October 19 – 28, 2015 Amarillo, Texas

Palo Duro State Park
Palo Duro State Park

Ten Days in Amarillo – Prius Repair

( I am now ( Nov. 1st ) safely camped at my winter destination at the birding site in Salineno, Texas, where I am cohosting for the next five months. Unfortunately there is essentially no internet signal here so posts may well become infrequent until I can figure out how to gain internet access. Bear with me please. )

After arriving in Amarillo and getting setup at the Oasis RV Resort, I took a trip into the city to the visit Select Toyota dealership and see if they could fit me in to get the body work done on the Prius. But, same as at the last two Toyota dealerships I inquired at, they do not do body work on their own line of automobiles, seems strange to me, but what do I know. They did give me the name of a local body shop where they send their customers, Soncy Road Auto Body, so off I went.

The folks at Soncy Road said they could get the work done by next Wednesday if that would work for me, so I had them give me an estimate and when I saw it was for just a little under $3000, I gave them the go ahead to order the parts and finally, maybe, my Prius will be made whole.

During my Alaska adventure the Prius windshield took a few rocks and the cracks have since spread into the driverside line of vision, so I went online and found a local Safelite shop and scheduled an appointment for them to come to the RV Park and replace the windshield. I must say that the experience dealing with these people was absolutely top notch, from the operator would scheduled the appointment and dealt with my insurance company to the installer who did a quick and excellent job and left the car cleaner than it was when he began. What a pleasure to deal with an outfit that actually provides great service!

I am to drop off the Prius at the body shop Monday at 8 AM so on Saturday I decided to check out a couple of nearby spots for photo ops. First I took a trip out to Buffalo Lake NWR. The place was absolutely deserted and I saw all but nothing to shoot, one mulie ran in front of the car and there were some meadowlarks here and there ( but I think I got enough of them at Las Vegas NWR ), and at the very end of the park road there was a water impoundment with quite a few geese, ducks, and of course, coots swimming around in the distance, but nothing close enough to shoot.

Campsite at Buffalo Lake NWR
Campsite at Buffalo Lake NWR

There is a very nice primitive campground in the refuge that might be a good place to vegetate for a bit if one was so inclined.

Palo Duro State Park

Sunday morning I headed out to Palo Verde State Park and that proved a little more interesting.

Palo Duro State Park
Palo Duro State Park

The park features some very interesting and picturesque geology, explained quite well in a nice Visitor’s Center.

As always, click on any image for a larger, sharper version.

Palo Duro State Park
Palo Duro State Park

There are four separate campgrounds in the park and they were mostly full, it being a weekend morning, and for the locals, this place must be a very nice change of pace to the boring flat terrain surrounding Amarillo. The campgrounds would not be my cup of tea, as usual, much too crowded and certainly looking like they see a lot of traffic and not enough upkeep. The whole park looks like it is a bit tired, but still has a lot of unique natural beauty, with lots of hiking trails.

Palo Duro State Park
Palo Duro State Park
Palo Duro State Park
Palo Duro State Park
Palo Duro State Park
Palo Duro State Park
Palo Duro State Park
Palo Duro State Park
Palo Duro State Park
Palo Duro State Park
Palo Duro State Park
Palo Duro State Park
Palo Duro State Park
Palo Duro State Park
Palo Duro canyon wall
Palo Duro canyon wall

After viewing the amazing geology from a distance, I took a couple short hikes to check out some interesting formations up close.

Palo Duro canyon wall
Palo Duro canyon wall

The shot above could have been taken of a distant cliff wall or, as is the actual case, from just a few feet away. The small “caves” and their supporting pillars are actually only two or three inches tall.

Palo Duro State Park
Palo Duro State Park
Palo Duro canyon wall
Palo Duro canyon wall
Palo Duro State Park
Palo Duro State Park

Very glad I went to visit, and got some nice landscape shots, but feel little desire to return, just too many people in not that large a space.

I did rent a small car from Enterprise while mine was in the shop, but that experience was nothing like the one with Safelite. The office looked like a dump, they charged me twice the daily rate shown on the internet search, and the white car they gave me was entirely covered in bird &#@!*, and I had to convince them that perhaps they should wash some of it off. Being unfamiliar with a different vehicles controls and dash, I was a couple miles down the road before I realized the tire inflation warning light was on. So, I turned around and drove back to Enterprise and one of their salespeople brought out an air compressor and filled one of the rear tires, blaming it on the cool weather and assuring me that the warning light would go out in a few miles. It didn’t. And the reason it didn’t was because the tire had an obvious leak. Fortunately, I have an air compressor now ( after my Alaska adventure ) and I was able to fill the tire the next morning, and the morning I was to return it, but of course didn’t dare drive it anywhere.

When I turned it in, I politely requested a very substantial adjustment, since I couldn’t drive it anywhere other back and forth to their facility and had to use my equipment to even be able to return it. Fortunately, they didn’t argue much about it and since I hadn’t really planned on driving anywhere anyhow, I didn’t mind paying a few dollars for the 10 total miles I was able to go in it.

Soncy Road Auto Body had the Prius ready by close of business Wednesday as promised, and I barely recognized it when I first saw it. Fully detailed and looking like a new car again, they did a great job and were decent folks to deal with. New windshield and new body!

The Oasis RV Resort is not the kind of place I would typically stay at, but I did enjoy my time there. Fairly new, the large concrete pads were fairly well spaced, probably close to 30 feet between sites and the 30 degree angles of the 70 foot long sites made you feel even farther from your neighbors. Full hookups, a $180/week camping fee, good Verizon signal and open skies for satellite reception and star viewing, conveniently close to the interstate and town, along with nice helpful office staff, I wouldn’t hesitate to stay there again in the future. Only one negative, there is a huge feed lot/dairy operation seven miles west of the park and a few times, when the wind was blowing just right ( wrong? ) it did get a little ripe. When that happened, fortunately, it only lasted an hour or two, but if I had to endure several days of it, I doubt I could have stomached it.

Thursday morning I was up and on the road by 6 AM, hoping it will only take me a couple days to complete the last 700 or so miles of my long journey from Alaska to my winter volunteering stint in Salineno, Texas.

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October 13 – 16, 2015 Santa Fe, New Mexico

Campsite at Lake Santa Cruz Overlook Campground
Campsite at Santa Cruz Lake Overlook Campground

Killing Time While in the Shop

I pulled into Hal Burns Truck ( and RV ) shop in Santa Fe Tuesday morning at 8 AM for my appointment to get the gasoline tank leak fixed, my rear running lights working again, and a few other minor items done on the motorhome. Last time I was here two years ago, I ended up camping in the repair yard for 4 nights as they worked on the rig, but I was hoping this time I might only be here a day or two. The yard is gated at night and they allow you to plug in to their electric so the overnighting here is not that bad, and it is ” free “, of course the repair bill is anything but.

So, being another gorgeous blue sky day, I unloaded the Prius and grabbed the dogs and photo gear and headed north to visit Los Alamos and the Valles Cauldera. On my way back towards Santa Fe, I took a side trip to check out the Lake Santa Cruz Overlook Campground just east of Pojoqaue. The image at the top is of one of the four campsites that sits right on the edge of a bluff with dramatic views of the lake. All the sites are back in with a shelter and picnic table and no hookups. There was absolutely no one there when I visited today and it is a fairly isolated location, so I don’t really know if I would feel safe and secure staying there or not. Sure is pretty though. When I got back to the shop just before 5 PM, they had managed to get started on the gas problem, but hadn’t made much headway and told me to settle in for the night.

Above Jack's Creek Campground
Above Jack’s Creek Campground

Wednesday morning, i again packed up the camera gear and dogs and headed east towards Pecos and then north on Route 63 to investigate the Santa Fe National Forest. The road follows the Pecos River up through the woods. While the Pecos River is your typical muddy slow moving stream on the desert floor, upstream it flows as a beautiful clear mountain stream that must be stocked with an abundance of trout, judging from the number of fisherman I saw along the way up to the end of the road at Jack’s Creek Campground.

Jack's Creek Campground
Jack’s Creek Campground

The road deadends at the campground, actually quite a nice mountain campground ,located in a large meadow surrounded by aspens and pines. It’s a long ways up here from the main road, all on a paved road that does get a little narrow here and there, but there were a couple big rigs camped here and i imagine it sees a lot of locals on hot summer weekends.

Slow Progress at the Shop

When I returned to the shop in the late afternoon, there was no one working on my rig and I couldn’t really see where much, if any, progress had been made while I was out for the day. Turns out the mechanic working on my motorhome was pulled off my job to go take care of another more urgent matter. Tomorrow I will stay here and see if that might influence them to actually get some work done on my motorhome.

Thursday morning I stayed in and worked on image processing and blog work, the Verizon signal is fairly strong here, until, at 10 AM, I couldn’t take the silence ( no one was working on the rig ) anymore and went looking for someone to explain to me why no work was being done again today. Turns out the mechanic assigned to my job had a dental appointment today, but would be getting to work on my project as soon as he got in. That turned out to be at 3 PM, so only two hours of progress today and a third night of camping at the Hal Burns RV Resort.

Friday morning my jobs were completed by 10 AM and I figured I’d be on the road well before noon. Didn’t happen. Took over two hours to get my final bill ( $1400 ! ) that I honestly gagged a bit on when I saw it. These are nice folks here at Hal Burns and I feel pretty confident in the skill level of the mechanics, but the hours billed for the work this time do make me a little hesitant to rely on this place for any future work, it seems a little high for the amount of time I actually saw any work being performed, but what can one do.

Storrie Lake State ( Prison ) Park

Heading east on I-25 to Las Vegas, NM, then north a few miles on 518, I made the short trip to Storrie Lake State Park and signed myself in at their self pay station for three nights.  The park looks like it is a bit worn and there is evidence of a lot of deferred maintenance issues, but the pull through sites with water and electric ( actually no water or dump station this time of year ) are nicely spaced and level with a fire ring and sheltered picnic table, all for the exorbitant price of $14 a night, not a bad deal .. or so I thought when I first arrived. As soon as it got dark, a very large, imagine a light such as would be used to illuminate a prison yard, bright light came on, bright enough to completely blind you if you ventured outside, which I made the mistake of doing, when around 6:30 I ordered a pizza from the Pizza Hut a few miles down the road and headed out to pick it up.

When I returned with my pizza about fifteen minutes later, I found myself locked out of the park ! The gate was locked and guests are required to leave their car in a small unprotected parking lot just off the main highway and walk the half mile back to their campsite. Now as outrageously bright as the light is in the campground where it would be nice to have a lot less light so one could sleep, or possibly watch the stars while sitting by a fire, on the half mile walk in the dark back to your campsite, there are absolutely no lights to help you negotiate the minefield that is the potholed paved road. I find it hard to believe that any campground would actually lock their guests in at 5 ( yes, Five ) o’clock, with no way of getting their vehicle back to their campsite. For me, that meant no trips out for evening photography, and for everyone, no going out to dinner or a movie. Don’t think I would ever stay here again, even though the campsites are actually quite nice and the price can’t be beat.

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September 5, 2015 Dawson City, Yukon

View From the Dome, Dawson City
View From the Dome, Dawson City

The Prius Is Back in Action !

The facility where the Prius was repaired shares a building with the NAPA Auto Parts Store and it was there, on two seperate days, where I ended up shoulder to shoulder at the parts counter,

Jim Thurber
Jim Thurber
Gene Cheeseman
Gene Cheeseman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

first with Jim Thurber and then with Gene Cheeseman of the Discovery Channel’s “Gold Rush” reality ( sort of, at least ) series. Kind of interesting to find that these guys do actual work up here. I am a little embarrassed to admit that I do actually enjoy this show and it was kind of neat to run into these guys. If I had had wheels at the time, maybe I would have been tempted to follow them back to their respective mining operations.

Anyhow, at 4:30 this afternoon, I walked across the highway from the campground to pick up the repaired Prius at the repair shop. It is missing a wheel cover and the rear plastic body panel certainly looks a little ragged ( it will be replaced at a later date when I get back to the lower 48 ), but boy, is it nice to have wheels again!

I immediately drove back over to the campground and loaded up my photo gear and two anxious pups and headed up Dome Road to check out the sights.

View From the Dome, Dawson City
View From the Dome, Dawson City

Autumn arrives early this far north as the aspens have all turned now and are starting to drop their leaves. The Bonanza Gold RV Park where I have been marooned is on the right side of the image above in the whitish strip of development along the highway.

Dredge Tailings
Dredge Tailings

That rather unique pattern of what look like stacked wafers is the aftermath of one of the many gold mining dredges that worked this region many years ago.

View From the Dome, Dawson City
View From the Dome, Dawson City

Quite a view from up here …

A Seat with a View
A Seat with a View

…with a nice spot to sit and enjoy it. This would be a wonderful place to just sit and soak in the magnificent views, but not this evening as a small group of young locals are partying here with rancid rap music ( ? ) being blasted from two of their pickups, much to the dismay of a van full of oriental tourists trying to take in the sights up here. Me, I’ll just come back up in the early morning tomorrow. I vividly remember being up here 22 years ago and being absolutely devoured by mosquitos as I tried to get some photographs. As has been the case all summer long, no bugs whatsoever this evening, probably the result of a few recent nights with some hard frosts.

Along Dome Road, Dawson City
Along Dome Road, Dawson City

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September 1 – 4, 2015, Dawson City, Yukon

Sunset Over the Bonanza Gold RV Park
Sunset Over the Bonanza Gold RV Park

Still Waiting in Dawson City

After almost four months in Alaska, it is kind of nice to again have a tiny bit of dark sky at night. This is the first sunset I have witnessed in a long while, and this was taken around 10:30 at night.

The Prius’ Fate is Finally Decided

Having spent a couple days and many, many emails, haggling with my insurance adjuster over the fate of my Prius, I finally asked to speak (via email, of course) with his supervisor. After doing my due diligence and finding some reasonable numbers for salvage value for the Prius and replacement costs of a comparable vehicle, plus studying Florida insurance regulations in regards totalling a vehicle, my two emails with the supervisor resulted in a reversal of the adjuster’s determination to total the Prius. Much to my financial delight, the Prius will be repaired and I now have a light at the end of the tunnel and I may just get out of here yet.

As of Sept.3rd, all my repair parts are now in and the Prius is scheduled to enter the shop for repairs on Friday, the 4th, and possibly be ready to go on Saturday!

I have now been sitting here just outside Dawson City for two weeks and have to admit to be getting more than just a bit anxious to get on the road again. But even if I get the car back Saturday, I still have to stay here awaiting the arrival of my Pressure Pro tire pressure monitoring system, supposedly due here on Tuesday, the 8th.

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