up, Linda has me load everything I can into the back of the pickup and lock the camper shell window.  She then has me put the crank for the pop-up in my back pack and I lock the backpack inside the truck cab.  We attend worship at the Trinidad Church of Christ, a small congregation much like the one we were members of for about 18 years in Walnut Springs.  They let me lead singing!  The regular preacher was out of town, so a guest preacher from Bear Valley School of Preaching in Denver is there!  Our transportation north to monument has been provided!  He was supposed to be there two weeks earlier but had a schedule conflict.  He is going back right after lunch!  We all have lunch together and then head north in his conventional cab pickup.  He takes us to my brother’s house where we get the Suburban and head back to Trinidad to pickup the camping trailer.  We get back to Trinidad around 1830 hours and discover my keys are missing (we got call the following week from Trinidad that they fell off my belt in Gary’s car).  I asked Linda for her spare key she was supposed to have in her purse.  Oops, it’s on the console in the pickup and the other is in camper!   The crank for the camper is in the backpack and it’s still on the front seat of the locked up pickup!  Linda goes to the motel to try to find a wire coat hanger and I unload the back end of the truck after prying the locked camper shell open with a tire iron!  She comes back and says the motel does not have any wire coat hangers!  Has anyone ever heard of a motel with out a wire coat hanger?  I’m in the camper shell and there’s a hammer laying in the bed of the pickup.  A hammer does wonders at opening the back window of the truck with just one hit!  I reach through the window which is too small for me to squeeze through and try to pickup the key with the tips of two fingers.  Have it in my fingers but it slips loose and falls into the console and the cover of the console is in the way of reaching the key.  A good strong yank and so much for the cover to the console!  I guess I can get a replacement sometime along the way!  Have the key in hand, crawl out and we open the truck!  We disconnect the trailer, push the truck out of the way, hook the trailer to the Suburban, and head out to Amarillo!  It’s now about 7pm MDT.  Arrive in Amarillo around 1 am CDT—find a room at the LaQuinta and time to crash! 


We head home!  On the way, we decide to go directly to Jerry’s Nissan in Weatherford where we normally trade.  We have already purchased three vehicles from him in the just the last 5 months.  He’s always glad to see us!  He has black pre-owned Checy pickups with black interiors with the equipment we want---BUT NOT BLACK IN TEXAS!  He finally shows us a new Nissan Titan 4dr 4x4 with off-road package on sale at JUST $28,000!  We make a deal and then head home to try to raise the down payment to get the payments down to an amount we can afford!  My mother comes to the rescue on that one!  We unload and leave the camper in the back yard!  Out of know where, I get attacked by large reddish-orange hornet from a nest I was unaware of.  They Really Hurt! —especially when you get stung on the back of the neck when you are least expecting to get stung!  


The new truck is ready that afternoon.  We close the deal, pick up the truck.  I then go to the U-Haul dealership for a $400 hitch, brake controller, wiring, etc so we can tow a trailer back.  We packed the truck, and with the flat bed trailer hooked to Suburban to allow some break-in time on the Titon, get some sleep. 


Leave out very early but decide to spend the night in Amarillo rather than push it.  We are now buying gas for two trucks instead of one!  $80.00 to $100.00 each time we stop for gas!  We treat ourselves to a $60.00 steak dinner at the Outback!  That was an expensive meal!!! 


Drive to Trinidad via alternate routing—taking care to avoid Raton Pass!  11:30 am:  we find the truck as we left it.  Disconnect the trailer from the Suburban and reconnect trailer to Titan and load small truck on trailer.  It's off to Monument.  We had promised to have the Suburban back by Thursday evening.  Didn’t have a choice!  We get half way between Trinidad and Pueblo and blow a tire on the trailer.   The spare tire for the trailer, which I had made sure had plenty of air in before we left---IS NOW AIRLESS!  Take the blown tire off the trailer, put it with the useless spare tire, disconnect the trailer, leave the Suburban with the trailer, and drive to the Pueblo Sam’s Club in the Titan.  Guess what size tires Sam’s does not stock!  Purchase two new tires of a larger size which they mount, balance, and give back to us.  Head back, change tires, hook the trailer to the Titan and head back to Sam’s for two more tires of the same size as the new ones.  When we get to Sam’s, I'm told Sam’s won’t change trailer tires when they are on a trailer.  They only do vehicles.  They give me a jack and I change one tire, and then the other tire.  With four brand new tires on my trailer, we head to Colorado Springs!  Get to Colorado Springs and find the traffic is like Dallas!  It's aweful! It takes 30 minutes to drive 10 miles through Colorado Springs.   Finally make it to my brother’s house in Monument, a meal, and rest. 


We take a day off and go up Pikes Peak!  We take our youngest niece (10 yrs old) and have a really good time!.  We did have a good time at brother’s house that night, even helped him fix his computer system (something I do every time I visit!)! 


We are ready to go home.  This time we are in just one truck, pulling one trailer, with one truck on the trailer!  We go home without incident.  Stay at Amarillo again.  They are getting to know me after the third stay in six days! 


We are on the final leg.  We leave Amarillo early and make it to Abilene to see our twin daughters, Kristie and Kathier, about 12:30pm, have lunch, and then home.  We are home around 5pm.   Our vacation (if you want to call it a vacation) is over!  My credit is now about like the National Debt,  I have a small Nissan truck with a blown engine but newly rebuilt transmission at home, and a new Nissan Titan truck which I will be paying on for the next 72 months.  The amount spent on gasoline will probably approach $800 at $2.25 average per gallon and the motel bills will be about $500.00.  Of course, that does not include the wrecker bill, trailer pulling equipment, and the new stereo which are on the same credit card that did not have anything owed on it before before we decided we were going on a camping trip to Colorado!


I made the mistake of going to the Wal-Mart in Cleburne to do some replenishing of the pantry.  While I'm inside, a Chevy pickup across the parking row from where I'm parked backs out and creams the bumper of my brand new truck!  The jerk then leaves and does not leave a note or anything else.  The reason I know it was a Chevy truck?  I saw the truck sitting there with the driver in it and it was the ONLY vehicle around with a bumper that was high enough to put a great big dent in my bumper!  My truck has been in my possession for five days and it already has a big dent!  The estimated cost to replace the bumper?  $500.00!  Guess I'll just have a dented bumper.


I don’t know if Satan personally wrote the vacation package we seem to have purchased, but it sure seems that this vacation was meant to test our faith!  There were more “happenings” both good and bad but the few good ones sure offset all the bad ones!  Just when we were totally down, we met new brothers and sisters in Christ who came to our rescue and we found a new church home away from home (if we ever decide to stay in Trinidad again!).  Then, when we were staying at my brother’s house, we started making plans for a family get-together in the Fall in Colorado and Linda and I got to spend some quality time with our youngest niece, which we had not been able to do until now.  Add to that my wife and I seem to have been pushed into the purchase of a new truck that we are now trying to decide who will get to drive and pay for (I won the truck discussion and get to drive it as long as she doesn’t need it and also get the priviledge ? of paying for it!!!)  It was originally a purchase planned for about three years away but apparently there was a timetable involved here that was a higher priority than ours.


One thing is for sure, Robin Williams and Chevy Chase, we have you both beat when it comes to real life vacation comedies!