The Front Range

We left our Roamer at the EarthRoamer factory in Dacono, CO to get its yearly camper tune-up and some paint touch-up for the areas that were starting to show some oxidation along the top corners of the camper. We are always trying new routes in and out of Arizona on our trips. Because we had a rental truck that could move right along, we took I-40 into New Mexico and then shot up Hwy 491 from Gallup. Rather than go through Shiprock, we turned onto Indian Service Rd 5 to cut over to Farmington. The scenery along this road was unique.

Just outside Farmington there were acres and acres of pumpkins ripening for the Halloween season. We then crossed into Colorado and gained some altitude. We stopped for the night in Pagosa Springs, hitting up our favorite brewery there for a nice dinner and some beers – Riff Raff Brewing Co. The drive along Hwy 160 was beautiful with fall colors out in force.

Looking out over Wolf Creek Pass was gorgeous. You just had to watch out for the many ground squirrels that inhabit the rest stop there.

There was a miscommunication on the scope of the paint job, and since it was going to take a week or so more to fix, we had some time to explore the Colorado Front Range. We drove south to Colorado Springs to visit a childhood friend of Pam’s, Lisa, and her husband, Gary, who live there. We did several hikes around the area, including the Garden of the Gods, which is an interesting rock outcropping.

We saw about a dozen sheep in the rocks, where this guy was doing a nice pose for the camera.

We also drove up to the top of Pike’s Peak, elevation 14,115 feet. While it was a nice fall day down in Colorado Springs, it was near or below freezing with a stiff breeze at the top of the mountain. The view was fantastic and we even saw the cog train that drives up and down the mountain if you don’t want to drive yourself.

We also visited a friend who owns a couple of great book stores in Colorado Springs before we headed back north. We spent the remainder of the time in Loveland, CO with Jim and Alison. Typical for the area it was beautiful fall weather, and then the next day the temp dropped 30 degrees and it snowed. The next day it warmed back up and the snow was gone – for now.

We kept busy doing hikes and visiting breweries during the week while Jim and Alison worked. We met up with another high school classmate of Pam’s at the Breckenridge Brewery in the southern Denver area. They have some tasty beers.

One of the nicer hikes we did was along Devil’s Backbone, just outside Loveland. It was a beautiful day and we ran across a small Prairie rattlesnake on the trail. He was trying to catch the last of the fall sun and got a little upset when I moved him off the trail and back into the brush. He probably slithered back into the sun after we left – lol.

Another great hike in the Loveland area is through the Benson Sculpture Park. It a public park in town that holds a “Sculpture in the Park” event every August, where the proceeds from the event help to purchase another permanent sculpture. It has been ongoing since 1984 and there are now over 130 sculptures in the park. We may have to make it back to Loveland in August one of these years to see the event.

We finally got the Roamer back and headed south towards home. Typically we jump over the front range and take Hwy 285 back to Arizona. However, the Ford dealer said we should break the new turbo-charger in slowly so we headed down the front range to Walsenburg and made our way to the Great Sand Dunes National Park. The dunes are about 600 feet high and we got there in the late afternoon when the shadows on the dunes are the best.

The local elevation is about 8,000 feet so it was brisk in the evening this time of year, perfect for a campfire. We grabbed a spot at the campground there and had a great evening looking at the stars. The sunset was beautiful and we had a neighborhood full of deer in the morning.

We dropped south from there into New Mexico and made our way to one of our favorite camp spots, El Morro National Monument. It was our second time there this year and luckily we were able to grab one of the last spots for the night. It was interesting to see how much the sunset location shifted on the horizon with the passage of the summer.

El Morro’s elevation is just over 7,000 feet, so it too was a nice evening for a campfire before heading home to end this trip.

On the way home the next day we stopped in our cabin for lunch and to catch up with our neighbor. The Forest Service was conducting a prescribed burn for the area to clean out the low grass and brush in the ponderosa forest around our place. They have been more proactive in keeping the fire danger down since the huge fire more than a decade ago that took out over 500,000 acres of forest in the area. However, the year of the fire, the forest was so dry it was a matter of when, not if, it was going to occur.

We arrived home safe and sound with the Roamer to complete our fourth summer trip. While it may be remembered for the maintenance issues we spent more time visiting friends and family for longer periods of time and seeing new places, which is never a bad thing.


This summer’s trip has been one full of maintenance issues. Most folks we talked with also had mechanical problems this year. Maybe like wine there are good and bad years, and 2017 is a bad truck year – lol.
As we made our way south towards Colorado, our turbo-charger blew. With the much more limited power we limped down the front range and found a large parking lot to let the rush hour folks drive home at maximum speed. After waiting an hour we left the parking lot, but the truck became a white smoke generating machine when we started down the road again. Now with no power and creating a cloud behind us, we pulled over into another parking lot and called for a tow truck.

The towing process was a good learning experience for us, having never towed the Roamer before. The tow truck that showed up later that night was too small to tow the Roamer so we sent him away and spent the night in Freddy’s Steakburger parking lot in Loveland, CO. It won’t make our top camp spots list.

The next morning we discussed our situation with the Denver Ford service center, EarthRoamer, AAA and a tow company that had a medium duty tow vehicle. A lowboy trailer is recommended for EarthRoamers for long distances, and due to its height to safely make it under overpasses. However, you can disconnect the driveshaft and use a regular medium duty tow truck if just towing for shorter distances, less than 100 miles.

This was good news for us because we’ve been camped in places when both of us have looked at each other and wondered how a lowboy would ever get back to anywhere near where we were if the truck broke down. Now we know towing it is not as restrictive, but hopefully it’s not something we’ll need often.

We were on our way to the EarthRoamer factory for our rig’s yearly service. The blown turbo-charger meant we had two days to kill while it was being fixed at the Ford service center before it would get its yearly camper tune-up. Without the roamer we were just normal travelers so we booked a couple of nights at the The Niwot Inn. It’s a cute B&B in Niwot, a transitioning farm community along the rail line between Longmont and Boulder.

We met up for dinner with my cousin’s son Matt, who works in the Denver area. We ordered the meat platter at Avery Brewery. We saw the smoker when we walked in so we had to try it. The food was really good and beers were even better while we caught up with Matt and updated news of our relatives back east.

After we got a new turbo-charger and exhaust filter, which sucked up the oil once the turbo-charger blew and produced the smoke show, we took it to the EarthRoamer factory for the yearly tune-up and some new paint to fix the oxidation on the top corners after 4 years on the road. This work was going to take a couple of weeks to complete so we took our rental (F-150 4×4 truck) and headed west to Fruita, CO.

We stopped on the way in Vail, CO for lunch. Neither of us had been there before. It was a lot smaller than I envisioned, more like a ski resort than a ski town. The food and scenery were good, but we jumped in the truck and continued onto Fruita.

Fruita is where our EarthRoaming friends Lou and Nancy recently bought a place. It’s a nice small town just outside Grand Junction, CO, where most folks know each other and the place is surrounded by great off-road and mountain biking trails.

It’s a town that likes the arts, where sculptures line the main street. This is a sculpture of Mike, the famous Fruita rooster that lived for days after his head was removed. I guess if he had a brain he would have known he was dead.

They also have a couple of breweries in town. Here was our selection from the Copper Club. All were good beers. Pam and Nancy even helped to harvest some hops that this brewery uses at a local friend’s farm.

While Moab-like mountain biking is the main draw for the area, we checked out some great hiking areas. This was just outside of town, overlooking the Fruita valley. It was before the western fire’s smoke blew in and turned the normal blue sky to a yellow haze at the end of our stay. The smoke wasn’t heavy in Fruita, but it was noticeable.

We also hiked Rabbit Valley, a beautiful canyon area along the Colorado–Utah border off Interstate 70.

There were hieroglyphs on the canyon walls from the folks that lived there many years ago. The canyon ends at the Colorado River and water flows through the canyon most of the year.

The Colorado National Monument is on the outskirts of Frutia so we had to visit. The canyons there were much grander in scale compared to Rabbit Valley and gorgeous.

We did a couple of hikes within the monument, but could have done many more.

With time to kill waiting for the Roamer, we decided to drive home and catch-up on things there since we had been gone since June. Being in western Colorado we shot down Hwy 128 to Moab, which is a breath-taking drive if you have never gone on that road before. We then jumped onto Hwy 191 and headed south into the Navajo Nation.

We stopped in the Comb Ridge Bistro for a great lunch in Bluff, Utah. The small restaurant had great food and some interesting art for sale.

We hit a monstrous wind / dust storm going through Chinle, AZ on the reservation. We were glad we had a rental and not sand-blasting the Roamer with a new paint job.

We stopped at our cabin on the Rim to enjoy the cool air one more night before dropping back down into the 100- degree valley. Once the peanut feeder in our side yard was replenished it did not take long for the jays and squirrels to find the food.

While the west coast and northwest had a horrible forest fire year, the northern Arizona forests looked a lush green with full ponds of water from the winter snows and summer rains.

We got back into the valley and our planned stay was extended due to delays with the Roamer. While at home we caught the Diamondbacks game when they clinched the wildcard slot, a really good game.

Sadly we also attended the funeral service for Brian, who lost his fight with cancer. Pam’s brother and sister flew in for the service of their childhood friend so we had a chance to catch-up with both. Having the rental pick-up turned out to be handy. We sold our F-150 truck years ago, but having one again was rather nice.

Next trip is back to Colorado to pick up the Roamer.