Monthly Archives: April 2015

Red Rocks and Solar

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather
Red Rock State Park near Gallup, NM. Despite the dark clouds, the rain never fell.

Red Rock State Park near Gallup, NM. Despite the dark clouds, the rain never fell.

Thursday April 9th, off to Jemez Springs, NM

We really like Los Alamos. It’s a very small town with lots of restaurants, a nice grocery store and a plethora of outdoor activities. Los Alamos has perhaps the highest number of PhDs per capita compared to any other city which probably accounts for all the amenities in such a small town. And for a big-city fix, there’s always Santa Fe and Albuquerque just an hour or so away. This puts Los Alamos high on our list of possible places to settle down one day.

Since tomorrow’s Friday and all the weekend campers come out, we’re reluctantly leaving Los Alamos today so we can snag a first-come, first-serve site at the Vista Linda campground in the Santa Fe National Forest.

Jemez Creek, which is stocked with Rainbow Trout, runs right by our campsite at Vista Linda NFS Campground. A few of our fellow campers caught their dinner while here.

Jemez Creek, which is stocked with Rainbow Trout, runs right by our campsite at Vista Linda NFS Campground. A few of our fellow campers caught their dinner while here.

The 50 mile drive to Vista Linda takes us through beautiful valleys and mountains. We pass by a few snow-covered hillsides which explains why most of the forest roads and campgrounds are still closed. The thermometer on the dash reads 61 degrees. As we descend to Jemez Springs, the Ponderosa Pines and Junipers give way to a desert landscape. Cottonwood trees sprouting spring leaves line Jemez Creek. We arrive at Vista Linda campground to find it virtually empty providing us with a wide selection of campsites. The campground host tells us we were smart to come today since it will be full by tomorrow afternoon.

Because we arrived before the weekend crowd, we were able to select the nicest site in the entire campground.

Because we arrived before the weekend crowd, we were able to select the nicest site in the entire campground.

Monday, April 13th – Back to Albuquerque

Just as the campground host predicted, Vista Linda did fill up for the weekend. It only has 13 sites so it didn’t feel all that crowded. Today’s Monday and the weekenders have all gone home. We’ve been here 4 nights and since there’s no hookups nor dump station, it’s time for us to leave as well. We’re heading back to Albuquerque, about 60 miles to the southeast. We’ll be staying at the American RV Park off I-40 for the next 7 days. We don’t usually seek out commercial parks, but I’ve finally ordered solar panels. Staying at American RV Park not only gives us a delivery address but also puts us close to Home Depot, Camping World and Ace Hardware for those odds and ends I’ll surely need to complete the solar installation.

It’s about 1:00 when we arrive. There’s a package waiting for us but it’s just our mail we had forwarded from the Good Sam Mail Service. The solar panels are coming via Fed Ex and should be here tomorrow. The American RV Park turns out to be quite nice. They offer a daily continental breakfast, cheap laundry, full 50 AMP hookups including sewer and to top it all off, they have an off-leash dog park. On the downside, it’s pricey and sites are close together but that’s the way it usually is at commercial parks.

Tuesday, April 14th – Solar Panels are here!

Our new solar panels are working! The solar controller (on the left) shows the panels pumping out 7.6 amps. The trimetric meter (on the right) shows a net of 6.8 amps going into the batteries. The difference is the amount of 12 volt power we were using when this picture was taken. I installed the trimetric meter last fall to get an idea of our battery usage to determine what size panels were needed to meet our needs.

Our new solar panels are working! The solar controller (on the left) shows the panels pumping out 7.6 amps. The trimetric meter (on the right) shows a net of 6.8 amps going into the batteries. The difference is the amount of 12 volt power we were using when this picture was taken around 10 AM. I installed the trimetric meter last fall to get an idea of our battery usage to determine what size panels were needed to meet our needs.

It’s early Tuesday morning as I sneak out of the Airstream without waking Trixie and Eddie. I head over to the park office to sample their continental breakfast. As I walk past the front desk, I see a tall skinny box that must be my solar panels. I’m so excited! After a quick bagel with cream cheese, I make 2 trips carrying my new solar panels and associated stuff back to the Airstream. T&E are still sleeping as I step back in. I tell Cindy “They’re here” and we both know what I’ll be doing over the next few days.

Friday, April 17th – It works!

I won’t bore you with the details of the solar panel installation other than to say it was quite simple. The hardest part was removing the refrigerator to gain access to the roof vent where the wires run from the panels to the controller. After removing the propane and electrical connections as well as the 2 lag bolts and 4 screws that hold the fridge in place, it wouldn’t budge. As I did my share of cussing, Cindy took a closer look and noticed some caulking at the base of the fridge. After cutting through this with a box knife, the fridge slid right out. “Thank you Cindy for saving the day.”

We slid the frig out onto an ottoman so we wouldn’t have to lift it off the floor…another one of Cindy’s great ideas.

We slid the fridge out onto an ottoman so we wouldn’t have to lift it off the floor…another one of Cindy’s great ideas.

This is where the frig goes. Notice the grey caulking at the front edge that was mysteriously preventing the frig from sliding out.

This is where the fridge goes. Notice the grey caulking at the front edge that was mysteriously preventing the fridge from sliding out.

Looking up at the solar panel wires coming in from the roof through the frig vent.

Looking up at the solar panel wires coming in from the roof through the fridge vent.

Saturday, April 18th – Time for some fun.

With the solar panel project complete, it’s time for some fun. Just up the road is the Petroglyph National Monument. We’ve seen lots of pictographs (rock paintings) since coming out west but this will be our first petroglyphs (rock etchings).

At one time, Albuquerque subdivisions threatened to expand into what is now the Petroglyph National Monument. This photo was taken from one of the trails that meanders through a field of boulders containing thousands of ancient petroglyphs.

At one time, Albuquerque subdivisions threatened to expand into what is now the Petroglyph National Monument. This photo was taken from one of the trails that meanders through a field of boulders containing thousands of ancient petroglyphs.

After watching a 20 minute film about how the Petroglyph National Monument came into being, we drive a mile or so up the road to one of three trailheads that takes us to the actual petroglyphs. The town of Albuquerque was expanding to the west and neighborhoods were bumping up against a huge expanse of petroglyphs. The park was establish in 1990 to protect the 17 mile stretch of land that contains an estimated 24,000 images.

Many of the petroglyphs remind me of a kid’s drawing displayed on the refrigerator door. I remember drawing pictures like this of my two sisters.

Many of the petroglyphs remind me of a kid’s drawing displayed on the refrigerator door. I remember drawing pictures like this of my two sisters.

Many of the petroglyphs represented animals. Petroglyphs such as this McCaw suggest that McCaw (do a little research here)

There are many petroglyphs of  McCaw parrots suggesting that nomadic tribes brought them up from Central America.

Tuesday, April 21 – Time to head north.

We have to be in Rapid City, SD by the middle of May so it’s time for us to head north. Our next destination is Mesa Verde National Park near Cortez CO about 300 miles northwest of here.

It’s about noon as we leave and head west on I-40. 300 miles is too far for us to drive in one day, especially when leaving at such a late hour. Besides, what’s the rush? We’ll be spending the night at the Red Rock State Park in Gallup NM, about 120 miles away.

We arrive around 2:30. The campground is first-come-first-serve. We see plenty of available sites but it’s hard to tell where to pay. We head over to the museum/office. The sign on the door says “Back at 1:30”. Just as we’re about to leave, the office manager shows up apologizing for being so late. We pay for one night ($20 gets us 50 amps and water) and head back to the campground to select our site.

Our site backs right up to one of the big red mountains that give Red Rock State Park its name.

Our site backs right up to one of the big red mountains that give Red Rock State Park its name.

Since we’re only staying one night, we leave the trailer hitched up. It’s too cool to sit outside but the weather’s perfect for a hike down the canyon with red rock mountains on each side.

Another red rock mountain on the other side of the park. Horse stables are everywhere. This park hosts many large rodeos throughout the year.

Another red rock mountain on the other side of the park. Livestock pens are everywhere. This park hosts many large rodeos throughout the year.

Cindy, Trixie and Eddie get a head start on our hike through the canyon.

Cindy, Trixie and Eddie get a head start on our hike through the canyon.

With so much wide open space, we let T&E off the leash. They run as fast as they can until they realize they have no idea where they’re going.

With such wide open spaces, we let T&E off the leash. They run as fast as they can until they realize they have no idea where they’re going.

Next stop, Colorado

A herd of deer greet us at our next campsite in Mesa Verde National Park near Cortez Colorado.

A herd of deer greet us at our next campsite in Mesa Verde National Park near Cortez Colorado.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather