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Van-Tramp adventures 2017
Las Cienegas National Conservation Area

After leaving our New Years get together we moved onward, towards our ultimate winter destination of New Orleans. There are a large number of places in Arizona to stay for the work week, but we went for a location that neither of us have been too in the past (greatly shortening the list). Las Cienegas National Conservation Area has been spoken highly of for many years, and this year we both finally got to drop in for a stay. But first, the challenge of getting there…

The GPS in the tuck, affectionately known as “Barbara”, who has a history of intentionally misleading us down roads in her repeated attempts to kill us,  made yet another attempt. Normally she would route us along the shortest route, even if only shorter by a few inches and by saving those few inches it would cause us to cross a moat full of flame-breathing-alligators… or extremely rutted dirt road, I guess. In this instance, not only did she *intentionally* route us *past* the shortest route, she then tried to convince us that the old wagon trail from the mid 1800’s leading off the main highway was a valid option for the 50+ foot combined length of our truck and trailer. Seriously, the cattle stopped using this trail decades ago, and Barbara was like, “this will get you there, just trust me… suckers!” I quickly vetoed the turn off, to Kerri’s initial angst, followed by many miles of continuing down this small highway road before we could find a place to turn around.

On our return trip to the area, Barbara insisted we keep to her plan to kill us, but I once again vetoed the assassination attempt and we simply followed the signage provided by the Historic Empire Ranch Foundation. We quickly and easily found our boondocking destination at that point and setup camp for the work week. The camping area was peaceful and pleasant enough, with cows dropping in from time to time and tons of acreage for Moose to haul some serious ass through the tall grasses. In the end it was less eventful then the final few miles of the drive with just the boring errands and work being completed during out stay before rolling our first thing Saturday morning.

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Traveling since 2010 - My BlogMy Van
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The following 2 users say Thank You to Van-Tramp for this post:
southern.nomad (06-11-2017), BobBski (01-10-2017)
Returning to Chiricahua

We had only three days to do it in. Not only to make the 500 mile drive from Las Cienegas National Conservation Area to Carlsbad, New Mexico, but to see four National Parks in the process. If we could knock them all out in one weekend, then we could high-tail it out of New Mexico following the work week and get to Big Bend National Park sooner.
So, we prepared to leave Las Cienegas early on Saturday morning. Not that I believed Kerri could crawl herself out of bed that early, but I was up before the sunrise hitching up the truck to the trailer. She… somehow… was up and finalizing the tie-down process for the interior of the trailer. Next thing we both knew, we were on the road just as the sun was beginning to spy us. I bet we surprised the sun that day!

We arrived well before noon. Just a few hours down the Interstate, at Bowie Arizona; Indian Bread Rocks to be exact. Kerri and I spent a week here just after we first met, but we were here not to reminisce, but to make a day-trip into Chiricahua National Monument right beside us. Kerri had never been, and we missed it last time. We dropped the trailer at the Bread Rocks, and made the jump into the park for a hike of only a few miles down through the Grotto to Echo Canyon. This is where I came to experience the park way back when (wow, 2011). Chiricahua has always held a special place in my memory.

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Traveling since 2010 - My BlogMy Van
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speedhighway46 (01-17-2017)
Returning to White Sands

The previous night we were in bed early expecting another early start in the morning. Once again we were packed up, coffee in hands, dogs in the truck, and actually driving before sunrise. It was truly a miracle to see Kerri out from under the blankets so early… twice in a row! That morning we had to make a 4 hour drive into New Mexico, through Las Cruces (the home of all two of my mechanical breakdowns), and to White Sands National Monument. Once again, I have been here before but Kerri had never been.

Our visit was short, with just a quick hike out onto the “sand” (actually gypsum) which the dogs seriously enjoyed. Byron, the true beach bum, kept pulling Kerri along towards the waves that must be just over the next dune. Eventually we turned around to head back to the truck. Grumpy Byron was well ticked off that we never let him get to the water. There was no talking sense into him. Moose… Moose really needed to be off leash to burn off his energy, but being in a National Park and all I just kept poking at him to dig-dig-dig!

After an hour or so, we piled back into the truck (now with two layers of very different colored mud on the fenders) and continued our Eastward migration out of Alamagordo, up the hill towards Cloudcroft. I chose this route specifically because I had never driven this stretch of road before (something that is becoming increasingly more rare in my travels), yet half way to Artesia we passed by a road side fruit stand slash petting zoo and all the memories of me driving this road in 2012 came back to me, just from the opposite direction. Argh!

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Returning to Carlsbad

The final day of our travel weekend brought us to Carlsbad, New Mexico. Here we would visit the Carlsbad Caverns National Park and even a quick trip to Guadalupe Mountains National Park. Again, I have been to both in my past, but Kerri had been to neither in her adulthood. We went with the full-monty visit, hiking 700+ feet down the natural entrance 1-mile trail into the cavern. There we followed the 1.5 mile big room trail which showcases not only the enormous scale of this cavern, but also many of the spectacles of nature.  If you are counting, that is four National Parks in three days for us, including a fair share of driving to get from the first to the last.

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We stayed the week just outside of Carlsbad. Here I would get the truck’s transmission serviced as it had been well over 2 years and the truck does more than it’s fair share of towing. Beyond the Chevrolet dealership in town, only one other business would do the work, but they botched the job and within 24 hours of their work the truck was nearly un-driveable. Remember in my last blog post I mentioned Las Cruces, New Mexico being the location of both of my mechanical break downs in my years of travel. Well, we had just passed through Las Cruces a few days prior, and now we were broken down. I think it is confirmed that Las Cruces breaks vehicles!
We were to leave for Big Bend National Park on the Saturday, but Friday ended with the truck still not working. In a hail-Mary attempt, I went out Saturday morning and purchased all the parts  to redo the work that the shop botched. It was only after I get back to our camping spot that I crawl under the truck and find out none of me 200 pieces of tools will fit the nuts. So, a run back into town for more tools… seriously, an American truck that has metric nuts? What is this world coming too?
It was not the end of the day’s frustrations though. After removing the transmission oil pan, and all it’s fluid and oil filter, it was only then that I noticed that the local auto parts store provided me the wrong parts!!! One may think this is a rare instance, but nearly every single time I have gotten parts from a chain-store in my life, the wrong parts were provided the first attempt. Thankfully, the parts store admitted their mistake and delivered the correct parts to our GPS coordinates. Within an hour, the truck was back together and we were ready, although weary, to roll into Texas and our of Carlsbad, which we did right away the following morning, only a single day behind schedule.

During this time of crisis I remembered that this was what stress feels like. It has been so long that I have had a stressful day that even a minor issue (and this was only minor compared to other people’s problems) really took it’s toll. We both were relieved when the truck got us out of Carlsbad, and were even happier when it got us to Texas (that sounds weird to say). Our adventure gets to continue, on schedule, stress free, thanks to having the right tools, and the know-how to get the job done even in the middle of a desert.
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akrvbob (01-23-2017)
Glad you got the truck up and running. I dislike taking mine in for work.
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Good you got back on the road, and yes, sir, American cars and trucks have been going metric for a long time
Tip: all your metric tools will fit SAE bolts / nuts, though sometimes tighter than they would a metric (14mm tends to have to be 'wriggled off' a 9/16) so you really only need metric
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Glad you got it going again. I'm baffled that a shop could screw up a normal transmission service so badly as to have to completely redo it. I noticed the slow change to metric with an 1984 Ranger. It was really annoying as it was about 50/50. The worst was standard nuts on 1 end of the shocks and metric on the other end.
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Yeah I think the mix SAE/metric mix thing Is not all that uncommon anymore.

What was the issue with the transmission?

The tests in life keep the neurons flowing!
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This picture is rather surrealistic. Awesome!!
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(01-22-2017, 09:06 AM)Raven+Squid Wrote: What was the issue with the transmission?

Either they used the wrong fluid, or their flush ended up clogging up the filter to a point that fluid could not move freely through the internals of the transmission. Either way, they do not agree how either of those possibilities were their fault.
Traveling since 2010 - My BlogMy Van
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