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Old 10-07-2019, 01:39 PM   #1
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Black Betty's September CO Trip

We had two weeks off end of Sept so we took the 2 year old (Hugo) and 4 year old (Abbie) out of the Phoenix heat for some camping and fall colors in Colorado! I'm going to try to be a better forum member and write this stuff up while it's fresh in my memory banks. This will be a partial trip report, partial equipment report as the two always seem to go kind of hand in hand for us. In short, no issues whatsoever on this trip (as opposed to our big trip Aug 2018)! Everything worked great, and we LOVE our CCV pop top and even moreso LOVE not towing anything anymore! This is going to be lengthy, so apologies if it bores anyone. And I'll add pictures shortly...

I'll start with the equipment changes we made in the past year or so:
• Lizard Skin sound and heat insulation, as well as an additional heat shield inside the doghouse, new 6.0 fan clutch: I think this has helped with the heat and noise in the cabin, used to be that we could barely have a conversation up front let alone talk to the kids in the back. Although still a noisy rig (that’s a big diesel engine sitting right next to you) you can now have conversations at a reasonable level up front, and with a bit more volume talk to your passengers in the back.
• Tru-cool max 40,000lb transmission cooler & Magnafine filter: Based on this thread, I had this installed just before our trip and WOW what a difference. Our baseline transmission temp was usually around 200F with peaks around 240 (scary), now it’s consistently around 150F on flat grades, and the highest I EVER saw it get even on some of the steepest passes in CO was 195. So, now my peaks are below my old baseline. One of the best spends we’ve made dollar for dollar on the van.
• L-Tracks w/ Sienna seats: This has worked out great for us. The siennas are safer for us with the child seats in back, and in the future will be ultra-comfy when the kids are out of those bulky seats. It has been really nice being able to arrange the rear space as we need to. For the trip, we just put two seats in kind of in the middle of the rear area, and had our nice big 90qt Dometic 2-zone fridge right behind the driver/passenger seats. As an added benefit the fridge works great as a 1st step for getting into the penthouse (2nd step usually the top of the driver seat).
• CCV Penthouse! HTT- @1der : Did this this past spring, with boatloads of help from Ray and could not be happier with the result. We LOVE not towing, we LOVE being able to park our van in regular parking spaces, and we really LOVE sleeping up there! Our daughter loves it even more, sleeping in the space above the driver/passenger seats. In a couple years we’re going to have a fight on our hands when little brother is old enough to be jealous of her spot up there – worry about that another day The only real downside is all the attention you get when you pull in someplace and pop it up… so you have to be friendly if you’ve got one of those tops! Lots of curious campers.
• Jetboil basecamp: This might be seen as a minor thing but we bought this to replace our 2-burner traditional coleman stove, and it has worked out great. The burner adjustment range is enormous, and we found that with the pot and skillet included, as well as a the add-on satellite water boiling burner we have everything we need in about a cubic foot of storage space. Fits in the 2nd shelf of our Aluminess deluxe box with the propane below for our CampChef firepit (which sits strapped down on top of the box)
• Mitsumoto low-temp thermostat: Recommended by Twoxentrix, I have to admit the affect for me with this was minimal, and my guess is because of the high ambient temps in Phoenix. Our coolant probably was flowing all the time already, even with the higher temp thermostat.
• New Radiator: Noticed our little plastic pieces on the edge were getting ready to fail, so this was preventative maintenance. Performance Radiator just down the road from us in Phoenix.
• Aux fan – since removed: I put this in, which you can find in some of our threads but I didn’t find that it really made any difference in cooling our EOT or WT’s. I removed it to make room for the Tru-cool
• Aux switch for fan clutch: This was a great idea, I’m sure others have done but my mechanic buddy recommended. Basically just a "100% on" switch for the fan clutch. If I want to drop our temps really fast I switch it on. Now I don’t need to turn off AC on a steep grade with high ambient temps, or slow way way down. I can just flip this thing on at the beginning of the climb, and it will drop temps really quickly. Sure it’s loud but it does the trick!
• Solar 200w: Have two 100W Renogy panels on the roof rack now, and their solar controller mounted inside. Our van does not have a house battery as of now (going to put it in this month), but the diesel has two frame-mounted starter batteries that we upgraded this past year. The fridge is a beast so it does drain the batteries quite a bit overnight esp if we are running the espar or maxxair fan, but the panels top off the batteries pretty quickly come morning. Still, this is something I want to improve on – see rest of this thread. As an added benefit, this is like having a trickle charger on the van all the time, so it should keep the batteries pretty healthy. Phoenix is notoriously hard on car batteries if you just park them without keeping them topped off.
• Inverter/charger: Haven’t really used this much, but we have the ability to use shore power now (110V) if we want to.
• Espar Heater: We used this a few different nights and man this thing cooks! Nice not having to worry about the kids getting cold at night. Ours is mounted below the driver seat.
• Blackout shades: These have worked out great (link), takes maybe 5 minutes at most to put them all down, but keeps the van nice and dark in the morning (our kids tend to wake up at sunrise if they can see it). Still want to figure something out for the windshield and driver/passenger windows. I have one of those RV windshield covers, but I don’t really like it. Still lets through light, and if its rainy or you get dew, it’s a mess when you put it away. I think I am going to plan on putting a blackout curtain all the way on the CCV top ceiling that stretches to the floor.
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Old 10-07-2019, 01:43 PM   #2
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Now for the updates we plan on making this fall:
• Our 2 year old son is getting to be too big for a pack n play (on this trip he used a little pup tent, the Joovy Gloo which he loved), and will soon need his own sleeping space. So we are going to have some kind of removable shelf built to put behind the rear seats, probably with several panels so we have some flexibility in how big we want that shelf to be. We use rolling plastic toolboxes for all of our luggage and gear, so that we can easily pull it all out when we set up camp and so that it’s waterproof when we leave it out. So those will go below the shelf, and he can sleep on top of it (or use it as a 2nd shelf while on the road).
• I still feel like the temps on this 6.0 are higher than they could be, and I know the main culprit is the Aluminess bumper that blocks about half the radiator. I’ve got the ford scoop mounted below to direct air up to it, but from reading about other folks’ 6.0 vans that don’t have the aluminess bumper I know the temps could be lowered. So I’ve splurged and ordered the Buckstop Baja bumper that they offer in aluminum, which is designed to allow air to pass through to the radiator. Should have it installed by sometime in November and will be anxious to see the difference in temps. As an added bonus their bumper fits the Warn 16.5Ti winch which I also ordered, and is better sized for our beasty van. There will be an Aluminess front bumper and Warn 12,000lb winch available in a few months, I’ll post here first before I list on Craigslist. Not sure yet on price.
• Since right now we have no house battery, it makes me nervous that one morning we’re going to wake up and it’s going to be rainy or overcast, and we can’t rely on the solar panels to charge us up. So I’m going to get a house battery installed. Might be frame mounted next to the existing two, I can’t really think of any good space for it inside. I need to research to decide if it’s worth going with the expensive Lithium ones or just get a high-quality deep cycle.
• For a big van, our horn is really wimpy – so I’m determined to fit an air horn or something loud in somewhere.
• Also had the joy of dealing with a diesel in a cold-start situation several times on this trip. I learned that turning the key to the acc position to warm up the glow plugs once is not enough, so if it’s cold (<55deg or so) I do it at least 3 times and it always fires right up. However, I feel like having an engine block heater on a switch would be a great addition as well. I just need to see if I can find a 12v one - I've only found 110v ones, otherwise it gets a little complicated having to rig it up to the inverter (which draws a lot of power).
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Old 10-07-2019, 01:49 PM   #3
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Ok, on to the trip report. Our first night we spent at Mexican Hat, UT right by the rock formation. We wanted to get out of the Phoenix heat as quickly as possible (105 when we left), and had passed through this area a few years back when I bookmarked it on my google maps as a good spot to go back to. You can drive off-road about 2 miles or so and camp right by the actual Mexican Hat rock formation, which is right along a surprisingly large and very swift current river. It’s a pretty dusty area, but I thought it was really cool. Great stargazing, nobody else around, and a fun little jaunt off the beaten path. Just stayed here a night, got to play with the “Night Sky” app and teach my 4yo daughter about constellations here.
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Old 10-07-2019, 01:52 PM   #4
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On the way out from Mexican Hat, we stopped in Bluff, UT at a little Pioneer fort which the kids really liked. One of the highlights of the trip actually, a nice little unexpected nugget!
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Old 10-07-2019, 01:56 PM   #5
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Next stop, Durango – one of our favorite towns, little guy loves trains so we stayed at the United Campground which the Durango/Silverton line passes right through. Added bonus there was a little stream right by our site (became a theme on this trip, lots of streams! Pretty special for a couple of desert kids). Stayed here one rainy night and checked out the train museum, then stopped at Honeyville, USA on our way to Ouray.
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Old 10-07-2019, 02:02 PM   #6
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The drive between Durango and Ouray this time of year was really pretty. It's a scary drive if you're a nervous driver - lots of sheer cliffs and my wife likes to say "CO DOT does not believe in guardrails", which is mostly true. You're on your own to stay on the road!

After spending the day at the hot springs (which we knew the kids would love) and getting some good pizza in town, we stayed up at the Amphitheater campground above the town for a night. Got a bit wet, but no leaks! Best part about Ouray has to be the drive in and the drive out. Hot Springs was fun for everybody, and the views are pretty tough to beat!
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Old 10-07-2019, 02:04 PM   #7
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Made a little pit stop in Silverton for maybe half day to just walk around and enjoy this cute little town. Highly recommend if you’re in the area. I’m still too scared to ski here though. Again, the drive itself is one of the highlights.
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Old 10-07-2019, 03:10 PM   #8
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Ok so to this point most of the stops have been all about getting further north, all one night stops. But we finally made it to the Manitou Springs area (basically Pike's Peak area) for 3 whole nights (this is a lot for us non-retired folk!) for what was to be one of the highlights of the trip. This was all about the kids, we stayed at the Lone Duck campground for proximity to the sites we wanted to see, and we knew by this time we would need some laundry and showers. Once again our spot was right by a stream which the kids loved, cold as it was. Abbie spent a few hours one day making a dam out of rocks, worked quite well I was pretty proud of her!

We visited the Dinosaur Resource Center, then Cave of the Winds (which is one of my first memories as a child myself) the first few days. The Pike’s Peak train is closed apparently for a few years which is a bummer, but the kids LOVED the North Pole amusement park there. If you’ve got kids <10 or so, you’ve got to check this place out. Tons of rides for their age, only $25 entry, and no lines! At least when we were there. I literally asked abbie if she would rather go there again or disneyland and she screamed "north pole!" without any hesitation.

Also stopped by Garden of the Gods, which is pretty but for someone that lives near Sedona we are probably just spoiled for red rocks.

Picture of Hugo is of him getting out of his little pup tent that he slept in down below the penthouse.

Pit stop in Breckenridge on our way out of town at a really neat new playground (you can ask us for playground recommendations anywhere we've been!)
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Old 10-07-2019, 03:15 PM   #9
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Next stop was at my sister's place in Eagle, CO. Very nice, quiet little valley, and she lives on a ranch so we visited her for a night and my daughter got to ride a horse for the first time. She can’t stop talking about it, honestly went into a bit of a depression for half a day as we left, all she wanted to do was ride that horse for the rest of her life. She’s over it now, but still says it was her favorite part of the trip!
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Old 10-07-2019, 03:21 PM   #10
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Decided to do something a little different so we stayed at the Cedar Ridge Ranch in a “glamping” tent in Carbondale (near Snowmass) for a couple nights. Thought I’d spoil the wife a bit. This was a one-time thing I think, the kids loved feeding the baby pigs, seeing all the horses, cows, alpaca’s, etc. The tents and especially the “glamour outhouse” tent as I called it were outfitted really well, but it was REALLY cold when we were there so we all stayed in one king size bed together to keep warm. Made us appreciate our van and the espar that’s for sure. But the kids really liked being up close and personal with all the animals, pretty memorable stop!
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