Rocky Mountain breakdown
Our next campground was an open meadow near the top of Trout Creek Pass (10,000'), the property of some friends of Jan's. We dry-camped there for almost a week, and it was lovely.
(Wondering why the hood is up? It's to discourage field mice, ground squirrels and the like from building nests in the engine compartment. I know people who've had thousands of dollars of damage done by small rodents chewing on the wires and hoses and ripping the insulation to shreds.)
But our lovely location had a serious drawback: although we were able to pull in a decent Verizon cell phone signal with our rooftop antennas and booster amps, the internet connection speed was pathetically slow—only a few kilobytes per second.
Because Jan and I are both heavy internet users, this limitation really chafed. So after five days we decided to head over to Crested Butte, where we knew we'd get a better connection.
First we drove a few miles down the mountain to dump... but there we ran into an unexpected problem: after dumping, Jan couldn't get her rig to start. The indicator lights came on, the battery was good, but the engine just wouldn't turn over. She was stuck at the dump station.
After we tried the usual remedies (jump starting, checking battery voltage, and so on) with no success, Jan called her emergency road service. (This is where our cellular roof antennas and booster amps saved the day—without them, we'd have been stranded and out of contact.) They were able to find a mobile RV repair service in Silverthorne, 70 miles away, which sent out a cheerful young man named James with a truck full of tools and spare parts.
By the time James arrived a couple of hours later, it had clouded over and started to sprinkle, but he crawled under the rig without a complaint and quickly diagnosed the problem as a "cooked" starter. Here's a closeup photo of the solenoid that sits on top of the starter and controls the power:
See that bare wire sticking out of the hole on the right? That should be covered by a smooth, shiny mound of solder. Instead, all the solder has been melted off and the wire is loose in the hole, only intermittently making contact. The probable cause, according to James: a combination of nearby exhaust pipes and an overheating electrical connection. The starter draws a massive 600 amps of current when it's turning over the engine, so any resistance means lots of heat buildup very quickly.
James swapped out the starter, Jan started her rig and was able to pull away after almost five hours of sitting at the dump station. By this time it was late afternoon, and neither of us was in any mood to drive another four hours to Crested Butte. So Jan phoned the manager and got permission for us to spend the night parked nearby.
All things considered, it wasn't a bad place to break down. We pulled off the dirt road and I made a supper of mini-pizzas, which were very welcome on a cold, rainy evening. (My recipe: take a Walmart frozen mini deep dish cheese pizza; garnish with Jimmy Dean's turkey sausage crumbles and frozen assorted red/green/yellow bell pepper strips. Heat three minutes in microwave oven to thaw, then five minutes in toaster oven to crisp.)
The next morning I ate breakfast while watching the horses in the adjacent pasture.
And then we pulled out and headed for Crested Butte... a longish drive up some very steep hills, but with beautiful scenery.