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Old 04-12-2011, 09:51 PM   #1
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Smile Maiden Voyage – Chaco Culture NHP

We accepted our 2011 Flying Cloud 23FB on 4/7/11 and were more than satisfied with the preparation and service at Holiday Travel Trailer Sales in Albuquerque. Andrew, Lucas, and their crew did an excellent job of installing our solar panel and controller, and quickly remedied the minor items that the Inspector General (First Mate) discovered as we spent our first night in our new trailer parked at their service facility. From the initial order through delivery, the Aragon family at Holiday TT were most accommodating. The following morning, they fitted the Equalizer hitch to our 08 Grand Cherokee Overland Diesel, and we were ready to tow.

We spent the first two nights at American RV Park in Albuquerque – a very nice facility, as we did some shopping in the big city. Then it was time to tow the Cloud to someplace more appropriate to her destined lifestyle – Chaco Canyon NHP. Noting the comments on this Forum, we had scouted the legendary access road 7950 during our rainy drive down from Durango, and found that the 12.5 mile section of dirt and washboard was indeed rough, but not so bad as to dissuade us from our plans. We fitted the Cloud’s cupboards with non-slip liner, stowed everything in proper seamanlike manner, and took to the road.

The Cloud, now named Jalan-Jalan (Indonesian, approximately meaning ‘a walk down the road’, or ‘travels’) towed beautifully. High winds and passing tractor-trailers on I-40 proved the effectiveness of the Equalizer hitch for balance and sway control. Access road 7950 was dry and dusty this time, and we took it carefully at between 15 and 30 mph. The ride was smoother at 30, but we slowed for the worst sections so as not to throw gravel. Upon arrival at Gallo campground, we found nothing out of place inside the trailer. The dust was only on the exterior, and the only damage was two screws that had come loose from the microwave mount. She’s a fine sturdy vessel!

Chaco is a special place well worth a visit. Built and occupied from 850 to 1150 AD, the many ancient sites remain sacred to the Pueblo peoples. Little is known about the original inhabitants. Why they built such extensive structures in such a forbidding place, with few trees and little water, remains a matter of speculation.

The campground was fine at about 30% occupancy, but with no trees to screen sites, might feel crowded at 100%. On the other hand, the view from our rear window was of a little stone alcove house built around 1050AD, not 75 yards astern. That’s pretty special! Our first day was windy, with an overnight low of 17º, and we couldn’t have been more comfortable in the silver cocoon. The furnace kept us warm, and with heat ducted to the enclosed plumbing, I had no worries about the freeze. Lobster ravioli, a decent Syrah, and a hot shower made for a fine first night of ‘dry camping’ in the Cloud.

Day two was sunny, clear and still. Our wake up call came from a neighbor camper running not one, but two portable Honda generators sitting atop a picnic table. This makes me appreciate the parks that have separate generator-free campgrounds, and I made that suggestion to the campground host. Gallo campground does have a nice separate section for tent camping. My impression from talking to a ranger, however, was that there is resistance to facility expansion (the Visitor Center is being rebuilt) or even improvement of the access road, for fear of overwhelming this fragile park with crowds of visitors.

We enjoyed two days of hiking the trails and touring the ancient sites before continuing home to Durango. The access road was just as rough on the return, and once again we had no issues with the Cloud other than the same two screws from the microwave – I’ll replace them with larger screws and a bit of glue.

Jalan-Jalan passed her shakedown cruise with high marks. She will be well used in the months and years ahead.
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Old 04-12-2011, 10:12 PM   #2
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Joe, Nice that you had a good first experience. Looks like you did everything right.
On our first trip with our Excella, I thought I would smart/cheap/stupid (pick any two) and use portable electric heaters inside to stay comfortable while camping in Feb. in Utah.
The next morning I found I could not open the dump valves because they were frozen. Luckily this was our last night on the road and shortly after returning to warmer ABQ, the valves thawed without apparent damage.
We love camping around the four corners area and may bump into you sometime.
If you think you would like to hook up with Airstream rallies, you might check out the WBCCI Four Corners Unit.
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Old 04-12-2011, 10:15 PM   #3
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Thanks for the info. on Chaco. We intend to visit there in early June and are looking forward to the experience. We have toured Mesa Verde which is wonderful.

John
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Old 04-12-2011, 10:21 PM   #4
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Congrats JamuJoe!

This was a fun trip and so well documented for us. The only thing missing is pictures and we would be right there in your campground. Keep us posted.

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Old 04-12-2011, 10:43 PM   #5
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JamuJoe,

Congrats on the new Airstream and glad to hear you went to see Chaco. Thirteen years ago we went to Chaco in mid to late September. We entered via the south road and camped at Gallo campground and exited the park through the usual route. My daughter was seven at the time and still talks about that trip, especially the roads we were on. We enjoyed the park very much and did quite a bit of hiking on the mesa above the park. It is absolutely littered with pot shards in some areas. We found September to be a beautiful time of year to be there as we were there on the Fall solstice and apparently a group shows up every year to worship and chant as they consider Chaco to be a power point on Earth. My daughter found it highly amusing. As you mentioned, the staff we talked to thirteen years ago also said that the majority of visitors they spoke with were resistant to improving that road. Once again, many happy travels with your new "Stream."
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Old 06-02-2011, 05:21 PM   #6
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Heading for Chaco in June

Thanks for all the great info, it helps in getting us there.
We are planning to visit Chaco this next week on our way to the 4CU Resto rally in Albuquerque.
We'll take some road pics, let you know how the Southern approach went for us. Also planning on the North route on the way out (NM Green Chili Cheeseburgers in Cuba), again a full report coming soon.
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Old 06-02-2011, 07:08 PM   #7
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Elfirebob,

I think you will enjoy Chaco, although it may be a little warm in the daytime. I see you are contemplating the road into the park from the South. When I went in that way thirteen years ago there was a large yellow sign warning that the road was not maintained for public use, etc., etc. I would not want to try and access the park on that road after or during any kind of inclement weather. We did not see any vehicles coming or going on that road when we were on it. However, it is a beautiful little drive if you take your time and slow down. That being said, I have no idea what condition the road is in at this point. You may want to check with the Park Service there at Chaco. I towed my Komfort trailer in there with my Suburban.

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Old 06-02-2011, 09:23 PM   #8
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Tim,
We hear you. We were going to call ahead, check the road conditions and take a look at the 57...that said. We do have back-up plans for bad weather and alternative routes in. Hey, we hauled the Den along the Apache Trail off the Salt River, took a while, still here, with a sense of adventure we're off.
We've been wanting to visit and while doing so, update the report of the roads we travel to get there. Keep your fingers crossed...remember, they are teaching riveting at the rally!
Thanks, we'll let ya know!
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Old 06-07-2011, 10:28 AM   #9
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What a shaker!

Again, told you so and had to see for myself...Do NOT haul your rig in or out unless they have just graded the road.
Beautiful place, and we'll go back but without any of our trailers.
57 to the South is passable, the rocky parts were not that bad but in both the road in and out, South or North, the washboard was brutal on the rig.
Just my opinion, but the clean-up and the potential for real damage is not worth the great spot we had along the cliffs in our campground.
Chaco will require us to re-visit, we will, but without our trailers.
More on this report, good, bad and with pictures...your call, if its graded, weather good, give it a go. If not, visit with your 4x4 pickup/suv...
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Old 06-07-2011, 09:19 PM   #10
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Thanks, Bob U. That was our impression after driving in without our rig; but when Boondocker took his in I was insanely envious. Thanks for bringing me back to my senses.

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Old 06-07-2011, 09:51 PM   #11
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Bob,

Glad to see you made it to Chaco and had a go at the South road. I would love to go back someday, but if I do I will probably drag my 19FT Komfort back in there. I am waiting for my neighbors to turn loose of their 1996 25FT Excella, but once I own that I do not think I will take that to Chaco. Chaco is one of the few places that I have experienced absolute silence and it was almost unique in this day and age. Great to hear that you had an enjoyable visit except for the road. Did they still have the big yellow warning sign up at the start of the South road?

Tim
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