Part 31: La Junta, CO to Elephant Butte, NM


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The Trip

There was a beefy list of maintenance actions to be performed on Thor while we were in La Junta.  We were there 3 days and essentially did a "clean sweep" on the action list.  When the actions were complete, we loaded and headed toward Durango, CO to visit more friends.  Sadly, we never made it to our planned destination.

The Photos

The photos below are what we saw.

One of the actions on Thor was to replace all the rubber in the cooling system.  Thor is nearly 30 years old and despite German rubber being "good", 30 years is very optimistic for a viable service life for rubber parts.  Nothing has failed YET, but it was prudent to replace these components before they fail.

One item that was replaced was the radiator reservoir.  Oddly, MB does not have these parts any more.  The rubber was available, but this was the LAST reservoir in inventory on the entire planet.

Terry Lee Enterprises' shop is right across the street from the BNSF main line through La Junta.  During a down period, we walked across the street to look at the tracks.  Above, we spotted a thermite weld on the track and it was signed and dated.

The BNSF carries lots and lots of coal.  23 150-car trains pass though La Junta each day.  The cars above are full of coal from Wyoming mines and are being delivered to power plants further east.  The string of cars stretches out of sight.

When the truck was completed and we were ready to roll we went out of the shop to discover that there were high winds.  We traveled west toward Walsenberg, CO and on the highway we were subjected to a river of tumbleweeds being blown by the high winds.

The tumbleweeds were an endless precession driven by the high winds; a river of debris.  I estimated the wind speed at 50mph sustained with higher gusts.  The winds were so strong that the truck could not go faster than 45mph at full motor output (1300 degrees F at 20 psi turbocharger boost).

The storm was approaching from the west and sadly we were heading west to our next destination.  The low clouds were covering the mountain peaks west of our position.  We continued west to Alamosa, continuously checking the weather online.  Our conclusion was the Wolf Creek Pass (10,000 feet) was becoming dangerous.  We were still about an hour away and sundown was rapidly approaching.  When we reached Monte Vista, we concluded that the pass was a no-go, so we notified our hosts for the night and then backtracked to Alamosa and then headed south to Taos, NM.

We had cell service en-route and Kathleen located a very nice bed and breakfast in Taos called Hacienda del Sol.  Above is the sitting area with nice fireplace.

I failed to have the presence of mind to take a photo before we dumped our junk in the room.  The bed was equipped with special micro-fiber sheets that were super plush.  Note the log beams in the ceiling.

The remaining portion of the room.  We were lucky to discover that right next to the hotel was a nice restaurant so we grabbed our coats and hit the bricks.

The storm that effected Wolf Creek Pass also followed us south into Taos.  It was cold at night and it snowed in the mountains.  When we headed to the kitchen area for breakfast we got a view of Taos Mountain to the east.  Note the dusting of snow on the higher peaks.

Hacienda del Sol had a number of structures with guest rooms.  This bank of rooms was separate from the main building.

Our room was on the bottom floor at the far right.

The kitchen was in this building.  Note the illuminarios on the crest of the wall in preparation for La Navidad.

The parking lot side of the two story structure.

The property had a number of huge cottonwood trees.  Note the size of the tree trunk to the right of the sign.

We headed south out of Taos toward Santa Fe.  Along the way we passed this nice set of cliffs visible from the highway.

The highway passed through a number of Indian Reservations and one of them had this interesting bridge.

Further south, we passed a rock structure called "Camel Rock" to the west of the highway.

North of Albuquerque we got a view of the Sandia Mountains and the massive cliffs on the west slope.

We continued south on I-25.  South of Albuquerque we could see the rich fields along the Rio Grande river and the mountain to the east of the valley.

We traveled south to Elephant Butte before parking for the night.  We chose an RV park, but they failed to staff their office for late arrivers, so we just rolled in and choose a spot.

We were conservative in not attempting Wolf Creek Pass during a storm.  But discretion is the better part of valor.  I lost control of my mog years ago when it was in snow, so recalling that incident, it seemed prudent to retreat in the face of the storm.  We ended up meeting more truck fiends in Santa Fe who had returned from Japan, and we got to stay in a nice B&B and eat at a premium restaurant in Taos, so it was not a total loss.

Tomorrow, we execute a mega-drive to Tucson for Thanksgiving with family.

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