On the Road Again, Again, and Then Not
Two cold days waiting in Whites City to get to either get the hell out of southeastern New Mexico or see the cavern (We didn’t care which by Monday.) and the Park Service cut us loose in the cavern at 11AM. We went with our new friends, Whitney and Christine, on Monday and went again on Tuesday after they’d left for Texas. I rode the WR up the hill and Robbye rode with Christine and Whitney. The first day, we took the 750’ elevator ride down and explored the Big Room and the spectacular self-guided tour of the cavern. Tuesday, Robbye and I took the WR up the hill for a second look at the cavern. On our second pass we took the original walk-in entrance, which is a completely different experience. Hard to imagine scaling those cliffs with nothing but a torch for light and cowboy boots for “gear.” It was all nicely paved for us, but it wasn’t for the early explorers. It’s still a workout, especially going uphill. Being the rough, tough cavers we are, we rode the elevator back up to the surface.
We hit the road fairly early Wednesday morning, but started off with a glitch that went south as the miles piled up. The Scangauge, a piece of electronics I installed to monitor my transmission temperatures and other engine functions, refused to acknowledge my vehicle’s existence. We’re heading into the mountains and the device that is supposed to give me an early heads-up if the engine is overheating (the dash temp gauge is practically worthless) and the transmission is in trouble is dead. I tried a bunch of things to bring it back to life, including a full reset, with no luck.
The transmission started acting weird about twenty miles later. A few miles out of Carlsbad, NM, the transmission acted as if it were slipping when it tried to shift to 4th. That was when I tried to reset the Scangauge in an effort to get some information about where the problem might be. After the reset, the slipping thing happened a couple of times, but when I manually shifted it got into 4th and seemed to be working fine.
We made it to Roswell where I went on line for troubleshooting tips. I got a few excellent pieces of advice and some comedy routines about being in Roswell and being plagued by VW-hating aliens. There are some transmission connector problems that VWs are known for and most of the helpful stuff centered around that. I remembered seeing something on the “Baldy Rialta Info Site” about resetting the transmission’s computer and decided to try that. Not only did the shifting problem seem to be resolved, but the Scangauge came back to life (sans all of my setup information since I’d done the hard reset which blew all of that away).
Once that seemed to be behind us, we set out for a campsite that had been recommended by a ranger at Carlsbad, Valley of the Fires National Recreational Park. We have been some cool places on this trip, but the road to Valley of the Fires and the park itself are high on the list. The highway from Roswell to the park is scenic and beautifully maintained. We were treated to an amazing and colorful sundown and we arrived at the park right at dusk. Again, the park was practically unoccupied and we got a beautiful site with an amazing view.
Thursday morning at first light, I made a lap, with the dog, around the park’s hiking trail. No pictures, just memories. It was about 25F, so the walk was brisk, but I had the park to myself and it was incredibly quiet and private. If the damn dog had a couple more brain cells it would have been perfect. Supposedly, Australian Shepherds are incapable of walking competently on a leash and Gypsy adds nothing positive to that reputation. She about dumped me into a couple of deep crevices and convinced me that if we ever get into a starvation situation, the dog is lunch. We’re down to one animal on the trip and . . .
The plan was to head toward near-Albuquerque to visit friends. Right out of the campground, the Scangauge was dead, again. The transmission shifted properly, but there was something that felt a lot like slipping early on. That seemed to settle down later, but I missed out on the beauty of the drive because I was paying close attention to the vehicle. A little after we hit northbound I29, the transmission started doing its slipping/down-shifting thing, again. We limped into Belen where we are while I figure out what to do with the RV.
So far, I have to say I’ll take tent camping on a motorcycle over messing with four-wheel bullshit any day. I am completely unable to relax or enjoy traveling when I’m driving a car/truck/rv. I desperately hate all things four-wheeled, if I’m stuck behind the wheel, and all of the good parts of this trip have been after this fucking thing is parked. The memories I’ll have of the traveling part will be mostly of staring at that POS Scangauge and listening for signs of self-destruction from the VW’s engine and transmission. Fun, huh?
About 2PM, AAA hauled the dead hunk of my RV away and we’re twiddling our fingers waiting to hear from the VW folks about the necessary repairs.
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