Road Worthy

The Xscapers SoCo Convergence is located in a beautiful spot. Set 2,000 feet lower in elevation than Leadville, the climate is distinctly dryer. The tall lodgepole and aspen forest farther north is replaced here by open fields complete with cactus and more sparse and shrubby pinon pine. This makes it easier to see the mountains surrounding camp on all sides. The openness also makes my solar panel happy, and the lower elevation means nights are frost-free.

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Our boondocking area is located northwest of Poncha Springs, CO. From 50 west of town you turn north onto country road 250 and drive until the pavement ends, that’s where the public land starts. The Xscampment is in an open field on a small rise offering a view of Salida to the east. Winds frequently buffet camp, but it’s a small price to pay for this view.

road-worthy-2

On Wednesday the 21st, I finally get Bertha back! Christie and Brian drop me off in Leadville just as my truck is rolling out of the shop. Final damage? $3,745.69 – the shop had estimated $3.5k on the Tuesday after Labor Day once it was discovered what the problem was so accounting for taxes they were pretty much dead on. This price included both head gaskets (my Dakota has the v8 engine), thermostat, water pump, exhaust manifold, tie rods, two ball joints, and an alignment (and a couple other odds and ends including the burst radiator hose and an oil change and spark plug). The tie rods, ball joints and alignment were not an emergency but as long as I needed to do work, might as well get it all done at once.

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Leadville roads at peak color

This illustrates perfectly why it’s so very important for RVers to have an emergency fund. Instead of being unable to pay for repairs, or paying for them and then not having enough money for gas, groceries, and camping fees, I shrugged my shoulders, paid, and went on my merry way. Full-timing is much less stressful when you have the money to cover unexpected expenses like this. If you don’t have an emergency fund right now, I’d recommend starting one as soon as possible and building it a little at a time. Even just a few hundred dollars can make a big difference if you breakdown. You can afford a hotel room or a weekly RV spot with that, pay for a pretty long tow, or rent a car.

Leadville. I think that rainbow is touching down at the shop where Bertha was fixed.

Leadville gives me a good sendoff

It feels great to have Bertha back, and I’ve arrived in Leadville at peak fall color. The roads near town look like the halls of some great mansion, gilded with gold. The drive back to camp is equally pretty, with carpets of yellow and orange blanketing the mountainsides.

Photo by Christie Scott

Photo by Christie Scott, US24 just south of Leadville

Photo by Brock Brinkerhoff. This was taken at the Xscapers campfire Monday night, I'm seated directly across the fire.

(Click for larger image) Photo by Brock Brinkerhoff. This was taken at the Xscapers campfire Monday night, I’m seated directly across the fire.

All in all, I spent a whopping 18 days without vehicular transportation, which would put a crimp in most RVer’s plans. When time permits I intend to write an article about what to do when your RV/tow vehicle breaks down and things you can do to make the experience of being stuck without transportation more pleasant.

The convergence officially ended Friday, and Saturday when the weather is more travel-friendly, I’ll be making south for Texas and my fifth season at Amazon. It’ll feel good to be back on the road, but I’m also really glad I had the opportunity to spend this week with my fellow working-age nomads. This is serendipity at its finest, for had I not broken down I would have already been in Texas during this time.

At the campfire Thursday evening, we all said our goodbyes. Community is a fluid and interesting experience when you’re a traveling. I likely won’t see these people for months if not longer, but I know that when our paths cross again, we’ll be able to pick up where we left off like old friends.

In the meantime, the road is calling, and I’m eager to see where it leads.

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Becky

At IO I teach people how to ditch the status quo and travel full-time before retirement, and share stories of my adventures (and misadventures) to inspire future nomads and armchair travelers alike. Included at no additional charge: seizing your dreams, living boldly, and making a difference.

60 Comments

  1. Mitch on November 4, 2016 at 9:27 am

    Thank you for your posts and blog. Love reading and seeing the road through your eyes. Safe travels!



    • Becky on November 6, 2016 at 7:25 pm

      Glad you’re enjoying IO Mitch, thanks for reading!



  2. Steve Persons on September 28, 2016 at 5:49 am

    I had a 2004 Dakota 4-wheel drive truck. Pulled behind motorhome and used for work. Fuel pump went out and a major job to fix. I would put an extra in-line auxiliary fuel pump in just in case your pump,goes out on the road. Relatively inexpensive and can turn on with a flip of a switch. Peace of mind. My first time posting. Love your blog.



    • Becky on September 28, 2016 at 12:19 pm

      Never heard of such a thing Steve, how much does it cost? I’d imagine there must be some wiring involved if you flip a switch. I’d have to pay for the whole installation because I’m not mechanically inclined. Thanks for sharing.



      • Steve Persons on September 28, 2016 at 3:35 pm

        Any reputable mechanic can tell you about it. Just tap into fuel line with a small electric pump and a switch mounted in truck cab. I have several friends who have added to older motorhomes and trucks just as a backup. Not a big job but not sure of cost.

        Some of your mechanically inclined friends could explain to you. I think I ended paying like $ 600. + to replace fuel pump on Dakota. Had to empty tank and then remove tank after removing items in the way.

        Just a thought for a cheaper back-up to avoid being stranded Out in the middle of nowhere.
        Safe travels.



        • Steve Persons on September 28, 2016 at 3:37 pm

          I meant fuel pump not tank.



        • Becky on September 29, 2016 at 9:57 am

          Good to know Steve.



  3. Doug & Sue on September 27, 2016 at 8:53 am

    Becky, it was so much fun to finally meet you at the SoCo Convergence! As you said, serendipity… Glad you got your truck back. Love your photos!



    • Becky on September 27, 2016 at 1:58 pm

      Have a good trip Doug & Sue! Yes, the convergence was a lot of fun and I’m so glad I was able to come.



  4. Milly on September 24, 2016 at 10:37 pm

    When our follow car was temporarily destroyed by a botched oil change we used the Class-C RV as a car. It was terrible, but got us groceries over the month we were dealing with things.
    Milly recently posted..A Creepy BoondockMy Profile



    • Becky on September 25, 2016 at 10:36 pm

      Sorry to hear that Milly and I’m glad your car is better now. I’ve never had a routine job go bad like that but I’ve heard about it before, must be very frustrating.



  5. Jeff on September 24, 2016 at 6:42 pm

    Hi Becky – How many miles are on Bertha? My Tundra had to tow a pop-up at times ~1500 lbs. It gave up after I drove it to the moon! Over 240k but not quite 250 … before the transmission said “Enough!” Great Blog!; Great Pics!; Great Info!; Thanks Becky!



    • Becky on September 25, 2016 at 10:33 pm

      166k Jeff, it’s an ’01.

      You’re welcome, thanks for reading!



  6. Furry Gnome on September 24, 2016 at 4:22 pm

    So glad you got your truck back, and have that emergency fund! You seemed to survive the interlude without catastrophe pretty well. We headed out to a fall fair today and ended up getting a ride in the tow truck 45 minutes back to our place. I’m wondering what my bill will be too!



    • Becky on September 25, 2016 at 10:29 pm

      Sorry to hear that Gnome and I hope your repairs aren’t bad!



  7. Rhonda on September 24, 2016 at 12:11 pm

    Congrats for getting through a difficult situation with grace and good humor. It was great you had the opportunity to meet up with like minded folks while “down and out”. Hope you have a nice return to the workplace in Texas. Thanks so much for all the helpful information and beautiful photos…



    • Becky on September 25, 2016 at 10:27 pm

      You’re welcome Rhonda and I’m glad you’re finding IO helpful and entertaining. Grace and good humor are nice, but all the same I’m hoping this’ll be the last major mechanical problem I have for a good, long while. 😉



  8. AndyH on September 24, 2016 at 11:47 am

    Hi Becky
    I have been putting a lot of thought into my choice of tow vehicle and your repairs highlighted some thoughts I was having. I was going with a diesel truck that was around the 1998 – 2000 year as these did not have all the fancy expensive equipment in them. Diesel trucks can pull a load without stressing the engine better than a gas engine and a diesel engine with 200 thousand miles on the engine is at the beginning of its life and will go for a good 500 thousand miles. Diesel is a little more expensive than gas fuel but worth it in the long run. I also carry a cheap scooter in the bed of the truck in case I have any problems. I can use the scooter to save on gas for quick trips etc. It always was in the back of my mind what I would do for transport if the truck broke down.



    • Becky on September 25, 2016 at 10:25 pm

      Yeah, plenty of people go with Diesel trucks and they are a good option, I responded to a similar comment above on why I personally chose (and continue to keep) my Dakota. Everyone’s needs and wants are different.

      Having secondary transport is a good idea, I bought a used bike when Bertha broke down and it served me in good stead.



      • AndyH on September 25, 2016 at 10:38 pm

        Interesting …what is your mpg in the Dakota when towing?



        • Becky on September 27, 2016 at 8:50 am

          15-16. Which for an older truck is pretty good I think.



          • Rob on September 27, 2016 at 9:01 am

            For towing that’s really good!



          • Becky on September 27, 2016 at 1:59 pm

            It helps that I don’t drive faster than 60 mph too.



  9. Kent on September 24, 2016 at 10:27 am

    Great Colorado fall color photos! Good to hear that you are back on the road. Have a safe trip to Texas.



    • Becky on September 25, 2016 at 10:16 pm

      Thanks Kent, glad you liked this post.



  10. MnDreamer on September 24, 2016 at 9:30 am

    It’s good to see that Bertha is back up and running. Once again, we can all learn from you and your experiences, Becky– thank you for sharing them! May the trip to Texas be an easy one!



    • Becky on September 25, 2016 at 10:16 pm

      Thanks and so far so good Mn, Bertha is doing well and I’m safe and sound in New Mexico tonight.



  11. Mickie on September 24, 2016 at 9:00 am

    Becky, a question about the Xcapers. I understand it’s for younger folks, is there some group out there for us mid 50’s folks, or are we just in with the retirees?

    Love your blog and your pics are fantastic, thanks for taking us along.



    • Becky on September 25, 2016 at 10:14 pm

      Well, Xscapers is billed as a “working-age” RVers group, which includes 50-somethings, there were two couples in their 50’s at this gathering. Really though there’s no age limit for either group. Retirees are welcome at Xscapers gatherings and younger folks are welcome at Escapees ones.

      You’re welcome and I’m glad you’re enjoying IO.



      • Mickie on September 26, 2016 at 6:07 am

        Excellent info, thanks!



  12. David on September 24, 2016 at 8:49 am

    Wow, what beautiful photos throughout! I’m most interested in the low light photos Brock took…do you have any info on his equipment, and perhaps the settings of the shots? Thank you for allowing us to tag along with your journey.



    • Becky on September 25, 2016 at 10:12 pm

      You’re welcome David, and no I don’t, other than that he takes his photography pretty seriously and I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s spent north of $2,000 on camera gear. I’ve updated the post with his travel page on Facebook (it’s https://www.facebook.com/j9b2Adventures/) and I’m sure you can go there and get more information.



  13. Stan on September 24, 2016 at 7:51 am

    Remember to keep a close eye on things under the hood for a few days, this was major surgery and even the best mechanics can miss something, or a new part can fail. Watch for leaks, unusual noises, or anything that just doesn’t seem right. A little local driving before a long run is a good idea.



    • Becky on September 25, 2016 at 10:00 pm

      Yeah Stan I kept a close eye on it the few days I was in Salida before heading out. Knock on wood all seems well so far.



  14. Paul on September 24, 2016 at 7:35 am

    You should consider getting a 3/4 truck which are made to work and tow. I’ve been down the same road with a small truck also. Finally broke down and purchased a Ford E350 cured all my tow problems love the extra room and comfort of a large
    vehicle and larger tow capacity.



    • Becky on September 25, 2016 at 9:59 pm

      I respect your decision but that route isn’t for me. I specifically went with a little trailer so that I wouldn’t need a full-size truck. I love how much easier it is to drive in cities and find parking with my Dakota, and the gas mileage is much better. The Dakota has towed the Casita just fine the past four years I’ve been full-timing, the trailer weighs 3,500 lbs and the Dakota has a 4.7L V8 with a factory tow package and is rated to tow a max of 6,000 lbs – well within manufacturer specs. It’s just getting old is all.



  15. Anita on September 24, 2016 at 7:09 am

    I don’t think I have ever told you how much I enjoy reading about your adventures. Since we are now officially NOT on the road, I am traveling along with you. We also worked a season at Amazon in KY. We have been to many of the same places that you have been as well, though my photos are not nearly as nice as yours!!

    If you ever pass near NE Oklahoma, I would love to meet you. The RV spots in our village are $17/night, $300/mo for full hookups. There are spots closer to the lakes that are around $180/mo.

    If you don’t already have a plan for next summer, the Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge near Vian, OK is a wonderful place to volunteer. They provide full hookups and internet for about 20hrs/week (average .. some more some less). Mostly mowing with large zero-turn mowers. One or two days a week you go to the public boat-ramps and collect the garbage and generally policing of the area. They provide a BIG pickup truck for all the miles involved with that. We loved it two summers ago. Lots of birding, fishing, and some hunting. Just a suggestion for a way to see another part of the country.



    • Becky on September 25, 2016 at 9:54 pm

      Thanks for the suggestions Anita and I’m glad you’re enjoying my posts. I’ve known a couple people who’ve volunteered at wildlife refuges and they all seem to agree it’s a neat thing to do.



  16. Sylvia Jones on September 24, 2016 at 6:56 am

    Glad you got those amazing pics for us. So pretty! Thank you!



    • Becky on September 25, 2016 at 9:47 pm

      You’re welcome Sylvia.



  17. George on September 24, 2016 at 6:03 am

    As it says in the song “On the Road Again” good luck on the way to Texas !



    • Becky on September 25, 2016 at 9:47 pm

      Thanks George, and yeah, that’s a good song.



  18. Holly on September 24, 2016 at 5:28 am

    Since I met you in Quartzsite this Feb. I’ve been following IO, today’s pictures just blow me away. I have also been in some of the same places and experienced serendipitous meetings that amazed me. As an older traveler, I am learning some new lessons though. Saving has never been my strong point, after your clear explaination today I will make more of an effort to start putting some aside for those rainy days. Thanks Becky



    • Becky on September 25, 2016 at 9:45 pm

      Glad you enjoyed these pictures, and I hope you never need repairs on this scale. But yeah, it’s much better to have the money and not need it than the other way around. Take care Holly.



  19. Sue Ann Jaffarian on September 23, 2016 at 7:45 pm

    So happy that you’re back on all wheels! Safe travels!



    • Becky on September 25, 2016 at 9:44 pm

      Thanks Sue Ann!



  20. Sandy Tibbs on September 23, 2016 at 6:54 pm

    One “adventure” ends and another begins! Glad you are “whole” again. BTW, since you’ll be ‘in the neighborhood’, we r having an event called “Chicks in the Sticks” in Mineola, TX (about 1.5 hrs east of Dallas) on Oct 7-8. I have a nature loving store there (Lost Creek) and also own a Casita which I plan to bring to the event. If u r interested/available, let me know and I can send u more details.



    • Becky on September 25, 2016 at 9:39 pm

      Thanks Sandy.

      I don’t know what my schedule is going to look like at Amazon (and to be honest I may not have the energy or inclination to drive 5 hours total after my first week of work) but I’ll let you know. I appreciate the offer.



  21. Lara on September 23, 2016 at 6:34 pm

    The glimpes I’ve seen of the convergence look awesome.
    If I understand correctly, it was just your truck that needed repair. It’s a perk of a trailer/towing VS all-in-one motorhome if the vehicle needs work and you still have your home minus the wheels a bit.
    Things worked out so well for you, it’s great!
    Lara recently posted..Crystal Cave in Spring Valley, Wisconsin Video SlideshowMy Profile



    • Bobby on September 23, 2016 at 6:52 pm

      Well. Let’s say. U have truck towing trailer. When truck break down. U can park trailer at campground which is cheapest while truck in shop. U have motorhome and it break down either motor or transmission or axle. Shop don’t allow customers to “camp” at shop lot because of insurance. Also u have to spend at motel/hotel. How long it will take up to complete. Like Becky saying it taken her wait for 18 days. I have been automotive service technician before and I know the policy are at shops I have worked with. Hoping u understand. Compare what will happened in future. Where I live I have seen many motor homes parked and not much driven. Probably got very low mileage on them. I guess they use it as “in-law suite”. Few reasons.



    • Becky on September 23, 2016 at 7:07 pm

      Yes Laura it was a lot of fun, just like the one in Quartzsite in January was.

      And yeah, I mentioned when Bertha first broke down over two weeks ago that this is one case where having a trailer is really handy.



  22. Bobby on September 23, 2016 at 6:16 pm

    Yes it happened to me when I was travel on Trans America Trail. I had repairs 3 different times. First had to get new 4 tires cost $1,250 in Clarksville Arkansas then second steering loosened and found pitarm and idler ball joints loosened and front axle seal leak in Proyer Oklahoma.Replaced all and cost me $550. Third fuel pump quit and found rear spring leaf holder cracked. Had holder welded and replaced fuel pump in Moab Utah. Cost me $710. Approximately 8 motels I had spend when I couldn’t find free camping somewhere and almost dark sky. That totaled approximately $3,000 in credit card. Now I’m back home and been travel for past 6 months. Now time for me get ready for open season hunting coming up next month till end of January. During of time of hunting. I will upgrade my Suburban.. glad u have emergency fund, Becky.. wish I could meet u but in future we could..



    • Becky on September 23, 2016 at 7:01 pm

      Hopefully you’ll be repair-free for a good long while now Bobby, sounds like a fun trip despite the difficulties. Have fun and take care.



  23. Norm H. on September 23, 2016 at 6:12 pm

    Love, love, love those photos! You’ve just caused me to add Leadville, CO, in the fall to our bucket list. Good to hear you and Bertha have been happily reunited again. And, yes, having an emergency fund is a “must” whether in a stick and brick or on the road. Good advice. Safe travels now to Texas.



    • Becky on September 23, 2016 at 6:59 pm

      Yes Norm, it’s beautiful. Sadly those amazing colors don’t last very long, so you have to time your trip just right and it varies a little from year to year depending on temperatures and weather. Totally worth it though! Thanks and take care.



  24. Jerry Minchey on September 23, 2016 at 5:55 pm

    It looks like you’re averaging a little more than $1,000 a year for repairs. So $100 a month should cover it. Just add $100 a month to your monthly budget and you will likely be all set for your next repair.

    That’s not bad at all. It just hurts when it hits you all at once.

    Like you said, having the emergency funds available made all the difference in the world.



    • Becky on September 23, 2016 at 6:56 pm

      My first 2 years on the road were about that Jerry. Last year was about $4,000 and this year is now closing in on $6,000 (the fridge died at the end of last year but I replaced it this year). I made good money in 2015 so those repairs were fine, I may have to work next summer to build my emergency fund back up after this year’s costs, we’ll see. It is what it is.

      The trailer should be good to go for a long time, but I think Bertha’s nearing the end of her useful life.



      • Rob on September 24, 2016 at 4:51 am

        “Nearing the end” is an expensive statement! Especially after just putting $4k into it.

        I am curious as to why it’s worn out, approaching the 300k mile marker? On another blog (OFM) Barney just replaced his truck, he’d been making regular truck payments to himself for some time for this.
        I’ve always figured it costs $100 a month in repairs to keep a vehicle going but getting a newer was a huge expense.

        Putting the $100 in repair money aside is not too hard but making an additional payment can be another thing. I guess it’s just part of being a nomad….



        • Becky on September 25, 2016 at 9:35 pm

          These numbers are for truck and trailer combined Rob and include all repair and maintenance figures. It’s a gas truck so no way it’ll make 300k miles. I’m not mechanically inclined so I do pay more than someone who can do some mechanic work themselves.

          As I said in a previous post, I intend to keep Bertha until the cost to repair becomes more than she’s worth, the next time I have an estimate of $4,000 I’ll likely replace. Whether that’s a year from now or five years from now, who knows. I’m guessing it won’t be more than a couple years though – just a hunch.



          • Rob on September 25, 2016 at 9:52 pm

            I had a 91 Dakota that went just over 300 thousand, when the fuel pump died my daughter (she had it then) sold it to a friend.
            Good luck!



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