Part 34: Durango, CO


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We spent our first day in Durango doing maintenance and chores like laundry.  We did some repairs to Thor's camper and rotated the tires.

The photos below are what we saw.

Our heavy use of the camper had caused some of the woodwork to come apart.  The reason?  The builder used staples but no glue.  So, with a bit of use and many miles of washboarded road, things self-destruct.  Our plan was to use the board as a lever to pull the parts together while the glue sets.  To do that, we had to drill through the panels and then use wood screws. The edge of the deck provided the fulcrum and cargo bags provided the needed weight.

Both sides of the deck needed help, so we decided to do them at the same time as opposed to waiting for one side to set up before doing the other.

While Kathleen attacked the deck rework, I attacked a tire rotation.  All four wheel drive vehicles will cup the tires; it is a consequence of the geometry of the front axle.  The only way to reduce the cupping is to rotate the tires frequently.  We last rotated the tires when we were at Bob Ragain's farm in Tennessee, but since then the front tires have worn down to the wear bars.  At the top left of the photo above the wear is visible.

A tire rotation is not really hard to do if you have the correct tools.  On Thor, you have to have a dog bone wrench to be able to reach into the cup of the wheel to access the lug nuts.  The dog bone has to be accompanied by a forged bar to turn it.  And, if you are taking the lug nuts off, you will typically need a cheater bar as well.  An impact wrench will speed the process, but most air wrenches lack sufficient torque to loosen the lug nuts; you have to get them started manually with the dog bone and then the impact wrench can complete the process.  Finally, to do a rotation in any sane manner, you need two jacks or a jack and a beefy jack stand.  And, just in case you are not Superman, you will need a method to lift the tire onto the lugs.  We use a spade-end shovel as a pry device because the spoon has a built-in fulcrum and the spoon will still operate on soft soil or sand.  Since we were in Brad's driveway that became a moot point.

Usually when we rotate the tires we also do a careful inspection of the tire.  We found a large sharp chip of flint embedded in the tread so we pulled it out.  There were also a number of pretty large cracks in the rubber.  I do not know if these cracks were the result of aging of the tire (they could have been NOS - new, old stock) or if it has been due to abuse on my part.  Some of these cracks are visible on the side of the tire lugs in the photo above.

Thor is old school and has drum brakes all around.  10 studs per wheel and they must be tight.  The wheel centers on the flanges cast into the drum.  Note that we use the stackable RV leveling blocks as the jack base.  These usually work pretty good unless the ground is really soft in which case the weight of the truck just deforms the blocks.  But under most circumstances, these are very handy items to have around.  Plus, you can drive onto them to level the rig for sleeping.

While Kathleen and I were doing service actions, Brad did some actions of his own on his daughter's car.  We went to dinner at Ken and Sue's in downtown Durango and it was great.  Next day, we decided to go 'wheeling in the San Juan mountains.  Since all of us will fit in the DOKA, Thor was left sulking in the driveway for the day.  Note the beautiful red cliffs just to the west of their home.

We headed north on US-550 and then took a side road.  We got nice views of the cliffs along the Animas River valley.  Note the bicyclist on the road; there were many of them out cruising on their bikes.

Just a bit further north the cliffs became higher and more pronounced.

We pulled into a fuel stop and noticed these jeepers in the back corner of the station.  Note the offset on this home-made "hitch haul".  This setup puts massive torque on the rear bumper hitch.  When I looked more closely at the setup, I noticed that the jeep actually does not even have a hitch but rather the hitch haul is just bolted to the rear bumper.  I doubt that this will last very long.  But, no matter, as it is not MY jeep.

The mog was the "belle of the ball"  at the fuel stop.  Mogs always turn heads.

Further north, we got our first view of Engineer Peak close to US-550.

We went to the Purgatory ski area and took a road that went through the area and back into the mountains to the west of the area.  We went past the ski area on Hermosa Park Road and then up the pass.  Near the top we came to the remains of the Graysill Mine.  The mine was seeking Vandium, but they also found Uranium as well.  This log cabin is all that remains standing of the mine.

The harsh winter snows reduced the other out buildings to rubble.

Brad stands next to one of the collapsed structures.

We continued up the road to the 11,000+ foot pass and were treated to a short break in the overcast.  Note the colors in the distant cliffs.

To the northwest, we could see Lizard Head Rock on the far skyline.

Heavy rains were sweeping through the valley periodically obscuring our view.  The rain never did reach us but it was visible for most of the day.

Another brief interval of sun revealed Kathleen enjoying the view.

The distant ridges were above timberline and the vegetation-free terrain revealed subtle colors in the rock.

These large cliffs show clear evidence of glaciation.

Lizard Head Rock is close to Telluride and is an imposing structure.

One parting shot of the range to the north of our position.  After lunch, we headed back down the trail to the east.  The trail does cross the entire mountain into Rico, CO but if we did that we would have faced several hours of highway work to get back to Durango.

On our return we got a reasonable view of a small lake along side of our path.  Brad stated that in the winter the lake freezes solid to the bottom so there were no fish in the lake.

The trail passed through the Purgatory ski area and at one of our stops searching for raspberries we saw the map of the ski area on a sign.

While at the ski area we got a clear, bright view of the peaks to the east.  Note the ski lift below.

Engineer Peak was visible to the north.

One of the ski lifts came up the side of the mountain to our overlook.

The side trip was great.  There is nothing better that being able to tag along without the responsibility of having to drive or worry about the status of the equipment.  We returned back to Brad's place for dinner and to allow me to edit and post these photos.

Tomorrow, we start our trek back to the eastern part of Colorado to La Junta for the installation of air conditioning on the cab.

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