I woke up Friday morning and began final preparations for our first outing with the new PopUp (PU) to Durango Colorado. We were planning to leave at 1pm after my wife came back from work, and I had four hours to get everything ready to roll when she got there. Unfortunately, for the past week we'd had painters in doing the entire downstairs which didn't leave us much time to prepare beforehand so it was a bit frantic. Forgetting something important was written all over this escapade.

It was about 10am when it suddenly dawned on me that I had forgotten to plug the PU in and start cooling down the fridge the night before. I was a little bummed about it, but hey, that's what they make coolers for right? It was going to be a four hour drive to Durango, so I figured I'd run it off battery while towing and then run it off A/C at the RV park overnight. That should give it plenty of time to cool down enough for food on Saturday morning. I checked and rechecked tire pressures on the truck and PU, marked the PU tires with chalk so I could check for wear, double checked the lug nuts, and put batteries in the fridge fan, fridge temp monitor, and wireless indoor outdoor digital temp gauge/clock. I also double checked load weights and made sure it was all properly distributed.

Power Wagon and PUThe wife got home about 12:30 as I was putting all the food in the cooler when the UPS guy showed up in my garage. Guess what? My Tekonsha Prodigy brake controller was three days early. What to do? Should I install it? Wait till I got back? I think the wife knew the answer before I did because she wasn't too surprised when I started installing it... The Power Wagon came pre-wired for an electronic brake controller so all I really needed to do was drill and mount the bracket to the kneeboard and attach the pigtail between the pre-wired connector and the Prodigy. I finished all that in about 10 minutes, hooked the PU to the truck and took off in search of a nice level road where I could drive at 35MPH to adjust and calibrate the Prodigy. Ten minutes later I was back at the house and ready to roll.

The chalk marks I'd made earlier on the PU tires had worn evenly and completely off, so I marked them again and we set off to Durango. The wife, of course, had a couple last minute errands she wanted to do so we didn't officially get on the road until 1:50PM.

About 20 miles out we stopped at a gas station and I checked the lug nuts and chalk wear again. Everything was looking good and the Prodigy was working as advertised. If you're wondering why I was being a bit anal on the tires, it's because my PU came with 13" Carlisle load range C tires rated for 70MPH. While researching various aspects of my new purchase, I'd run across a couple of boards that seemed pretty dedicated on convincing me that my Carlisles were going to fail in a spectacular way causing all sorts of carnage to my PU. I was making sure I kept a good eye on the tires for the whole trip. For those of you wondering what the outcome was, I didn't experience anything negative. They worked as advertised. I'm not going to belittle the experiences of the people who did have failures, but either I was one of the lucky ones or they didn't fail because I put a lot of time and effort into making sure I had properly balanced weight, proper tire pressure, and stayed at or below the maximum speed rating for the tires. At some point in the near future, I plan on moving the axle below the leaf spring pack to gain additional ground clearance on the body which will also give me room to stuff 14" or 15" tires under there for more axle clearance and higher speed capability, so eventually I'll be swapping the tires out anyway but not because I believe they are faulty.

The trip was pretty uneventful all the way to Durango. I stayed at 70MPH or below looking for an open weigh station the whole way. No such luck as every one we saw  was closed. For the entire round trip we didn't experience any sway, even when going around bends on less than desirable road conditions. Getting passed by big rigs caused a bit of push and a tiny bit of wobble, but no appreciable sway. I was amazed with the gas mileage as I was expecting to be somewhere around 10MPG. Normally I get about 16 on the highway and 13.5 in the city without a tow, so seeing that I was still getting 16MPG on long flat stretches and 13.6MPG overall was great. Granted we were driving 10MPH below what I'd normally do without a tow, but it was still nice to see my 5.7L HEMI with 4.56 gears basically ignoring the weight of the PU.

Before we'd left I spent some time on-line looking for a good RV park to stay at. The pickings were pretty slim as most didn't open until April 16th, so I settled on Durango RV Park. Well, we got to Durango RV Park which is about 20 minutes South of Durango and it was *packed* to the gills with people dang near parked right on top of each other. I guess being the only year round RV park in Durango means you stay pretty busy. We decided to plug on and hit the Visitors Center in Durango to see what other options were available. Next time I'll pre-plan better to have an alternate site or two in mind.

The Visitor Center is of course closed because it's now close to 6PM but they have some maps showing RV parks and campgrounds. We pick out a campground not too far away and I'm wondering where I can fill my 20 gallon freshwater tank at since we'll be boon docking now. We figured we had about an hour or two of daylight left, so we set off to find the campground first and worry about the water situation later (I had two cases of bottled water with us). As we were trying to find CR-204, we ran across Alpen Rose RV Park (N37 21.060 W107 51.387) which was nearly empty. We decided to pop in and see if they would give us a spot with no reservations and being so late. They also had a really nice bathhouse and full hookups. This made the wife happy because Durango RV Park didn't have baths or toilets.

PU set upWe were the only PU at the park among the five or so mighty, and very costly looking, bus sized RVs. We found a nice secluded spot to pull into away from everyone else and started setting up. We quickly learned to zip up the four corners at the lift posts before velcroing anything else, but other than that, it was pretty much a no-brainer. We hooked up the freshwater hose with the brass pressure regulator, 30A power, lit the hot water heater pilot, tested the space heater and burners, switched the fridge over to AC and started getting the inside set up. The next conversation between Rachel and I went something like this. "Hey honey, where'd you pack the blanket?". "Blanket? I thought you packed the blanket!". Plenty of sheets and pillows but no blanket. We decide to finish setting up and then run over to Walmart about 15 miles back to pick one up because it looked like it was going to get cold that night.

PU set upThe quick run to Walmart for a blanket ended up being a one hour shopping trip to get a 12-cup coffee pot (A/C), coffee, blanket, fishing license for the wife, batteries, magazines and some new clothes for our two-year old back home. We get back out to the RV park and while I'm getting the coffee pot all set up we discover two things. The first was that we forgot coffee filters. DOH!!! I kept searching through the box to see if maybe Black & Decker hooked us up with at least one complimentary coffee filter, but no such luck. The second was that the blanket turned out to actually be a fitted quilted mattress cover. How we both missed that little snippet of information while picking it out is beyond me. We took care of the coffee filter problem by making one out of paper towels, but there wasn't much we could do for the "blanket". Since the PU has a 17,000 BTU space heater and heated mattresses, we figured we'd survive till morning.

We did indeed survive, but it was still a bit chilly and we didn't get much sleep with the space heater kicking on and off all night. In the dead of night that thing is actually pretty loud. The makeshift coffee pot filter went off without a hitch except that the coffee was a bit on the weak side. We decided to make a run out to Walmart later that day to exchange the mattress cover for a real down blanket, but for now it was time to pack up the fishing gear and head out to Junction Creek (N37 19.878 W107 54.16).

PU set upRachel caught two trout and I hiked around Geocaching and checking out the rock cairn where people build little rock stacks for no apparent reason. I figured since I was there, I might as well add my own.
It wasn't long before it started raining so we packed up and headed over to Walmart. I don't know how it happened, but along the way Rachel convinced me to stop in at a tile and lighting store. We then spent an hour and a half picking out a new 4' x 7' mirror, a painting, and chandelier to go with the new paint job in our house. I'm a Home Depot kind of guy for the fix it up stuff around the house to include ceiling fans and light fixtures. Needless to say, there was some serious sticker shock on this stuff from the lighting store. How someone could justify spending $3,000 on a chandelier to put over a modest kitchen table is beyond me. Luckily, Rachel was reasonable and we picked out some stuff that wasn't going to end up costing more than my truck.

PU set up
PU set upOur second trip to Walmart netted us the required down blanket and reusable coffee filter. We had decided to head back to the RV park to curl up and watch a DVD until the rain ended, but just as we were passing the Durango Visitors Center (N37 15.769 W107 52.766) the clouds broke and Rachel wanted to jump out and fish the Animas River. While she geared up I started punching up Geocaches in the area. If you're a Geocacher and in Durango, stop off at the Visitors Center to check out engine 315 and a huge multi-cache by the FoCoGeo group. The ultimate goal is to find the Riverview Hide and Seek: The Sequel. To do this, you must get pieces of the padlock combination from the final stage in each of the three FoCoGeo Durango 1, FoCoGeo Durango 2, and FoCoGeo Durango 3 multi-stage caches. Each of these caches has three clue stages before getting the coordinates to the actual cache, so plan on spending some time with this one. I finished off FoCoGeo Durango 1, but unfortunately the rain came back after I'd located the second clue on FoCoGeo Durango 2. Guess I'll have to save it for the next trip to Durango.

All in all it was a successful trip and the PU performed flawlessly. Once I got her home, I immediately washed the exterior and opened her up to dry. We're looking forward to our next trip out in a few weeks.

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