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
Ugh, those bugs would have been IT for me. I couldn’t have dealt, lol. Sorry Colorado wasn’t entirely what you hoped for, but looks like you did still get some lovely sight seeing/hiking in. Enjoy Idaho!! Have a potato, lol!!!
Yeah, the bugs were “it” for us too. The rest would have been inconvenient and annoying, but the bugs were just gross. At least they weren’t spiders though… if they were, I would have been staying at a hotel. 🙂
The adventure never ends – and you can always roll onward! Glad you survived and next time we will meet you in Colorado and show you the fun side of everything…
Yeah, it is nice to be able to “run away” from our problems when we want to. 🙂 And yes, another Colorado trip will be in order – some day….and it will have to be in September or October. We are done with summertime visits. 🙂
So….you drove your motorhome to Ouray on the Million Dollar Highway! So brave, so very brave. I nearly had a panic attack driving the jeep along it but then I don’t do those kinds of roads very well. I lost it when a couple big horn sheep jumped in front of us, from the DOWN side of the cliff. They just appeared!
We looked at your little 4J campground there and decided it wouldn’t work on many levels. I know some people who’ve used it but…… At least your brake problem turned out not to be a problem, other than the “I was right and you were wrong” dance you must have had to endure.
Sorry you had such Colorado problems but having wheels on your home sure helps. These are the experiences that either make or break your life on the road. You either learn to roll with them and laugh or decide that life isn’t worth dealing with such disruption of “plans”.
Actually, we did not drive the 550 with the motorhome. We came up from Cortez to Ridgway on Route 145, and then went into Ouray (briefly) via 550 – but that’s only a couple miles and it’s not the scary part. Our plan was to drive the 550 at least to Silverton in the Xterra, but that all got tossed because of our brake issues. As for 4J, yeah, we were not impressed at all when we drove in, and were wondering why so many people seem to love it. We would have stayed there if our site had been ok because the location was great, but the park itself seemed pretty run down to us. Anyway, yeah, we’ve had to laugh at all this stuff. We’re fortunate that in between these disasters, we have a lot of fun and it helps us keep things in perspective, but these things can really wear you down after a while.
Knowing that you had made it out alive was the only way to get through that, especially the invasion part. Stupid bugs! Glad to hear the brake issue was just dust and nothing costly. Stupid cars! (Ha, I’m like you, where every little noise is surely the harbinger of the vehicle about to just disintegrate in the middle of the road.)
I think it was especially concerning because of where we were. Had it been New Mexico or Texas, I wouldn’t have been so nervous, but driving those mountain roads at 10,000 feet is scary enough without having to worry the brakes are suddenly going to fail. That would have ruined our whole day! Luckily it all worked out, and it was a cheap fix, but yeah…. Not fun.
I think you guys did the smart thing to not take your chances with a brake issue! I hate those roads even when everything is hunky dory.
Shoot, I’m not anonymous!
I agree – better to be safe than sorry! I’m sure Colorado will still be around for a while and we can always go back and visit what we missed.
Not sure we would have fulltimed for eight years if we had these struggles. Knock on wood, we have never had to leave a place because of the site. You certainly hit ever pit fall you could with the bugs the worst! Glad you got rid of them. I so want to hike Crag Crest Trail. I love hiking along the spines. But spring is NOT the time to do this! We drove up only to find a foot of snow greeting us at the parking entrance…whoops! Let’s hope you are on a smooth pace and find cool weather now:)
That trail was wonderful – it really had a bit of everything… forests, meadows, mountain and lake views, wildflowers, the works! And yeah,walking along the ridge line toward the end was just awesome. It gets very narrow so you have to pay attention, but the views in either direction are just stunning. You should definitely check it out (along with the Blue Lakes Trail) next time you’re in the area – just don’t stay at 4J. 🙂
Bad travel experiences. They happen to all of us at some point, don’t they?
I am sorry you ran into problems in Colorado, but it makes for a great story to share with your readers. I enjoyed your post!
Yeah, I will admit, these disasters do give me great material to work with. Who wants to read about everything going right all the time?? Bo-ring!!! Glad you enjoyed it!
First of all let me just say that the heat this summer is crazy. I was wearing a thermal layer two weeks ago in northern Montana, and now it’s close to 90 every day. It’s giving us some hard choices in terms of planning — are we willing to give up solar power generation opportunities to be in the shade? I am impressed with your willingness to change your plans when the conditions demand it. We just finished planning our next 6 weeks of travel (better late than never) and after all that effort I am not sure I would have the mental fortitude to bag it all and change direction. Then again, a bug infestation would probably drive even me to extreme measures.
This is the most we’ve ever just wholesale canceled reservations and I think that’s why it was all so stressful. We usually have a plan, the plan works, and we stick with the plan. I don’t know how all these people travel fulltime without reservations. That would be so stressful to me. On the other hand, you have to be willing to cut bait when all the signs are pointing that way and it was definitely the right decision in this situation. As for the heat, we have found that shade is all we need to not be miserable. It’s not humid around here, so if we can just get out of the sun, it’s comfortable. We still have some gaps in our upcoming calendar, but I am working hard to either stay above 8,000 feet or find heavily wooded campgrounds.
I am so sorry to hear of your troubles, but your writing is again my favorite part. You are such an entertaining read, Jon and I love sharing your stories with one another. If only all our experiences could be so well described, love it!
You and Brian would love Canada! We are in heaven with the smells of Fraser fir (Christmas smells) while we hike at 44 degrees in the morning to 65 in the afternoons.
We are in love with Banff National Park where we have reservations at the Lake Louise campground until the 17th. As usual though, get up early before the crowds.
Aw thanks, Cathy! I appreciate your kind words… It does help to find a way to creatively vent my frustrations when necessary, so the blog is very beneficial to my mental health. I’m glad you guys enjoy reading it. As for me and Brian (hahaha!), we love Canada! We spent much of last summer in the maritimes and had a fantastic time. Knowing what I now know, I expect we will be prioritizing spending future summers up that way. The Banff area is high on our list and your gorgeous pictures are giving us every reason to find a way to get there as soon as possible.
I’m very fortunate with Steve being a mechanic, but I’m like you, every new noise is the beginning of the end. And most times he is like “what noise, I didn’t hear anything”. When we got to Lone Oak, TX we learned about Argentine ants. They are EVERYWHERE and even with constant spraying, there is no getting rid of them. I’d love it if you could send some of the hot weather this way (and some sun)
I think we’ve had, maybe, a week total since we got here when the sun was shining. Since we are working, we can’t exactly change locations. I did wear shorts for almost an entire day a few weeks ago. Hoping you are enjoying Idaho and all your troubles are behind you!
I’ve never heard of Argentine ants. Sounds like I don’t want to…. This is actually the third bug issue we’ve had since being on the road – though this was definitely the worst. Our first problem was with ladybugs. They’re usually so cute… who knew you could end up with hundreds of them hanging onto your motorhome and getting inside? They’re not so cute after a while…trust me. We also had a bunch of Asian beetles hanging around for a while,. but they weren’t that big of a deal. They were just weird because they would appear out of nowhere. I guess bugs are just one of those things that comes with the territory of constantly moving around and living close to nature… but man, it can get on your nerves.
I feel for you with the weather. Extremes of any kind are just not fun. I’ve always loved fall and I am starting to think it truly is the perfect time no matter where you are. Here’s hoping you find some sunshine!!
I was in the process of making a big black X through Colorado and then I got to the views and the wildflowers and the tacos. Still, I will approach any reservation at a Colorado State Park with immense trepidation. We’ve had to change reservations many times in our travels over the past five years, and have NEVER encountered anything as awful as you described. Dante’s Tenth Circle of Hell, indeed! I think we’ll find a KOA, haha!
Loved your humorous take on your trials and tribulations, but I know it was awful while it was happening. (The bugs, ugh!!) So glad you’ve moved on to Idaho—we’ve enjoyed all of our travels in that beautiful state and are looking forward to more. And should you need to change a reservation at an Idaho State Park, they make it really easy. 🙂
I was so torn on talking about our issues with the state park system because we LOVED the parks themselves. They are the exact type of sites we want – spacious, natural, full hook ups, access to trails,, and conveniently located. We just had such aggravation with the reservations side of things. But yeah, I have to say, even with all of that, we’ll still take the state parks over any private campground any day. If not for everything else that had been going on, I’m sure it would just be a blip… but, as we keep finding out, when it rains, it pours….
I’ll have to go back and read up on your Idaho posts. We are absolutely loving our current location. If I had it to do again, I’d spend all summer up here, but we’ll be moving on soon. Perhaps we’ll go through some of the areas you all have been and I can get some more ideas!
I see my darling wife has you married to some new guy named Brian for some reason…but hey, go with the flow I guess. I have learned that even in the north it is not so much about latitude but altitude. The high plans gets fricken hot in the summer so find the mountain ranges and gain altitude to cool off. In fact we had to turn on the heat this morning in the middle of July no less. But after this we do turn the mothership south and I am afraid the Dakota’s are going to be hot until we get to the Colorado mountains.
Yes, Kevin walked in the living room this morning demanding to know who Brian was… figured I’d been seeing someone on the side (even though we spend 24/7/365 together… he figured I was sneaky enough to get away with it 🙂 ). But now that I think about it, I think Kevin would make a good Brian, so I’m just gonna call him that from now on.
You are absolutely right about the altitude issue. I just assumed too much when I was making our plans and won’t make that mistake again. Summers should be spent in places like Canada, Michigan, New England, and the Pacific Northwest. Everywhere else is way too risky (storms) and/or miserable.
Love your sense of humor & attitude, glad your time in Idaho is an improvement! Oh, the trials & tribulations of RV life
Thank you! And we’re glad too! It’s like night and day…. all sunshine and rainbows and puppies running through meadows here in Idaho! Who knew??
Your and Kevin’s reaction to the brakes are exactly the same as mine and Sean’s would be. He never gets riled up like I do, which is s good thing. You don’t need 2 people like me in an RV. I’m glad you survived Colorado and are loving Idaho.
I actually think we balance each other out nicely, and I expect it’s the same for you and Sean. Sometimes I really am right about these things and they would just get ignored if it were up to Kevin… You can be too lax just like you can be too concerned. I like to think we all end up meeting in the middle to get things done.
Well, thank goodness all the crap stuff, especially the bugs, is behind you! I’m glad you visited The Black Canyon of the Gunnison NP…we though it was beautiful.
Thank goodness, indeed!! We are a LOT happier now. Black Canyon was absolutely worthwhile. We would have loved to hike more of the trails, but again, the heat put a damper on things. But we did the ranger led hike and visited the various overlooks which gave us a nice overview. We’d certainly go back if we returned to the area (which probably won’t be happening any time soon…. 🙂 )
I just have to say your commitment to replying to every comment is awesome. It takes a lot of time & energy considering how many comments you receive. But, I will admit, getting a reply is special!! Another reason why your blog is so popular!
Thanks Debbie! I appreciate that. Honestly, I am always amazed by the number of ‘big’ bloggers who don’t bother responding to comments, or only respond to a few, and yet continue to have loyal readers. To me, if someone is nice enough to not only read the nonsense I write, but also leave a comment (most bloggers love comments), then they should be replied to. I think if you don’t have time to respond to comments (which some people really don’t) then you should close your comments section. What you definitely shouldn’t do, in my opinion, is ignore people. Plus, I’ve made some really nice friends connecting through blogs. It’s worthwhile to get to know people who have similar interests and we all sort of support one another. It’s a nice little community which only gets built if everyone makes an effort to connect. Speaking of which, time to get off my soapbox. 🙂 Thanks again!
Hmm. We, too, are in Colorado and are finding some similar issues with the heat. Heading eventually to Ouray, we will be sure to try and avoid some of the pitfalls you artfully described. And I must commend you for such a well-crafted blog; yours is a gift for entertaining writing, something for which I strive on my own blog. Oh yes, and I am diligent about responding to each comment, which I consider a gift. Happy travels!
Hi Mike! Thanks for stopping by! One of the things we were most bummed about with this whole debacle was we didn’t get to explore Ouray. There is a LOT to see there and we, unfortunately, only got the ‘drive through tour’ after being evicted from our campground. But it’s beautiful and everyone we know who’s visited in the past has loved it. Hopefully you won’t have any of the issues we did and can enjoy it. And thanks so much for your comments about my blog. I very much enjoy writing it and I love knowing that people enjoy reading it. Happy travels to you as well!
The joys and woes of traveling on a rolling home. Well, I’d say you guys are now hardcore rvers and you are ready for any challenges on the road. I can just imagine the stress 🙂 But the upside is you are now in a better place with great views and soon with great friends 🙂
Thankfully we did not make a reservation to 4J for we will be coming down that way come Fall.
SUCH a better place with SUCH great friends!! It really does make all the difference! Now we kinda don’t want to leave!
That bug invasion sounds nasty! We had an ant infestation in Florida, thankfully they were tiny ants but it was still creepy. I’m glad you won the fight.
We’ve been traveling more and more without reservations beyond the following week (except for super popular places). It sometimes gets us in a little trouble, like having to stay at a more expensive place then we’d like to, but we’ve never had to skip a destination. It can be stressful for me to not have everything planned out, but when I do make plans ahead, I hate changing them! I get too committed to the plan. Good work bailing out early, even though it was a hassle! Sounds like things are going better for you now.
Yup, this is a constant question for us – having reservations and ‘feeling stuck” vs not having a specific plan and stressing out about where we’ll stay. We have a couple more gaps in our calendar coming up and we’re hoping things fall into place, but we have no idea. There might be some Walmarts in our future. 🙂 And I think it can be expensive either way. If you don’t have reservations, you may end up spending more on an expensive campground. If you do have reservations, you may end up forfeiting deposit money if your plans change. Neither is ideal…. But I guess these are the downsides of living and traveling this way.
Getting used to jiggling with the jello aren’t you. Bugs, hate them especially when they get into the rv, we’ve been dealing with flies recently, nasty creatures. Bummer about the campground issues, our next foray into CO in the summer will be to higher elevations also, though Durango wasn’t too bad. Glad the Xterra was an easy issue to deal with.
Yeah, I think Durango and Ouray and those areas would be find to spend the summer in, if they weren’t so cursed for us. 🙂 I kinda feel like the state being on fire, bug infestations, and horrific heat were a bit of a “sign” that Colorado is not the place for us… at least, not this year. We’ll give it another try someday, I am sure…. Just not any time real soon. 🙂
We were on a similar route and found the same bugs when we detoured to Gunnison. But we did find cooler temps at 10,000 feet in Leadville on Turquoise Lake. Who needs oxygen? Glad the brakes worked out.
I’ve heard a lot about Leadville recently… I’d never heard of it before, but now all the sudden, the name keeps popping up everywhere. Interesting. I’ll have to check it out whenever we return. I will gladly go without oxygen if it means we don’t have to sweat all day every day. Sorry to hear you had the same issue with the bugs, but it does actually make me feel better knowing we are not alone. I would love to know what they are. I guess we can just call them the “Gunnison bugs” from now on. 🙂
We stayed at a Coe in Plymouth, Wa last summer and had a spider infestation. I was taking a shower and glanced up and found 2 big spiders! Ahhh! For a month afterward, whoever got up first would walk thru the RV with arms in front to catch cobwebs. Then my honey tells me he wouldn’t mind staying there again. Not in my lifetime!