On our last day in Breckenridge, we went to The Crown cafe to work and see our one friend in town (who we met last week). It was raining when we left the trailer and during the time we were in the cafe it had started to snow pretty heavy, then it would stop snowing and melt and everything would look normal again. By the time we left, at around 6:30, it had started snowing again and the air had gotten cold enough that it was sticking. It was the first time in our 8 months in Colorado that we had seen wet snow (let alone good rain), and there was lots of it. We had made plans with our friend to have dinner at 8:30 but first had to go back to the trailer, load my motorcycle into the back of the truck and pack everything else around it. We had expected rain, worst case scenario, but the windshield of the truck had a half an inch of heavy snow already and the drive back to the trailer was practically a white out.
I’m not sure we went inside the trailer for more than a minute when we got back. Long enough to get my motorcycle keys and useless fingerless gloves. It took just a minute to start the snow-covered bike, putting a towel on the seat and wiping off the handlebars. I was expecting to be able to ride it to the loading hill we used last time at Tiger Run, about a half a mile away – since the bike had been running pretty well. Eventually I got it to idle enough to warm up but unfortunately I had started it too early and Ross wasn’t done unloading our load from the cabin. When I finally decided to just go and wait at the hill in the cold wet snow flurry, the bike stalled.
After that, it had no intention of starting. I put in more gas, attempted to kick-start it and even had Ross push start me, but when I noticed the towel I was sitting on had somehow got soaked in gas and a rainbow puddle covered the concrete below the bike at every juncture I popped the clutch, I realized it was futile. Ross had to push the bike all the way to the hill in the snow while I ran inside and put on some jeans, my leggings and dress soaked now. The hood of my hoodie was full of snow and not realizing in the rush, I put it up and received a full pile of snow down the back of my dress. No time to change, I grit my teeth, and met him with the truck a few minutes later.
The metal ramp was so slippery that when I tried to walk the front of the bike up the now slight incline, I realized I had no footing (my pretest was a lie) and the bike was starting to tip towards me, 350lbs. I was able to step up on the tailgate and continue walking the bike somehow without being crushed. By then it was well after 7 and we still had everything else to load. Our studded tires, ladder, outdoor rug, gas, water and black water tanks, trailer cover, bike ramp, hoses and our 10+ pieces of wood for our jacks – then to somehow arrange it all to fit around the bike and not fall out on the drive. This took the longest and by the end we were both soaked and cold and had about 10 minutes to get dressed and meet our friend at the restaurant.
We left Breckenridge at about 10am with dry roads and most the snow melted. After dinner we had done most of the inside preparations, making sure everything wouldn’t smash on the ground as soon as we left the lot, so by morning we were pretty much ready to go. The landlord decided not to come up because of the prospective weather, so we had no choice but to leave town without our deposit; Something that would come in handy in the following days.
Ross had been worried about the brake controller for the trailer for months, but a recent visit from an RV Medic seemed to do the job because they were working as they should as we approached the freeway. We had only gone west once to check out Vail, Colorado and never went back out of disappointment, so we didn’t really know what the road would be like from Frisco on. This new truck has a “tow mode” which uses gears differently and has a sort of engine braking when going down large hills, which we thought to be a benefit till the first large hill came along. What it seemed like to me, was that the truck started engine braking faster than the trailer brakes could engage and it felt like the truck was being pushed by the trailer, and the trailer started to sway a bit – even with out anti sway hitch. It was a little unsettling and we made sure it didn’t happen again. Otherwise the trailer brakes, aside from a delay, worked OK and we didn’t rear end anyone so that’s a plus.
As soon as we got a little ways away from Summit County, where Breckenridge is and where a severe drought has been official for over a month, we saw what spring in Colorado was actually supposed to look like. Even the aspens had bright green leaves where in Summit they were still mostly dead looking. The ground was covered in green grass and wild flowers, where Summit looked like a high desert with only sparse green, and even the golf course near the cabin was struggling to stay green. I had thought it was fairly normal but it’s now clear that the area is at major risk of wild fires and water shortages for a while.
Runaway Truck Ramp up Ahead. Scary Brakes Suck.
We came to Glenwood Canyon we had an especially great view for miles. The canyon walls were high on both sides, and narrow, one area so narrow that it barely fit a railroad track, the Colorado River and the Freeway comfortably. Soon after the Canyon and another strikingly green Colorado town, Glenwood Springs, the terrain started to look more like Utah (It was from Glenwood Springs on that I had the “Green Acres” song stuck in my head…).
It was around this time that we started to really suffer from an overheating problem with the truck. I had gotten Ross a
Kiwi Bluetooth Android Phone Car Diagnostic Kit for Christmas because of his concerns about the truck, and he was making good use of it on this trip. There was a lot of climbing from the beginning and the truck (which was looked at for a possible head gasket issue recently) had gotten a new radiator cap that was supposed to solve the problem of “puking” coolant at times.
We had to stop at least 5 times before arriving in Springville for the night (a town south of Salt Lake) to check and replace water in the overflow tank, making much of the trip a worrisome time for both of us, but while the truck was cooling down we got a chance to check out a few Eastern Colorado and Western Utah lookouts and rest stops. Utah had really started living up to its name the deeper in we got, with towering mesas and strange volcanic looking hills.
After spending over 10 hours on the road we arrived at what can only be described as the largest and busiest Walmart I’ve ever seen. I understand it was the night before Mother’s Day but I don’t know the last time, aside from Black Friday, that I’ve ever seen a store so full of people.
We went to bed around 10, after we made a small pizza on an artisan corn meal pizza crust.
Since our trailer running lights (side lights and tail lights) were not working, again, we could only leave as early as the sun, but wanted to get as much cool air out of the day as possible for the engine. We got up at 6am, stumbled to the Walmart bathrooms, packed up whatever was laying around and headed out. Our first goal was loosely to try and find some coolant for the truck. After we found an auto parts store, and were officially back on our way to West Yellowstone, time seemed to rush past.
The trip through Salt Lake City, a very spread out area, was surprisingly uneventful. We couldn’t see the Salt Lake or any giant Mormon churches from the highway and before we knew it, it was gone. As we got closer to Idaho, the terrain quickly went from stark to green, and I don’t think in all our travels that I have ever seen so many cows as in southern Idaho. Utah had its share, mostly hungry or lost looking things in the desert, but in Idaho there was nothing but cow and horse farms on both sides of the road all the way to Montana.
About 3/4 the way through Idaho I started to look for the Tetons, a spiky mountain range we were planning to live near when we were first looking for a cabin. We passed signs to Driggs, a town where we had even made plans to see cabins, and eventually Mack’s Inn, a tiny little place (literally an Inn in the middle of nowhere) where we had almost committed to a cabin (but its distance from everything and absolute need of 4WD to get to were drawbacks) before we decided to stay in Breckenridge. From the freeway the Tetons seems to be a 100 miles away, not even worth a photo but one day we’ll see them up close.
When we got to the Montana border at the top of a long mountain pass, it started to look like the Montana I lived in as a kid. Dense trees, lakes with rocky beaches and people in cowboy hats. Chocolate covered Huckleberries, syrups and preserves line the shelves of every gas station and coffee shop and stuffed animals, not the plush kind, on every wall in sight. From the border to West Yellowstone, we already had the feel we were in the greatest national park in the country. Passing what looked like a cracked lava field of monumental proportions, dirt roads that went off into the wilderness where no doubt Grizzlies and Eagles await, and sparkling rivers and mountains within reach again as they were in Colorado.
As long as the truck wasn’t completely overheating, we didn’t stop to top off the tank very often on this last jump. It was puking coolant as badly as the day before, but aside from getting to West Yellowstone in one piece and finding someone to work on it, there wasn’t much we could do about it.
We had possibly made our earliest arrival at a destination, getting into Hideaway RV park around 5pm with enough time to set up, talk to the park manager for a while, and walk downtown for a pizza at Wild West Pizza.