I normally think of myself as a fairly laid back person, moreso than most. And yet even I have my moments where I get frustrated. It isn’t pretty. Today was one of those days.
There were a lot of factors, but the one issue that was at the root of it was our propane gas in the popup. Earlier in the week we found that the gas was leaking from somewhere around the main cylinder valve. Ortega’s in Grants, New Mexico went above and beyond in attempting to fix the leak but finally had to resort to replacing the main valve itself. Of course, in order to do this they first had to bleed off the gas in the cylinder. We just paid $15 to have the cylinder filled, so we flushed that money down the drain. And once the new valve was in place, we had to fill the tank again! But all that was worth it just to have gas for cooking, hot water and to help supplement the electric heater which struggled to keep us warm in the cold mountain air.
And for a few days everything was just fine. Then the furnace quit. It would attempt to light a few times and stop. I checked the water heater. The pilot light would light, but no flame. The stovetop burners would light then quickly go out. The tank gauge didn’t indicate that the tank was very low, but I thought maybe we used so much gas with the furnace that we had lowered the pressure too much. I decided to have the cylinder refilled.
The good news is that there was a big propane tank and refilling station right there in the El Morro RV park! The bad news is that the only person who knew how to operate it was the owner, who was not yet returned from a vacation to Ireland. Crap.
At about that time I checked the weather forecast and noticed that a late-season freeze was about to hit. It was just for one night, so we headed to Gallup, New Mexico for an evening at a La Quinta. Our reward points dropped the cost to $30, an extra bonus! We then drove around town looking for groceries and a place to refill the propane cylinder. Once again, being full-time travelers caught us off-guard. Holiday? Oh yeah, we remember those. So the propane shops and banks are all closed for Memorial Day. Guess we will wait till tomorrow to fill the gas!
And then this morning arrived. For some reason I got frustrated about still being in New Mexico and having to drive all the way to eastern Utah just to have to turn back around and drive right back down to I-40. We were already on I-40 for crying out loud! And we’ve been in this state almost an entire month! We’ll never make half of the places we plan to visit at this rate!
I moaned and whined about this for awhile, and then we finally got ready to go and headed for a propane dealer. Google Maps took me to a spot in the middle of nowhere about five miles south of town. There was a small ranch there, and nothing that looked like a propane dealer. A quick phone call confirmed my suspicions. I drove back to I-40, went west a few miles then pulled in to Gallup Propane.
The kid working the pump seemed surprised to see our tank bolted to the tongue. Evidently no one does that any more (thanks Camping World!) So he disconnected it and picked it up. I think he started suspecting a joke at this point. He said it didn’t seem like it needed any fuel. He put it up on the scales. 55 pounds, give or take a bit. That’s a completely full tank! What the hell?
He connected an open-ended Acme valve and gas blew out full force when the valve was opened. At this point the suspicion fell on our Acme valve, the pigtail, or some other part of the piping in the system. Either we had a massive leak or blockage. I began to think it was good we bought a full extended warranty! We left and drove to a nearby truck stop to take a potty break and think about things for awhile.
Our next obvious stop was Camping World. Warranty repair onsite had a $50 deductible vs work done elsewhere. Plus they had other parts we wanted: a second cylinder and some other way of attaching the cylinders to the tongue. Maybe a cover as well. But which one? It was 130 miles to go back to Albuquerque, 185 to the one in Flagstaff, Arizona. I liked the idea of moving forward, but it would mean missing out on Mesa Verde and Arches National Park. We looked up the phone number for the Flagstaff Camping World. This is what it said on their web site:
Important Notice: Due to tornado damage, our Flagstaff location is closed until further notice. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause to our customers.
Since when do they have freakin’ tornadoes in Flagstaff? I couldn’t believe what I was reading. We both laughed at how ridiculous this was all becoming. We did some math on the mileage options. In the end the solution with the least amount of extra miles was to go back to Albuquerque. It was a long, windy drive. The Montero drug the trailer back up over the Continental Divide at around 45-50mph. We survived all the 30-35mph winds, the extra turbulence from all of the big rigs and motorhomes that passed us. I watched the massive miles and miles of lava at El Malpais pass by our windows again. It was as if New Mexico was laughing at us.
Finally we arrived at Camping World. We knew we would be too late for service so our plan was to set up at the RV park right behind the store and test the gas connections one more time. So we pulled into the Enchanted Trails RV park and got a really good deal on a full hook-up site – $15 a night! We blocked, unhitched, leveled, raised, unfurled, braced and connected everything. It was time. I made sure the gas was connected and the valve was open. The water heater pilot light barely lit, but it would not ignite. The stovetop burners were the same. One of them lit briefly, then nothing. I inspected the lines under the trailer. No obvious breaks or kinks, no rock damage. I disconnected the Acme valve from the tank and inspected it. Nothing obvious, nothing in the gauge. I held the valve down and whacked it a few times on the tongue, just to see if I could dislodge anything. Again, nothing obvious. I reconnected it and went inside to test it just one more time.
Flame. Glorious flame! All three burners! I lit the water heater pilot light and turned the dial — whomp-whoosh!
So. Basically we are back in Albuquerque for no real good reason. We could be camped near Mesa Verde right now. However, we have worked out a compromise. Tomorrow we will hit up Camping World for parts. I bet they will be surprised to see us again! Then we will book it on up to Bandelier National Monument to see the cliff dwellings there. Hopefully that will assuage Bryn for not being able to go to Mesa Verde. And as for Arches National Park, it’s just too far out of our way. It has been officially scratched from our schedule. In a few days we will head west on I-40 again, and maybe — MAYBE — this time we just might actually make it out of this state!