So when we left off, our visit to Colorado was off to a splendid start – all beautiful scenery and fun times with good friends. Our to-do list at that point included several more hikes in the mountains, exploring the beautiful town of Ouray, driving the Million Dollar Highway down to Silverton, and visiting Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.
But I mentioned that after our drive on the back roads from Ridgway to Telluride, we noticed noise coming from the rear brakes of the Xterra. Now, it’s important to understand that Kevin’s and my respective levels of concern about things like this can be graphed on a straight line from him on one end: “Meh, just ignore it. It’s probably fine” to me on the other end: “OH MY GOD! WE’RE TOTALLY GOING TO DIE!!”
And we would have been able to figure out which one of us was right if only we could find someone to look at our brakes. Turns out there are no Midas or Meineke type places anywhere near Ridgway. All the mechanics are 20 miles away in Montrose, and they were all booked up solid for days.
BUT, all was not lost. After our reservation ended at Ridgway, we were scheduled to head to the little town of Ouray, where we expected to not be driving anywhere anyway (everything would be within walking distance of our campground), and after Ouray, we were scheduled to head to Montrose – home of all the mechanics. So, I went ahead and made an appointment in Montrose for the day after we were scheduled to arrive there.
In the meantime, I was concerned enough about the brakes that I didn’t want to drive anywhere unnecessarily – especially the crazy mountains of Colorado. Not surprisingly, Kevin thought I was overreacting to the whole thing and we could drive as usual, but what does he know? It’s not like he’s an engineer or something.
So, the end result was we were stuck at our campground not doing all the things we’d planned to do. And it was hot. Really hot.
Soon enough though, we were hitched up and on our way into Ouray. Ouray is another picture-perfect, pedestrian friendly, mountain town and we were looking forward to checking out the cool architecture, restaurants, hot springs, hiking, and shops it’s known for.
However, as we drove up to our campsite at 4J Campground, we immediately noticed that our site was badly sloped. We’ve had plenty of unlevel sites, but nothing so bad we couldn’t make it work. This site was that bad. So, for the first time in two years, we gave up and went to the front desk to ask for a different spot. There were several unoccupied sites so we didn’t think it would be a big issue for them to just move us, but they assured us they were completely booked for the night and would just be refunding us our money. They didn’t even attempt to come up with a workable solution. Just gave us our money back and told us to drop dead. Yay, customer service!
So, we headed back to Ridgway State Park where we tried to snag a first come/first served site. They had one spot left, but it turned out the front gate attendant had incorrect information about which site was free. So, after we paid, we drove up to the site only to realize that it, too, wouldn’t work. In fact, our would-be neighbor walked up to us as we were looking at it and said “Well, you’re never gonna fit in there!!” “Thanks Gladys… we know.”
Adding insult to injury, when I went to the office to get a refund, they told me they couldn’t just reverse the charge on my credit card. In order for us to get our money back, I would need to fill out a lengthy affidavit explaining what had happened, the form would be forwarded to the main Parks Department in Denver, and the folks there would mail me a refund check (or, more likely, I’ll never hear from them again and we will have just made a nice donation to the Colorado Parks Department. Sweet!)
So, now it’s late afternoon on Friday in the middle of the summer in Colorado (more commonly known as “not the time you want to be trying to find a campsite”) and we have nowhere to go. So, I called our upcoming campground in Montrose and asked if they could potentially accommodate us several days early. The owner was very concerned that he only had a 30 amp spot available, but I said that was good enough and I’d take whatever he could give me. When we arrived, he told us he had been able to move some reservations around and get us a 50 amp site. Sweet! (See how that customer service thing works, 4J?????)
Unfortunately though, this site ended up being terrible too. I don’t want to complain too much because he was trying to help us out by getting us a more powerful electrical connection (which was helpful given the 100+ degree daily temperatures), and the rest of the campground was pretty nice, but our site was literally sandwiched between the dumpsters, recycling bins, a huge propane tank, and a large fenced in area full of junk. Our views out every window were pretty depressing, and having an RV parked anywhere near a dumpster in the summer is not good (mice, cockroaches, odors, etc).
But, at least the site was level and it was under a huge shade tree which we appreciated after sitting in the blazing sun for weeks.
A day or two after we arrived, we started noticing bugs in our RV. I’m not sure what kind they were – some sort of flies, but they spent more time crawling than flying, and they didn’t seem particularly interested in our food supply or us (thankfully). But they were everywhere and they kept multiplying. They were on the ceiling, on the walls, on the floors, on the counters, in the air conditioning vents, and in the shower… We even found a couple on our bed.
It was the last straw.
It was too hot to do anything most of the day, our campsite was depressing, and now our entire house was being invaded by creepy flies.
We decided to bug out. (No pun intended. Seriously – don’t even talk to me about bugs.)
Oh – and an update on our brake issue – when we brought the car into the Montrose mechanic, they found a ton of brake dust had built up in the rear brakes which was causing the noise, so they cleaned it out, confirmed everything else was fine, and sent us on our way for $50. All of which is good news except it means laissez faire Kevin was right and we easily could have done all the fun stuff I made us skip.
I hate it when he’s right.
Anyway, we left the Montrose campground early, hoping that getting away from the dumpster and the tree would solve our bug problem. No such luck. As soon as we got set up at our next park, the flies started appearing again. All over the inside of the rig and all over the outside.
I’d had it by this point. I just walked outside with my vacuum cleaner and started vacuuming the outside walls of the RV. Did the neighbors think I was a little strange? Yes, they did! Did I care? No, I did not! After the outside had been cleared (for the time being), I bathed the windows and door with bug barrier and then did the same inside. After several more days of this trench warfare, we finally got the upper hand and seem to have gotten rid of them.
Changing our Plans for James Robb State Park
As we were dealing with all this aggravation and unrelenting heat, I kept looking for an exit strategy. Way back in February, when I made all these reservations, I had incorrectly assumed that northern Colorado would be cool in the summer. Turns out, that was completely wrong. Northern Colorado is just as hot as southern Colorado. The relief is found at high elevations, and the towns we were visiting were not at high elevations.
We were scheduled for a 10 night stay at James Robb State Park in Grand Junction, followed by several days at Dinosaur National Monument, and then a couple days in Ashley National Forest. But the more I looked at the calendar, the more I realized we were making a huge mistake.
Here’s what our future looked like:
As much as we loved the campground, I decided to shorten our stay and cancel our upcoming reservations. Our new plan would be to go north through Idaho, and keep going north until we escaped the heat. Most of the cancellations were easy, but in keeping with the theme of this post, changing our reservation with the Colorado state park turned into a giant hassle.
In order to make a change to a Colorado state park reservation, you have to call their main 800 number. When you do, you will be treated to a 4.5 minute recorded exposition about the rules and regulations related to the issuance of hunting and fishing licenses in the Colorado state park system. It’s 4.5 minutes of crap no one cares about read to you by the disembodied voice of a computer. And hitting random buttons on the phone, like 0 and 00 and # and #0 and #00 and 135 and 582943? That will get you nowhere. Trust me, I tried.
Anyway, eventually, I got through to a very nice lady who got all the way through the process of shortening our reservation until she realized the computer system was not allowing her to make the change.
Operator: hmmm, that’s odd. Let me put you on hold for one second while I check something, ok?
Me: Sure! Go ahead.
So, I called back, and, after listening to the finer points of law as it relates to the issuance of fishing permits to out of state licensees and permit holders vis a vis whatever the hell she was yammering on about, I finally got through to a different operator and explained the whole thing to her. But this operator was really concerned about my intentions. She kept asking me questions about my reservation to make sure I was actually me and I wasn’t some evil imposter with nefarious intentions of shortening some innocent victim’s camping reservation. Because, apparently, that’s a thing in Colorado.
Without going into the boring details, suffice to say, I literally spent thirty minutes on the phone with this woman trying to reduce my 10 day reservation to a 6 day reservation. After every sentence, she would require me to verify the reservation number, or my email address, or the type of RV we had, or the original reservation dates, or something… No matter what I did, I couldn’t quite convince her that my intentions were good. I half expected her to ask me for a DNA sample for a full background check before making the world’s simplest change to a reservation. And the best part was, after sitting on the phone answering the same questions over and over and over again for a half hour, she ran into the same problem the first operator ran into. She then told me she needed to transfer me to a different customer service office but instead sent me right back to the hunting and fishing speech.
If Dante has a tenth circle of hell, it is the Colorado State Parks Department Reservation System.
To be fair, not all was lost during this somewhat trying time in Colorado. We did make it to Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park to take in the dizzying views and go on a Ranger led hike:
We went to a fantastic winery in Palisade, which is not far from Grand Junction, visited the local farmer’s market for some delicious local cherries and peaches, and found a super creative taco place downtown:
And on July 4th, we escaped the intense heat by driving up into Grand Mesa National Forest for a hike full of beautiful mountain views, idyllic alpine meadows, and lots of colorful wildflowers….
But, as nice as the upsides were, as soon as the July 4th holiday was over, we ran for the exits.
Turning the Corner
In real time, Idaho has been the salve for all our Colorado wounds. We’re staying at a gorgeous campground, since we arrived temperatures have been in the low 80’s, and we’ve been having a wonderful time exploring the incomparable Yellowstone National Park.
I never thought I’d say this, but Idaho is quickly becoming one of our favorite locales. More on all of that next….
Where we stayed:
James Robb Colorado State Park, Fuita, Colorado