Heron Lake SP, Air Force Academy FamCamp & Hyde Memorial SP Sites & Sights - Fiberglass RV

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Old 07-19-2012, 02:53 PM   #1
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Adrian W's Avatar
Name: Adrian
Trailer: Lance 1985~'Casita de Campo' ~23' 4"~Dinette Slide Previously: Scamp 16 ft Side Dinette, Front Bath
New Mexico
Posts: 1,185
Heron Lake SP, Air Force Academy FamCamp & Hyde Memorial SP Sites & Sights

My Wife (Lindy) & I are back from our trip up to Colorado with our Daughter (Whit), her Husband (Rob) & their 3 year old Son (LittleMan). Got back home around 4:30 pm Tuesday. We left Tuesday last week. We were in our Scamp, they rented an older Aliner from Davis-Monthan AFB in Tucson.

Eight Days. 1,272 miles (we did all the touring in Rob/Whit's Santa Fe, therefore almost all miles on GPS was driving to one camping site to the next). The GPS had us moving (only in the Pickup - 23 hrs. 40 mins.).

It was 330 miles to Heron Lake State Park just south of Chama, NM, the first day. Another 330 miles to the FamCamp at the Air Force Academy by Colorado Springs. 310 miles to Hyde Memorial State Park above Santa Fe, NM. About 295 miles from Hyde Park to Home in Las Cruces. About 7 miles of searching for a working water hydrant at Hyde Park & a little driving to the bathhouse at Heron Lake.

Didn't do as well on mpg this trip, 12.2 mpg to Heron Lake, then it came up a little on the way to Colorado Springs; 14.4 mpg total trip.

We had a really good time, very enjoyable trip with a little trouble on the way up to Albuquerque. At about 110/115 miles from Las Cruces, the left side tire's tread unraveled/blew on the Scamp. Not sure what happen first the unraveling or the blowing out. But I noticed it right off & quickly pulled off the interstate. Almost if not the exact area where I had the tread on a motorhome's rear tire separate & unravel in 2001.

Rob did most of the work of taking off & putting on the spare. Luckily, I filled the spare with air before we left. After we were again on our way. Rob looked up Discount Tire stores in the towns up to Albuquerque using his iphone. Los Lunas had a store, but when he called, no tires in the correct size. Nor did the Discount Tire in Albuquerque, but he thought his tire distributor might have one. He checked, called Rob back. We ordered one, then after 30 minutes or so, ordered a second one. Figured having two new ones on the ground would be best. Later, Discount called back saying they had both of them. It was really nice having Rob with his iPhone.

Rob lead the way right to the store, I went in told one of men what I needed. Said, yes, he had them. We were out in about 30 minutes. Very busy store just off I-25 at Montgomery Blvd. NE, nice people & got it done quickly & well done. We placed the older tire on the ground as the spare, put a new tire on the spare & a new tire on the blown one. Thy replace the value stems with high pressure values without being asked, balanced & we road hazard, etc. They only had Carlisle Tires in the size I needed. They filled Rob's spare on his rented Aliner popup camper as well. I'd give them a 10 rating.

As we were getting our seat belts on, the sales rep, came hurrying out & tapping on my window. He was somewhat "excited", saying did you come from Socorro. I said no Las Cruces, but we passed by Socorro. He said his boss was afraid he'd sold me someone else's tires. I told him was it a S_ _ _ _ _, he said, yes. I said, it was my son-in-law & he had called about the tires. He was relieved.

With the tire mishap & getting new rubber on the ground, it took us a little longer getting to Heron Lake. Before getting there, several police cars/SUVs came racing by, at one point, I had to pull over quickly & had to break somewhat hard. Later, Whit called (walkie-talkie radios) saying smoke was coming from the same wheel we had the flat. The break was smoking after we stopped. I backed off the break controller completely (no breaks). No more smoke from then on. It was a relief backing in to our camp sites for sure.

The next day (after going on a train ride), I added some grease to the trailer axles hubs. Hoping this would be good after heating up the break(s) on at least one tire. I didn't try using the breaks on the rest of the trip. Just in case.

Whit had reservations for all of us for the state park with electric & water, as well as reservations for a ride on the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad, coal fired, narrow gaged Steam Trains from the 1880s or so. Next morning Rob drove us all up to Chama & we did the trip to Osier (halfway point) & back to Chama. You get lunch with the ticket at Osier. Pretty good food & dessert & all you can eat. Didn't want to make too long of a day for 3 year old LittleMan. If you go all the way to Antonito, CO, they drive you back on a tour bus. Likewise if you ride from Antonito to Chama. A very nice bus. But a longer day. We enjoyed the trip, but were all pretty tired by the end of it. CumbresToltec.Com

As always, I enjoyed seeing the train (next day) as it steams it's way up Cumbres Pass better than the ride in a way. Quicker & Not Tiring. We happened to be on the road the next morning as it was going to Antonito; got some great photos of it going along & it crosses Route 17 several times, even stops at Cumbres Pass Station for water.

The State Park's Blanco Bath House was not being cleaned very well (Trash Can not emptied as well). It had hot water & plenty of it, but the place need better care in keeping it clean. Worse one we have seen. We enjoyed our two nights there. But didn't any hiking, did one sight seeing trip to the Dam area, only. We used to go to Heron often in the summers when the kids were young, canoe, hike a little. It is a nice area.

As we left the campground we saw two Casitas from Texas parked & got some nice friendly waves from at least 4 Casita owners as we drove by one site. We saw 50 or more Mini-Coopers on US 160 E from Alamosa & I-25 N to Colorado Springs....must have been a CrossCounty Rally of some kind....they were headed West. Mini Owners Rally across US - AutoTrader.com On US 160 at a lunch break, we talked with a Casita's owners from England/Colorado who were headed to Chama to ride the train; as well as one of the Mini-Cooper owner (from Kansas, who had driven to New Jersey & was planning on going to the West Coast; he really looked tired). All nice people.
Special Report: 2012 MINI Takes the States Rally comes to Boulder, Colorado - YouTube

Thursday, we drove to Antonito, to Alamosa & on to Walsenburg & I-25 to Pueblo & on to Colorado Springs, & to the South Gate of the Air Force Academy. It took a little while for them to get to us to get entry passes for Lindy & I. Only two or three people ahead of us, but only two civilian women doing them. Two or Three airmen, just there.

The FamCamp proved ideal, nice wooded area, not too close together, bath house not too far a walk, even with coin washer & dryers, & WiFi as well. $25 a day for us (a little less for military). The bath house was spotless, & smelled of bleach. The first evening, we got a little sprinkle of rain, but none after.

Friday, we rode the Pike's Peak Cog Railway to the top of Pike's Peak. Again, Whitney made reservations for the ride, this time from the FamCamp, therefore we did not have to go to the station before we needed to. It was the 2nd time for Lindy & I, the 3rd time for Whit/BestDaughter & the 1st for Rob & LittleMan. Pretty neat, but it takes time & the seats are unpadded wood & most of the way your are either leaning back or leaning forward, depending on the seat. CogRailway

We did some shopping in Manitou Springs before going to the station & had a really good lunch at PJ's Bistro. Lindy & I shared a 1/2 lb. Burger with the Best Fries, we have ever had. The burger was good as well. BestDaughter had Russian Pierogi (we all like Lindy's mom's style Pierogi, but her's are not just boiled, but fried after being boiled, traditionally Polish Pierogi aren't fried). So Lindy & I passed on the Pierogi. But it turned out they fried their Pierogi & we got a taste of Whit's & they were great. Rob had dumplings with a strawberry sauce & said it was very good as well. The place had some really good sounding items on the menu. We'd go back if ever in the area again. I'd want to try the Pierogi for sure. PJ's Pierogi

I'd bought formed glass animal figures in Manitou Springs 5 years ago. I have been trying to give the grandkids a glass animal each year (since I bought the first GranDaughter a glass horse in the Black Hills, when camping with her parents when she was still inside her mom. Therefore, I stocked up on several for the coming years. I didn't find any for last year at all. Three GranDaughters in Alaska & a GranSon in Tucson. Lindy found a nice set of glass earrings & BestDaughter got a few things as well. At the Glassblowers of Manitou.

As we were waiting to board the Cog train, they announce that to avoid altitude sickness, one must stay hydrated & one should drank a liter of water to do this. We had one 20 oz bottle of water as did Whit. They advised us to go to the gift shop where one could by a liter of water @ $3 a liter. Not sure if it had tax on it or not. We got 4 bottles. Wife & I drank most of ours as we went up & finished them off on the way down.

Later they mentioned the "world famous" high altitude recipe donuts at the gift shop at the top. We all tried them. Turned out to be cake type donuts, a little greasy, not great. LittleMan, who loves donuts, didn't think highly of them, no frosting.

It was chilly & breezy up there, but no snow & blizzard like wind this time (like the last time, when the kids were young). One could see long distances for sure. A long sleeve T-shirt over my T-shirt was enough to keep me warm. We did see Big Horn Sheep & Marmots near the top going up & even better going down.

LittleMan found a neat looking toy steam train at the gift shop after we returned. After being told he could have it, he zipped between about 3 or 4 people in line & place it on the counter. When his mom & dad retrieved him & the toy, returned the toy. This broke his little heart & he went ballistic. His dad had to take him out, which didn't stop him from crying like the world was lost. Even sitting on a park bench & watching Hummingbirds didn't calm him down. Finally dad had to take him to the car. He can't take not getting his way (toy) at times. Ha! It was a cool looking train, but his mom said it looked like it wasn't made very well. He'd scored a Thomas Train coal car at Chama & got to play with a nice Thomas train set at the station at Chama as well. As his dad was taking him off, a woman told the man with her, "And they want me to have a baby right away." I didn't hear what she said, Lindy told me later. I would have told her, "98% of the time he is a complete joy to be around". Much better than most of us as a matter of fact. He can be a real LoudMouth on those 2%. Not pretty for sure.

Saturday, we drove down to Caņon City for our ride on the Gorge Route Railroad in the Vista Dome which BestDaughter had reserved a few weeks ago. Again, we found the food was really good on the Lunch Menu. Lindy & I each had the Basil Pesto Panini & it was very delicious. Rob had the Buffalo Burger which was very well done & dry he said, which it seem they are always like that (Bison is a very lean meat), & Whit had the Caesar Grilled Chicken Salad which she said was delicious.

The Vista Dome seats were really comfortable. We had a U-shape area with two tables & a seat between them (they gave us a 5th ticket free, to give us room, it seems). We ordered lunch as soon as we could & were mostly finished eating before we got underway. We had great views from the seats. The ride was so smooth & very cool in the air conditioned car. It was a joy to ride (a 1950's train). Saw a few Big Horn Sheep along the route as well. Smaller than the ones we saw on Pike's Peak.

The old steam train in Chama was nosey, often smokey & had cinders in the air & was rocky & rough riding. The Cog train was not as smooth either, but no smoke or cinders, but at times smelled of diesel fumes. Vista Dome was like riding on a cloud.

The waitress & all personnel were very friendly & did excellent jobs on the Royal Gorge Train. The food & service was excellent.

The highway route down from Colorado Springs by Fort Carson to Caņon City was very scenic as well most of the way (Route 115 part). The train traveled right along the Arkansas River into the Gorge, under the Royal Gorge Bridge & on out to the other end. Then it stops for the engineer to walk from the front engine to the on in the rear (now the front), then drives back to Caņon City, this time stopping for a few minutes under the bridge. Our Daughter had gotten the best side for the seats, next to the river, up & down. She really had the trip planned well.

I'd walked from our car, which was near the engine, to the open air car on the Steam Train several times. A docent was there giving descriptions of places & sites. But it was a sunny day in a high elevation (one can get sun burned easier up high). Rob took LittleMan there at least once. The cinders were hard on LittleMan as well as Rob. BestDaughter doesn't do well with motion sickness, so she stayed put as did her mom. I walked to two open air cars on the Royal Gorge Train as well. Rob took LittleMan to one of them as well. We were near the engine on it as well, going, & near the end going back. On the steam train, we rode one train to Osier & another train back to Chama.

LittleMan scored a nice, small toy train from the gift shop as we returned.

After driving back to Colorado Springs, we drove up to Manitou Springs area & drove through the Garden of the Gods. We didn't do much walking this time, but did a little. It was a warm day, didn't have water or the right shoes & LittleMan was getting tired. My Bride of 44 yrs. (who does like snakes on the loose) spotted a greenish colored rattlesnake near the concrete side walk just before it started to cross it.

It drew a crowd quickly, until a park "ranger" (a man in a uniform) walked near it until it hurried off the side of the walk into the bushes & trees. I was wanting to get a good photo of it on the natural ground, not sure if I did or not. Need to down load my photos. BestDaughter was felling a little sick by then as well. She & I did go into the "Trading Post" to see if she could find something for Harrison. I asked one of the girls at a counter if this was a Trading Post & she said, yes. I said good, what could my daughter trade for her headache. They didn't have anything. She did find herself a nice pair of earrings as well as somethings for LittleMan & Rob. But had to pay for them.

Our last day for sight seeing, we went to the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo (famous for the Giraffes which one can feed) on the warmest day we had seen so far. Did I mention Mountain Zoo, that it is, which means a lot of walking up & up to see the animals. On this warm, sunny day, most of the animals were sleeping & hiding from the sun. Which means we didn't see some of them at all. The elephants were getting a new environment built & were not there at all. The Giraffes were out & ready to eat from any hand with very crisp & green Romain lettuce (not a hard cracker cake this time). LittleMan even fed them this time, at "his" zoo in Tucson, he hadn't done so. They are one of the first exhibits one walks by. Cheyenne Mountain Zoo – Exhibits & Attractions

We needed a liter of water at the zoo, but didn't have it. We drank what we had, but were very dry for sure. But with all the warm walking up the mountain & back down without enough water, I had a good time & enjoyed the visit. Should have bought water along the way. Hindsight.

After leaving the zoo, we went toward Manitou Springs, driving by the Broadmoor Hotel, which is an impressive place. We were all hungry & dry. What we found was a Pizza Hut, but it was after Lunch Buffet. We did drink a lot of water & had a couple of pretty good pizzas, which tasted extreme good being so hungry. The service was not at all. I went to get the glasses refilled several times. The last of many going back for more, she said she should have given us a pitcher of water, but we were about to leave by then. I didn't leave much of a tip.

After our pizza lunch, we went to the Cave of the Winds. It is a nice drive up to the cave, winding & steep. It is a big operation with a big gift shop/visitor center/food court with a large wooden rope climbing contraption & some other attractions. The cave tour seem costly & after taking the tour was extremely costly. We had a very good tour guide (college student) with a good voice & manner & very friendly. She just didn't have much to show. Compared to Carlsbad Caverns or even Cascade Caverns (Boerne, TX) which I saw when I was in my early teens with Uncle Archie & his family & my sister Mona & her family. "The (Cascade) cavern is a cool, living cavern with millions of glistening drops of pure water reluctantly falling on spectacular rock formations, a comfortable 64 degrees year round. Texas’ only cavern with an interior waterfall!" The water was $2.50 plus tax for maybe 30 or 40 oz. I was still dry from the zoo. LittleMan did score a nice Simi-truck with Colorado written on it & neat scenes on it. Rob had gone to Cave of the Winds on a high school band trip & wanted LittleMan to see it. LittleMan was much into cave viewing. The Recent WildFire had gotten very close to the site.
Cave of the Winds | Colorado Springs, Colorado Attractions

From I-25, one can see the WildFire Blacken Areas to the West. One of the employees at Cave of the Winds said, the Flying W Ranch, which was burned in the Fires, was owned by the same people as Cave of the Winds. We didn't notice any other signs of those Terrible Fires.

So far all the campgrounds we had stayed were under fire bands, no wood fires at all, no charcoal fires as well. Only could use were gas grills, which we did not have. The first day at Heron Lake, we had brought cooked grilled chicken drum sticks coated with a tasty Bar-B-Que sauce. A man was grilling chicken on his gas grill, so the air was filled with the savory smell of grilled chicken before we broke out our delicious BBQ chicken legs & potato salad after driving all day.

Likewise, the FamCamp was no fires/no charcoal. After leaving the Garden of the Gods, we were discussing what to have for supper. I suggested BBQ, but we had just passed Ruby's BBQ on the drive down from Manitou Springs. Linda & I needed a few things at Wally World & I wanted to get some super glue to fix one of the cars on LittleMan's train cars. Whit remember there was a Famous Dave's BBQ joint near the Walmart near South Gate to the Academy. Lindy had been feeding us each evening & doing most if not all the clean up washing, I wanted to give her a break with the BBQ. We found both just east of the South Gate. Pretty good meal as well.

At Hyde Park (above Santa Fe/a state park), we found two electric sites (no water) & it said nothing about a fire band. We were able to get the little charcoal grill out & grilled the hamburger.

After the day of the Zoo & the Cave, we got a pretty early start. We used the nice & clean bath house, enjoyed our nice long showers, empty the black water tank (we had a sewer, but no way to use it, but could drain the grey water with a garden-type hose). We were off to Santa Fe, where we would spend a night up in the cool mountain park. Instead of following I-25 all the way (not fun towing a Tavel Tailer), we got off the interstate at Walsenburg & back tracked to Fort Garland, then headed south to Taos, NM & on down to Santa Fe. Lot of sage brush terrain with mountains ranges in the distance. From Taos, one follows the Rio Grande (which was very low now, but rafters were on it), it is a dry, rocky landscape with only a narrow twisting highway most of the way. At Espanola, we were retracing our route up to Chama, but going down to Santa Fe. Taos was very busy traffic wise, no place to park towing to take a quick peak, so we didn't.

No problems on the drive, except I did jerk the pickup back to hard once on I-25 which started the Scamp to do some sever jerk swaying (scared Rob & Whit, who were just behind us, not know what had happened; Rob felt I'd almost lost the trailer); even with the trailer breaks off, I was able to get it to quickly under control, I'm sure having the anti-sway bar really tighten down helped get it stopped. If the breaks were turned on like normally, I'd have used the hand control to engage the trailer breaks which will pull the trailer straight.

Having trailer breaks can help slow one down going down steep hills by using the hand control as well. Not having them, I shifting into low gears to keep my speed down as we descended down from the heights after leaving Cumbres Pass (10,022) & even more coming down from La Manga Pass (10,230') on CO 17 between Chama & Antonito. Also use lower gears coming down from 8,500' Hype Park area. When I say lower gears, I was in 1st gear often as well as 2nd gear. Three gears on the Auto Trans on the F150 plus overdrive. Of course, I had the overdrive off when climbing hills & when descending them. Luckily, the Scamp is light enough to be able to do OK without breaks, but much better with them working. I need to check to see if they are working now that we are back. I didn't think of doing so after we got back to Las Cruces.

As we did leaving Las Cruces, we stopped at Sam's Club & filled up with gas. $3.07 when we left, $3.03 when we returned. We got gas at one of the Casino between Albuq. & Santa Fe for $3.25, at Pueblo Sam's Club $3.42 & gas was around $3.45 in Colorado Springs, it was $3.21 at Camel Rock Casino north of Santa Fe (but one of the Casino down south of Santa Fe was now at $3.10 (it was much higher when we drove up). At Walsenburg, we got gas, but I can't remember the price, seems like it was $3.40 something. The Love's Truck Stop around Fountain was less expensive than the Sam's at Pueblo, I noticed driving by after getting gas at Sam's ($3.35, I believe).

We never really got into Santa Fe proper, we skirted it going up to Chama area using the Relief Route & just touched the upper edge of the city using Paseo De Peraita to get to the Hyde Park Road. I would have like to have drive down to see if we could have gotten some Roque's Carnitas on the Plaza.

But once we got to the State Park, they had the water hydrant locked at the electric campground as well as at the visitor center. After driving around searching for water (the Nat'l Forest Black Canyon Campground had water, but no treaded outlets; Black Canyon is just before you reach Hype Park, it is laid out very nicely with nice paved road & sites). Whit felt she wanted electric to make sure they could keep LittleMan warm at night, they had propane furnace in the Aliner, but to run the fan & get it on, they had to have 120 volt electric. The camper didn't have 12 volt battery for power.

By the time I was told by a tent camper where the only water one could use, it was to late to go see Plaza. May have been to late to began with to find the food venders or see the Indians selling their wears.

Black Canyon would have been $5 a night with our Senior Passes. State Park was $14 a night with electric & this one does not have showers or flush toilets. If it was just the two or us, we'd have gone to Black Canyon Campground for sure.

Neither of us had thought to get some change before get up there. It took asking two groups of people to finally make enough change to pay the camp fee. I got a $20 changed from a camper (a ten & two fives), then I found a woman & her grown daughter checking out a nice meeting hall building (the daughter was having her wedding there later on), the daughter had 3 ones & her mom had two dollars. With this & what we already had be were able to pay out fees.

It took some time to do all this & then I went off looking for water, which we needed for showers in the Scamp for the five of us. I passed the water faucet which was working without seeing it on my first loop, then the tent camp told me where to find it & I did. Got about 25 gals, enough to go with what we had to get everyone showered.

At Heron Lake, LittleMan showered each night before bed in the Scamp. At the FamCamp, he showered with his dad at the shower house. He didn't like the idea of baths in the Scamp two years ago, nor did he last year, but this year he was cool with it. He has grown up a lot. He did well for his dad in the big showers. I'm sure it is a tight fit for Rob (6'3") in the Scamp's small shower space, but he has been able to use it at times.

The reason for the stop at Hyde Park/Santa Fe was for us to visit the ABQ BioPark Aquarium in Albuquerque (figured it would be much cooler at 8,500' than at Kirkland, AFB. After quick showers & breakfast of egg with chopped ham burritos, we did the hour drive to the Aquarium. LittleMan enjoyed it last summer, but he really enjoyed it this summer. So excited. Fish are another of his Loves to See. Aquarium

After lunch at the MacD's he spotted & wanted to visit on the way to the Aquarium on Central, the drive south to Las Cruces was uneventful. Needless to say, We had a Blast & have many Happy Memories to Reflect Upon.

After spending a night at Papa's, LittleMan had a safe trip home with Mom&Dad to go pickup his best friend, his American Black & Tan Coonhound from the Kennel.

Thank you so much, Whit & Rob, for Asking Us to Tag Along with you. Grammy & Papa really Love being with LittleMan & his Mom & Dad on Trips.
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