Laramie to Casper, WY

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A monument to the oil wellian west

Spent the morning going hiking and cleaning the house. It was a delight to be camped at Tie City. Spent the afternoon beating our way north into 30 – 40 MPH headwind/ crosswinds over some very wavy roads. Not rough like the top contenders on my Worst Roads List but wavy like driving over a black-top ocean. The ride in the truck felt like a giant hobby-horse gone horribly wrong. Wanna make america great again? Repave all her roads.

Driving into a 40 MPH wind is about the same as climbing over Vail Pass only it lasts for three hours! This leg of the trip seems like a repeat of the leg through southern Colorado into Oklahoma last April – HOT, windy, rough road, and ending at a truck stop. This time the truck stop is the Hat Six Travel Center and while the fuel is 20¢ more than the quicky mart the parking lot is ginormous!

 

 

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State Forest State Park to Tie City Campground

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Called Tie City because this is where a LOT of railroad ties were cut it’s also a premier Mtn Bike riding area just east of Laramie, WY. We were there Tuesday night and got to watch the Tuesday night race series.

Wednesday morning I rode the race course. It was a super ride and I didn’t have to read a map or think about the route because the race organizers had marked it well and left the markers out (I was told there is a Wednesday night trail-run on the same route). It was about an 8 mile loop through forest, across meadows, and a hand-full of creek crossings.

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The drive up from Colorado took us through a recent wildfire area on the CO WY border. Many burned trees in the area and the fire danger was still very high as the fire crews mopped up along the side of the highway. A Red Flag Warning and a Fire Weather Watch were in effect during our visit to Larimie and the nearby mountains. I was almost caught up in the Hayman Fire (Colorado in 03 or 04 – I don’t recall the year) so now I’m leery of camping in the forest and when I do I really don’t like to disconnect the truck/camper in case we have to flee in the dark of night.

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The Tie City Campground loop is quite rough in places. The road is not very wide and it has deep ruts from rain cutting into it. That said I managed to pull at 23’ trailer past a 35’ class A and find a spot to park. There are 4 or 5 places a bigger rig will fit and the other 10 or so places are for tents, vans, or small trailers. There are pit toilets in the campground, but I didn’t see any water, sewer, or elect service. Cost was $10 per night in 2018. It’s $5 as a day-use area.

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Tech report: There was 3 bars of verizon 3G, enough for an internet connection. The LTE service fades in and out so I turned it off. Plenty of signal for talk and text.

Jacks Gulch to State Forest State Park

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After MeadowFest we journeyed farther up the Cache La Poudre River and over Cameron Pass (more than 10,000 feet high) towards Walden, CO. Truck 2.0 did not have any trouble pulling the pass at whatever speed I thought was appropriate and I’m happy about that! We stopped for the night at State Forest State Park on the west side of the Medicine Bow Mountains.

State Forest State Park is very large and has a delightful lake in it. We chose to stay in the cheap seats ($10) on County Road (CR) 41. There are more than 50 primitive sites in the dispersed areas and they are first-come un-reservable sites. There are also many more sites with tables, fire rings, and nearby toilets ($18). Those can be reserved via the Internet. There is only one dump station and it’s near the Michigan Creek Park Entrance.

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We picked a spot next to a creek so we could enjoy the sounds of flowing water (Bonus! It was long enough to park the whole rig without disconnecting the truck). The humming birds were out working the flowers and occasionally stopped by to peek in the windows at the cats.

The north end of CR 41 is mostly quiet as the only activity at the end of the road involves hiking or horseback riding (and a little bit of logging-truck stuffs). CR 41 is only about 10 miles long and ends for automobiles at a big traffic circle/ horse campground. There is much more to do near the lake and in the campgrounds close to the hiking trails.

Tech report: There was 1 to 2-bars of verizon service where we stopped 8 miles north on CR 41. Enough for text and a couple phone calls, but not reliable enough for an internet connection.

Pawnee Grassland to Jacks Gulch

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The Long Way
We took a detour through Denver to pick up some packages and get new tires on truck 2.0. After our chores were done we went north to Fort Collins and then west up the Cache La Poudre River to Pingree Park Road then on to the Jacks Gulch Campground for MeadowFest.

Meadow Fest is hard to explain. It’s essentially a family reunion where all your family members are awesome people. We all camped out in the woods and sang songs around a campfire, ate pancakes for breakfast, and had pot-luck for dinner. It rained a couple times and hailed a little bit. There were more cats than dogs this year (four cats + one kitten vs 3 small dogs), one person got two flat-tires on her van, and one person had a marshmallow-roasting incident resulting in some tears.

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There is also some nice mtn biking in the area on forest service roads where I saw fields of wild-flowers in bloom. I don’t think I’d make a special trip to mtn bike, but if you’re here, bring a bike.

The area is close to Ft Collins so the forest has a tendency to fill up on summer weekends. There is some free-camping in the area in dispersed camp sites and those fill up by Friday night. The campground at Jacks Gulch had open spots all weekend ($22). There are some electric sites ($29 in 2018), but no water or sewer connections. I drove up on a Thursday morning and there were also some available sites in the campgrounds along the Poudre River.

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Tech report: There is no cell service, no internet, only satellite tv.

Boyd Lake to Crow Valley Campground near Briggsdale CO

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East-bound out of Loveland and through Windsor on Hwy 392 which then curves north and crosses Hwy 14 at Briggsdale, CO. Crow Valley Campground is in the trees near Crow Creek just north of Hwy 14 and on the west side of Weld County 77. The area is part of the Pawnee National Grassland and a premier bird-watching area.

The campground is co-located with the Lee and Dorothy Rhodes Farm Implement Museum which to my eye looks like a pile of old broken metal bits. I imagine a conversation between Dorothy and Lee that went something like this:

“Lee, I told you to get ride of that old broken stuff cluttering up the yard”

“Okay Dot, I’ll get rid of it tonight”

Whereby Lee hauls it off under cover of darkness to the National Grassland and drops it in a cottonwood grove along with a sign which says “museum” so he doesn’t get fined for dumping.

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On the left is a hay mower – On the right is a hay baler.

The campsites are $13 per night for a single site and $18 for a double site (Spring 2018), but there is no water (except at the picnic pavilions), electric, or sewer connection. There are community toilets and shade trees. The best shade is in sites 6, 7, 8, & 10. 9 is okay and so is 1 but they get a lot of mid-day sun. 6 is a double-wide site. Since we can’t plug in and run the AC it is a bit toasty today. Tomorrow is suppose to be 10* cooler, day after that 20* cooler.

The next day on the Pawnee National Grassland’s windswept plains:

A thunderstorm drifted through here this afternoon and it’s so very pleasant now. Cool air smelling like rain and enough cloud cover to blot out the sun.

I found another farm implement “museum” today. On the corner of 3rd Ave and Milton in Briggsdale.

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I went into town to see the sites and found a Motor Vehicle Use Map (MVUM) for the Pawnee Grassland at the Briggsdale Market. It shows all the places where dispersed camping is allowed so I’ll be free camping the next couple nights.

The National Grassland is mostly not public land. From a look at the map it’s about 90 to 95% private land which means most of the Grassland is off-limits. A lot of the pubic lands are also given over to cattle grazing so there are fences, water tanks, and other items on public land which are someone’s private property. The Weld County roads are mostly passable in a car, but many of the Forest Service (Grassland) roads are only suitable for 4×4 high clearance vehicles. If you are pulling a trailer or bringing a motor-home here it’d be best to check out the roads in a car/truck first before committing the rolling house. Unless you’re driving an expedition vehicle, then go for it.

The MVUM shows a fair number of roads designated for dispersed camping. Most of them have never seen anyone camp on them so there are no turn-outs or trails looping around a fire ring. That said there are a lot of places you are allowed to just pull off the road and camp within 300 feet of it.

We found a quiet little spot on a road that I feel certain was once a driveway to a ranch or business. It’s paved and ends at what might have once been a sliding gate and some parking spots. Since it rained last night, and may rain again today, I thought parking on pavement was better than picking a spot that could be a mud-hole after a storm.

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Though I’m not much of a bird-watcher I did spot 3 Hawks and some Meadowlarks. There are also Pronghorn Antelope, Rabbits, and Cows near camp.

Tech report – Crow Valley Campground has 2-bars of LTE verizon service which was enough to use the internet. Briggsdale, across the street, has 5-bars of LTE service. Once you get out on the Grassland verizon service drops to 1 or 3 bars of 3G (no internet connection, but talk & text worked).
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Jeffco Fair Grounds to Boyd Lake

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The last time we were here it was near freezing (0*C), the rain was turning to ice whenever it touched anything, and the robins were puffed up like tribbles. This time it’s near 90*F (33*C), the lake is a-buzz with watercraft, and kids are making s’mores. What a difference!

Last time we came this way I ran the truck/ trailer over the nearby CAT scale to see what we weighed. That time we came in at 14,660. As we went by our storage unit a couple weeks ago we dropped off a few hundred pounds of things we didn’t use in the past two months and the goal was to lose 600 pounds. We drove over the scales again this time and weighed in at 14,760 – somehow we gained 100 pounds. Likely because of mistakes I made in fuel or water quantity not being the same even though I thought I had full fuel and water on both crossings. So be it – Truck 2.0 does not seem to care about 600 pounds anymore (see Repairs and Mods below).

I got up with the serious fisher persons this morning and went for a bike ride. The sun was just rising and the temperature was delightful. Baby bunnies darting every-which-way and sleepy-face ducks waddling to the shore. And gnats. Gnats get up early too.

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Tech report – Boyd Lake State Park does not have a strong verizon-signal. Even though it’s in a neighborhood of Loveland there is only a 3-bar 3G signal and a 1-bar LTE signal. Enough to make calls and text, but too slow to use the internet.

 

 

 

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Repairs and Mods

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Whenever I see and old truck still chugging along it gives me hope for truck 1.0

I was having some trouble with the truck not wanting to start, which I suspected was due to a fuel or air leak. I took it to Bodacious Diesel in Golden, Colorado and sure enough the fuel system was leaking in three places near the filter housing. It also needed brake work on three wheels, steering work, and front suspension work.

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Truck 1.0

I thought about just donating the old truck and getting a new one, but Jeremiah said there was nothing wrong with the 5.9 liter, 12-valve engine that some new components would not fix. He explained that the fuel system was not delivering enough fuel (low pressure at the lift pump, worn out injectors, etc) and the stock turbo is too small to really pack enough air in the cylinders. Part of that is age (24 years) and part of that was the very de-rated nature of the 5.9 all those years ago. Since fixing the current truck is about $30,000 less than getting a new one I went with the repair idea (really hoping that wasn’t my second-best choice).

That didn’t stop me from looking at new trucks though. I test drove a 4×4 Ram 3500 dually (diesel) and a 4×4 F-250 crew cab (gas). Both of them rode like a truck; bouncing down the road the same as my current truck. I had hoped suspension technology had improved to the point where a 3/4 ton or 1-ton truck could ride like a 1/2 ton, but no.

The regular cab Ram and the crew cab Ford both had the same apparent turning radius as current truck so no difference there either. The Ram is about the same height off the ground as current truck though the F-250 is much taller. The gas Ford was very quiet with no load though when towing the forums often say stuff like “the motor screams (diesel guys)” or “the motor sounds like a mustang (car guys)”. The 6.2L’s peak HP is at 4500 rpm so for diesel peeps that’s screaming. There are also opinions about it hunting/shifting, but guys who run in manual mode say that solves it. Maybe if I really need 4×4 in the future I’ll have to pony up the dough.

The current/ repaired truck will have a new and bigger turbo (58mm vs 35 mm), a FASS fuel system from the tank to the injector pump, a performance attitude adjustment system in the injector pump to increase fuel-flow, new and bigger injectors (50 HP more), and a new bigger exhaust system to get all that money out the tail pipe. Jeremiah promised that it will pull better than the 6.2L Ford and he said I could have it back tomorrow (7-working days after I dropped it off).

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New turbo charger

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FASS fuel pump and filters

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Peek-a-boo! The new electric FASS pump and filters

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Attitude Adjuster. I have it set at 4 (200 HP)

I’m really hoping I didn’t just go all sunk cost fallacy with this whole shebang so stay tuned to see what tomorrow brings!

(scene: The setting sun is bottom-lighting the clouds. Orange glow on the eastern horizon fading to pink, to gray, to black … )

The next day

(scene: The mid-day sun is beating down on the parched earth. Even the shadows are hiding under trees trying to escape the unrelenting rays of the sun.

I picked the truck up on time as promised. I’m very happy about that, so happy in fact I’m going to say it again. Bodacious Diesel had the truck ready at the time they said it would be ready. I’m happy about that!

While Jeremiah was figuring up my total bill Sean took me for a tour of the truck version 2.0. Sean had tuned the truck to run well and not smoke too much. I’m not a fan of smoke and that was something we talked about before they set it up. The attitude adjuster has a dial in the cab which changes the amount of fuel the injector pump draws on each stroke. More fuel, more air, more heat, more go.

And more go it does! There is an on-ramp to the highway where I normally would get up to 60 before merging with traffic so to test the unloaded truck 2.0 I floored it when the light turned green and was heading north of 80 mph before I took my foot off the fuel control pedal.

The power band on truck 1.0 was between 1500 and 2000 rpm and above 2000 it just went flat. The only reason to go above 2000 was on the shift between 2nd and 3rd because the gears jump too far and if it’s not above 2000 it would be about 1200 in 3rd. Lug, lug, lug.

Now the power band is from about 1800 to 2500 with a serious kick at about 21-2200. Enough kick to set me back in the seat!

Truck 1.0 was governed at about 2250 rpm even though Cummins says the peak HP on that year was at 2600 rpm. Truck 2.0 has 3000 rpm springs in the gov so it can get to the peak HP rpm.

A few things I noticed right away were the high-pitch high-speed pump sound the new FASS pump makes. It flows a ton of fuel to feed the thirstier injection pump and the bigger injectors, but it is audible in the cab at less than highway speeds. Once we’re going 60-ish the wind noise and all the other diesel truck going down the highway sounds cover up the pump sound. The new injectors don’t leak fuel so when I take my foot off the fuel control pedal the rpm’s drop fast. I’m learning how to shift all over again. Also I have to be careful not to floor it anymore because it will spin the tires on the unloaded truck 2.0

Towing Road Test with about 8,700 pounds of trailer

From a standing start at the bottom of the on-ramp we were doing 60 at the top. If there hadn’t been so much traffic I could have been going even faster at the merge point.

It seems that at highway speed – for me that’s about 64 mph (1800 rpm) – the pedal is only half way to the floor instead of the 3/4 to 7/8 it use to be. Everything spools up and revs up faster than it use to. On hills where I had to floor it just to keep some speed now the cruise control just handles it. If I use the fuel control pedal I tend to speed. It is a huge improvement!

I found some instructions for the attitude adjuster online (it didn’t come with any) and the instructions say 4 (middle of the range from 1-8) is best for towing. That’s 200 hp. The 8.5 setting puts out 395 hp.

Next week we head into the mountains west of Fort Collins and take on some mountain passes. Stay tuned!