Sunday, February 1, 2015

Departing Albuquerque

I seem to be back on my usual diurnal schedule.  Went to bed around 9, woke up at 4.  The major chore for the first part of the day is packing and stowing everything back in the Beast for travel.  I say good bye to my very thoughtful Albuquerque host and hit the road at about 9, I'd guess.  The plan is to return the way I came, but dividing the trip a little more evenly so I don't have one short and one very LONG day as I did on the way out.

What I'd like to do now is look back on what happened and what I learned on the way out.  This may recap some of what I reported in shorter posts as I went.   So be it.

The weather was a big factor:  very windy, chilly, rainy, a bit of fine snow.  I'm realizing how much of a desert rat I've become when even a few days of wintery weather feel oppressive (lack of sunshine) and uncomfortable (brrrr!)

Huddling with the big boys

The rig handles reasonably well, but it remains a big very non-aerodynamic box.  Driving into quartering headwinds required constant attention,  and added to the fatigue.  It also wrecked gas mileage: I'd been getting about 10mpg last summer in this kind of driving; when I filled up on my way in here it was 6-something.  Ouch.  By that time the wind had died down.  I'll be interested to see what I get on my next tank today, with lower winds.

The casualty of the wind was a vent cover.  At one point I realized that it was really cold there in the driver's seat, and then I felt a drop of water.  When I could pull over and check, it turned out that the cover in the vent-cum-exhaust fan in the roof/ceiling at the front of the coach was simply gone.  And rain was coming in steadily.

A little improv with plastic garbage bags and Gorilla Tape and the immediate interior issues were fixed.  The fan motor, though, has been hanging out naked in the weather; getting up on the roof to try to do anything about it in this weather didn't seem advisable.  When I get home, I'll go inspect that situation and see whether this requires Merrigans' expertise, or whether I feel brave (and agile) enough to tackle this on my own.  I'll spend some quality time with YouTube seeing if there are how-to videos on how to do this.  I'm confident.

The worst driving experience was not the rain and the wind, it was the last few miles doing into Albuquerque.  The intersection of I-10 and I-25 is a nightmare, even if you know where you're going.  Traffic was, well, urban traffic, and vision to the rear is problematic in any kind of truck.  It doesn't help that the driver's side mirror drifts "outward"while traveling: instead of showing me the view straight back along the rig's flank, it points out somewhere in left field. Merrigan's guys told me there was no adjustment: I'd have to go to a Ford Dealer and get a replacement.  Hmph!  This is a real problem, it turns out, so I have to face up to it.

Other items:

The little catalytic heater works really well to warm up the whole rear area in the rig.  Running the furnace to bring it up to "room temperature" when camped, and then using the portable to maintain it, seems to be a good strategy.

A bag of ice turns the refrigerator into an icebox, and was more than adequate cooling for the drinks and cheese I brought with me.  No need to use propane for that short period.  It does make puddles, though, if you're not attentive to leaks in the bag.  :-(

In only a couple of days I found myself getting really attached to the rig. Partly because it was cold outside and comfy inside.  More than that, though -- I found myself with the same feeling I remember from back-packing, coming back from a day hike to my campsite, and feeling like I was "coming home."  Whatever the need is for a home place, it seems that this lumbering hunk of metal can fulfill it.  I like that.

It's time for a soon cup of coffee, and some granola, and then some packing/organzing.

More from the road.


  1. Have you considered using dry ice in the fridge? No puddling that way. You can get it at most supermarkets.
    Another trick I picked up from burning man is to freeze bottled water and use that in a cooler - or in this case a fridge. It's not as expensive and difficult to handle as dry ice, but also doesn't leave you with melt, and you can drink it when it's spent.

    1. Somehow dry ice doesn't exist in my conceptual universe. I never think of it. Good thought, Ralph. I've done the frozen-water-bottle thing, but when I was putting this together it just seemed easier to throw a bag of ice in. It worked great, even if a bit damp.