Location: Home to KOA Bernalillo, New Mexico

Yes, we were on the road again with the travel trailer, our destination a butt-flattening and relationship-straining nine hours away.  For this reason we book ended a stop in Bernalillo, NM.  Sandwiched between are seven days at Navajo Lake State Park where trout fishing is said to be wonderful. Oh, yay.

A slow, musical drizzle fell for much of pre-launch Saturday night.  A check of the fancy digital rain gauge showed .62.  Yippee.  This is a lot for the desert.  Perhaps the yard will be knee high by the time we return.  The deluge soaked through the sandy soil by morning so hooking up didn’t turn into a morass like I dreamed it would.

As usual, Margo got the travel trailer out through the narrow gate, with a hard right cleared the neighbor’s rock wall by inches and popped into the narrow lane.  A left turn not only dodging traffic, but also turning not so tight as to drop a trailer wheel into the acequia which was flowing that morning.

I surprised Margo with the request to pull into empty parallel parking at a small park.  After seven trips of Margo driving, it was time for me to take the wheel.  You can rest assured I knew our route was on a nice highway without steep inclines or downhill screamers.  Driving a travel trailer was harder than it looked.  Don’t weave because the trailer is wider than the truck, keep rpms below 3000, scrub speed before going downhill and watch for impatient morons who seemed to lack the capacity to know it takes longer to pass truck and travel trailer.

I happily turned over the driving to Margo before we hit the raceway known as IH25.  Glad I did.  In Albuquerque, traffic was warned two of the three lanes were closed ahead.  Amazing, cutting down a busy interstate by 2/3rds among three of the busiest exits/entrances.  Got a little hairy and my “you’re a freaking idiot” voice was in demand.  We put Albuquerque in our rear view mirror, but not the traffic.  It followed us to Bernalillo where we would find our half way point KOA campground.  Even though it is in Bernalillo, the name is KOA Albuquerque North.

This is our first time to stay at a campground where rigs are close enough to almost shake hands with neighbors from our open windows.  It’s a very popular place, and we pulled in knowing we had reserved the last spot in the campground that night.  Campgrounds are always more crowded on the weekends.

A young man, in a golf cart, escorted us to our pull through site and made sure we were in the correct position.  I sure liked that.  You could see he had a lot of experience putting rvs in place.

It’s an okay park.  Each site has a small tree, a picnic table over a small piece of artificial grass, and utilities.  Boundaries are railroad ties, sunk at the ends so they won’t catch tires.  Management was adamant.  Dogs must be taken to their two dog parks to do their business, both 1 and 2.  The dog parks were not big, but with half buried tires and big concrete pipes the dogs had plenty of places to smell.

We arrived when it was too hot and the swimming pool was chock full of screaming youngsters until parents dragged them away for supper.  When I heard this I planned to go swim, but by the time I got there the place was full again.  The travails of a lap swimmer.

At 7pm it was like someone turned on a people hose.  The park came alive with people walking with and without dogs, visiting neighbors, and sitting in lawn chairs sipping magical elixirs which made everyone happy.  A barnyard of various meats was laid over flames.  It smelled heavenly.

We unhitched the truck to get supper.  Our plan involved a Chinese restaurant Margo found online and required following the road in front of the rv park to NM550 about a mile down the road.  All agog and taking in the sights, we missed a lightly marked left turn and were suddenly stymied by a divider which kept us from turning west.  We are forced the opposite.  Margo whipped onto IH25 because she believed it would let us quickly make a U-turn and allow us to slide into a gas station on the southeast corner.  I’m shouting, “No, no, no.  You KNOW New Mexico”.  Four long miles later, we reach the first overpass which lets us make that valuable U-turn.  Not as bad as missing the last exit in Las Cruces on IH25.  Eight miles before you can make the first U-turn.

The NM550 exit is not standard.  I’ll explain in depth later.  We find another gas station and bring home what must be 20 pounds of Chinese food.  Two soups, two eggrolls, and two entrees.  At least we will have left overs for breakfast and six meals after that.

We sup and watch the world.  An official acting woman drove a cart on each road.  Her head was on a swivel in a manner that told me she was looking for problems and was going to solve them quickly and competently.

We gape at the rigs.  What did these people do for a living?  Some of those rigs must be well into the $400,000 range and so long I wonder how they got in the spot.  Our little 43′ of truck and trailer was definitely smaller, but not the smallest in the park.

I walk tomorrow’s exit route as the sun was setting.  Now I know why there is usually an hour gap between rvs leaving and rvs entering.  In the morning, all the roads become exit roads.  Those setups that are massively long can actually cut across the feeder roads and use the next empty slot to turn about.  After check in, all the roads become entrances.  I like logical patterns like that.

We enjoy the last television and Wi-Fi we will see in a while and later fall asleep to a light drizzle.

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Near the top of my house prep priorities was the repainting of four bi-fold door panels of such an ugly aged yellow that I intentionally kept the hallway dark so I didn’t have to look at them.  The best description of the color was it looked like a smoker carried them under his nose for a couple decades.  The camera didn’t capture the horrid hue.  Think first baby poop.

slats before sanding 2017 aug 01The panels were painted poorly, but I couldn’t find it in my heart to tsk-tsk.  The upper half was slatted which made it impossible to prep well unless an outrageous amount of patience was wielded.  So somebody painted without sanding, leaving in places, a rough cut which couldn’t be hidden under paint.  Ever tried to paint slats?  Very difficult to do so without leaving lots of paint drips and globs.

It insulted my DNA to just slap on another coat.  It needed days and days of prep which is why I ignored the task so artfully and for so long.  While in Home Depot, we came upon a oscillating multitool.  20V battery.  Lots of accessories.  When I told Margo it would be great for the doors, she almost dislocated her shoulder buying it.  Then, from me — the worker bee–, nothing.  I hit my lazy stage whenever it was warm enough to paint.  And too cold.  And too windy.  And too nice.  With the house sale looming I was backed into a corner.  It was time.

multitool sanding head 2017 aug 05I took a pair of doors to the studio and began experimenting on the best way to use the multitool.  Slapped a triangle shaped fine sandpaper piece on the v shaped sanding plate of the multitool.  The bottom of the triangle is filled with tiny hook and loops to hold the sandpaper in place.  The back of the sandpaper has a kind of loopy cloth on it.  The two join solidly.  What I really like was when one corner eroded, I peeled the piece off, turned it 120 degrees and slapped it back on.  Fresh grit!

The triangle tool fit in 90 degree corners almost perfectly.  Brrt.  Gone was the old yellow paint.  Gone was the awful rough cut texture.  But I multitool chisel sander 2017 aug 06need something skinnier.  Yellow paint and paint drips remain between the slats.  What can I use to get to those areas?  I need something flat and not very wide.  I had kept a worn toothless chisel from the multitool.  Hey, it’s used, but I couldn’t throw it away.  I might NEED it in the far, far, far distant future.   What remains is about an inch wide and a sturdy eighth thick.    It fits easily between the slats.  I stuck a piece of sticky backed sandpaper on the bottom front of the chisel tool.  Brrrt.  Brrrrt.  Oh my gosh.  Yeehaw!!  It workedmultitool chisel sander slats 2017 aug 06 better than I imagined.  I texted Margo with the great news.  She replied with enthusiasm knowing darn well that if she didn’t, she might have to do the doors herself.  I also used it on the quarter inch rabbets.  Not rabbits — rabbets.  Look here.  Finished the flat surfaces with a palm sander.  I almost made up a song about the joy of using tools.

In three hours I prepped two panels which was so much faster than I calculated it would take.  It is so exciting that I decided to forego my next day trip to the mountains to sand the remaining two and maybe get the first paint coat on.  When all panels were smooth I started a discussion with myself of where to paint.  I can’t paint outside.  Rain chances high for the day and the next week.  I know.  I’ll spray paint inside the studio.  All I needed to do was vacuum the room thoroughly and cover the windows with plastic.

I got impatient with using the shop vacuum.  What if I switched the vacuum hose to the exhaust port and blow the remainder out?  Yeah.  Yeah…..bad, bad idea.  Dust swirled so thick it looked like the studio was on fire.  Took an hour for gravity to clear the air.

I stood on the little concrete step and blew off the panels.  That worked well, but little tree pollen thingies fell onto the panels.  Painting inside is looking mandatory.

bifold panel after one coat 2017 aug 01I covered the windows and shook the spray cans enthusiastically.  First spraying and my shoes began to stick to the floor.  I can fix that.  Plastic on the floor.  Now my shoes were sticking to the plastic.  I was a mouse on a glue pad.  This will never do.  Rain clouds were barely building over the mountains.  I think I’ve got enough time.  I carried the panels outside and leaned them against a field wire fence far enough from the vehicles and house.  Coat one went on like butter.  I was so happy.

Two hours later I was ripped out of a nice nap by thunder.  My panels!  It was drizzling on my paint job.  I rushed the panels back into the studio.  A little sticky, but dry enough for the water to bead on top.  What are those little black spots?  Some sort of tiny flying bugs were scattered throughout.

I feel like using the multitool on my veins.

I agree to wait.  Several hours later I confront the inevitable.  Lookit that.  The water evaporated from the coat without damaging the paint, and with a soft paint bush I was able to dislodge the tiny bugs.  They didn’t leave a dimple or anything.  I am saved.

For the next week I dodged rainfall while spraying multiple coats.

The doors are back on and looking fabulous.

Another step closer to putting the house on the market and rving.

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bailey canyon road map view 2017 july 19.jpgAh, Summer Solstice Day.  Because it threatened to be one of the hottest days of the year, I headed to the mountains to enjoy 25 degrees lower temperatures — the difference between torture and comfort.  I had intended to go to Pumphouse Road, but the long, marrow road doesn’t have a secondary exit in case of fire.  On impulse I turned down Bailey Canyon Road, a gravel forest road that twists and turns in the mountains north west of Cloudcroft.  Margo told me the road bisects with La Luz Road (AKA Forest Service 162) north of Cloudcroft, but I’ve never driven it.

I know only the first half mile, and I hate not knowing what is past that.  All I have to navigate is an inadequate state map and my auto Garmin Nuvi 50LM.  Therefore, I expect to not go far.

The first campsite is excellent, at least that’s probably what the current campers think of the spot.  Another half mile in I pass a street van where the owner has tried to shield the inside by draping towels and sheets over open doors.  Still looks horribly hot.  Why did she stop there?  BAM!  WHAM!  No wonder the van has gone no farther.  It is the usual mountain road build, a bulldozer cut through a steep slope making a drop off on the low side and a cliff wall on the high side. Frost heave is pushing some whoppers up through the road surface.  If you don’t see them, they will rattle your guts.

I’ve got a foot of clearance, knobby tires, and 4-wheel drive.  T’aint nothing can stop me except traffic coming from the other way.  Luck is with me.  I see a mostly open area below with rock fire rings.  There’s a sign that encourages folks to put out their campfires.  I’ll hunt for the best place here.

Tall, narrow-canopied, conifer trees don’t do a good job of throwing shade at noon.  I travel 100 yards to find the only great shade, and it’s in the middle of the road in a tiny meadow.  HappyDog is cast out to do a nasal appraisal of the area.  I shove back the seat and try to relax.  I’d fallen into a nap when a very quiet jeep swings around me.  Could a jeep with a lift, knobby tires, and macho roof rack get hurt if it is forced onto a slight slope of grass?  According to the old fella’s facial expression, it could.  I move to a secondary spot out of the way of OlStinkyEye so he can return on the level road.

I read, listen to music.  I wait for the environment to sooth me.  It never comes.  Frustrated, I go home.

Almost a week later I try it again.  Not as hot, but too nice not to go up.  I went lean.  No food, no blankets, no hiking boots.  Just my chair, a bag with a king size sheet to use for shade and some ties, and an ice chest.  I was there to relax, read and study maps.

This time I am directionally prepared with two free map apps — OsmAnd and offline google maps in a smart phone tethered to a not so tech savvy operator.  I’ve been practicing with the two apps as I drive about in places I can find with my eyes closed.  Today it lead me to Bailey Canyon Road.  Scared the crap outta me when OsmAnd shouted, “Speed limit 45”.  Well, that will keep me from speeding.  I do like the screen.  Uncluttered.  Bright.  Color coded.  But the screen on my phone is so small.  Sure wish I had my Nexus which bit the bullet a month ago.

The awesome spot from last week is empty.  I claim it like Columbus.  Set my chair under thick shade and level.  S–weet.

Ten minutes later I am shivering.  It’s too cold and of course the blanket is back home.  I get a sweater out of the emergency bag we keep under the back seat and throw the sheet over my legs.  I read for a couple of hours.

When the wind comes from the ravine before my feet, HappyDog goes all stiff and nose up.  When the wind comes from another direction she relaxes.  Wind from the ravine, back to alert.  It’s like blowing up a dog balloon then letting go.  It’s hard to relax when the dog keeps doing that.  Several times I look over the area and can’t see anything that would upset her.

I get out the Lincoln National Forest Atlas (7 1/2′ quadrangle topo maps) and my barely used compass to figure out where I am.  I look about.  Tree trunk, tree trunk, tree trunk.  More of the same over there and there too.  I’m darn confused and stand in one spot and rotate.  I can’t see anything because of the trees.  I have to look closer and move about.  The road is there.  Trees getting shorter over there.  Trees rising on the t’other side.  That long taller area over to the north may be a mountain ridge.  The ravine before me is a lot deeper than it should be until I realize the map contour lines are every 100 feet, not the usual 20-40′.  When I think I’ve figured out where I am with map and compass, I turn on the map apps.  Both place a dot on where I have calculated that I am standing.

I can’t relax when my dog keeps alerting.  Home I go.

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To keep the ends of the ladder from leaving marks on what I’ve already painted.  Any thick socks will do.

ladder socks 2017 aug 05.jpg

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To keep the ladder from sliding where I can’t reach it (which it did every time I applied the brakes), I tied it to a tie down that I can reach.  Modified it later by putting a clasp on the rope.  It takes only a second to swing the rope around a leg and clip it.

I’ve used the ladder in public a number of times.  I’ve overheard comments from people my age or older saying, “What a great idea.  I have to get me one of those.”  Surely that means it’s just not my joints that don’t bend worth a darn anymore.

utility ladder 2017 aug 01.jpg

What’s even better than the small stepladder is a three-step utility ladder with big feet and a grip bar to help me stay balanced.  I have two.  Here’s my favorite.  It has come in mighty handy at the campsites.  So far I’ve used it to scrape decals on the travel trailer, hang the tarp and solar lights and as a table for my drink when I’m reading outside.

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Shade is in high demand in the southwest.  We always got a campsite with a shelter, but the sun created moving shade.  Same with the awning.   We looked to see what campers around us were using.  By far, the usual was to hang a cheap tarp from the legs of the shelter.  Quite a few of those.  All bright blue.  In a good blow popping like shotguns.  As the grommets rip out like thin foil, the campers try to keep it up and working.  String tied here and there.  Duct tape is very popular.  Soon, they give up and let the tattered ends flop.  Pop.  Pop.  Flop.  Sometimes the tarp is new and well-anchored when that big gust hits.  The winner —  or should I say loser — was the fella who tied his huge tarp across two shelter legs across to his travel trailer’s outstretched awning arm.  Ripped the arm right off the trailer.  Lots of hammering and cussing.  Ma is no fool and hides in the trailer.  Ma, bring out the duct tape.  By the end of the fix they are upsetting the whole campground.  Who knew a tarp could destroy a marriage and create ill will for a hundred yards around.

My recent trips to the forest reminded me that I could also use a tarp when it is just me hanging out.  It certainly would stop me from driving deep into that brittle forest to find a shady spot.  With a tarp I can bring my shade with me.

I researched tarps like they were diamonds.  Ha, I could get diamonds cheaper.  I finally put an expensive one in my shopping cart and let it hang there for weeks without pressing buy.  I researched some more.  Argued with my cheap self like good cop-bad cop.  Took it out of the cart and argued some more.  I came to the conclusion there is no such thing as an above average, cheap tarp.  The thought of more research sent my lips curling.  I refused to think another dang thought on it.  I could buy good or buy crap.  In a spasm of savage activity, much like my hands when upending that last double rum and coke which I know I shouldn’t have, I put the tarp back in the cart and by god I pressed buy.

tarp free soldier bag 2017 july1.jpg

tarp spread out 2017 july 1

Big sucker.  Around 10’x10′

tarp old soldier corner 2017 july 01.jpg

Corner loops with lots of stitching and reinforced triangles.

tarp old soldier mid with grommet 2017 july 1.jpg

Some have loops and heavy duty grommets.  Can’t remember which have it.  Too lazy to get it out of the bag.

tarp old soldier ridge 2017 july 1.jpg

A really bad photo of a ridge line loop with grommet.  Yes, I can halve the tarp instead of fighting 10′.

We used the tarp at Percha Dam State Park.  It worked well and didn’t look gaudy.

In addition, it will work well with the canopy Margo bought.   Thinking I’ll tie the top off at the top of the canopy and stretch the ten feet out so the wind don’t hit a flat vertical surface.  Tie it down with big stakes.

I think I’ll take a break from working on the house and head to the mountains tomorrow to try out the tarp between trees.

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This vlogger learned a valuable lesson about driving through puddles with a car, and so did I.  He begins the drive through the puddle at 7:28.

muddy water puddle yt 2017In short, this is the puddle he was looking to go through.  Yeah, I know.  It looks more like a small stock tank, but he was determined to continue.  I was yelling, “No, no, no” as he began.   He made it a couple feet in before quickly backing out.

mudy engine deep water yt 2017.jpg

Got the pretty engine dirty.  I never knew water would splash up that high into an engine bay.  If it were mine, I’d have to have it washed.  Just couldn’t drive a dirty engine around.

So think about this experience before going through deep puddles.

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