Last September, we saw the Great Sand Dunes (National Park) and other stuff in that area. Based entirely on a video by Elsa & Barron, we stayed at “The Greenhouse” hot springs in Hooper, CO. We had an amazing time.
So this year, when some camping friends wanted to do that same trip for a long weekend, we said we’d tag along. Turns out, the group is over 30 people. We love to camp with groups and find 10 or less to be too small; it sucks to be the only person awake late at night or in the afternoon when everyone is napping. Except for our two friends, we don’t really know anyone.
Since this was also our “shakedown” trip for the season, we left a day early and camped with full hookups near Pueblo and Colorado City. We spent the late afternoon and evening setting up all the things we didn’t think of when the rig was still in her storage lot. We still got to see a great sunset light up the clouds before ducking behind a mountain.
We do have one problem with a valve or something in our water bay, but we can limp along just fine for this trip and the next one. And then, we have a fix we are going to try.
Day 1 – drive to Pueblo
We drove up to Erie (storage lot) loaded/hooked up, and drove back down, through Denver, and down I-25 to Pueblo. Thankfully, it was a fairly uneventful drive. We did see at least eight Texas license plates. We also saw our first Cruise America RV rental of the season.
Our campground was pretty good…and tucked back just a bit from the Interstate, so it was quiet. We finished setting up a few things for the year and for the trip.
Our big trip this summer is going to have some long days at the beginning. We have a few single night stays, but we don’t like setting up for just one night. At least it’s a motorhome (Thanks, E!) and not a trailer (that would be a bit longer setup.) So, right after we had dinner, I started packing things away, again. We also made a few notes of things we want to change for this season.
Day 2 – May the Fourth be with You
We rolled out 15 minutes before checkout and got on the road. In Walsenburg (the original Tiny Home town in the US), we stopped at the Oldest Safeway Store In The World™ for a few forgotten items. It was there that we saw Elijah 2. I couldn’t find a pic, but Elijah 1 lived in College Station. He drove an El Camino (IIRC) that towed a “rocket ship” he built to take him to the moon when the apocalypse hit. It was white and covered in blue crosses and stars of David. He was a unique weirdo in that dammit-we’re-normal town. As far as we know, he never harmed anyone. Everyone knew who he was. (I doubt he’s still around; that was a long time ago.)
Unless Elijah survived the pandemic, upgraded his ride, and downgraded his religion, we stumbled upon someone with eerily similar tastes. The whole thing is a little RV. As we passed it, a tiny triangle-shaped window above the door was swung open to the left like a little door. I’m dying for a tour of the unique and creative motorhome. I wonder if it has also a tiny kitchen.
The drive over the pass at 9410′ was gorgeous–and windy–as always. As we approached the town of Alamosa, E decided to call it Alamoosa. I decided that their mayor needs to declare one day a year to pronounce it that way….and they can have an entire Moose Fest, complete with edible antlers made out of chocolate-dipped pretzels. The whole way, traffic was light and polite; we had a great journey to the RV park near the sand dunes. After we ogled a cute bunny, we found the wrong spot, started to set up, got corrected, moved, and got settled. We even took showers in the hot springs fed bathhouse.
Once a few more of our group arrived and settled in, we sat around our hosts campfire. Before we left Denver, I made Sausage Bread (this recipe is similar), so we warmed up and shared that with the group. yum! Campfire was a great way to get to know people in the group. We also saw a Starlink satellite launch. And holy smokes is that a cool thing to see!!!
Day 3 – ¡Feliz Cinco de Mayo!
Happy Cinco de Mayo (0505 or 5/5), everyone!
We started the day off with a loooong soak in the hot springs with most of the group. Inside the main adult pool, we found a tiny fish (small enough to come in through one of the pipes). And in the grass, there was a small bunny.
Once the wind kicked up to about the strength of an F4 tornado, we bailed on the springs and came back to the rig….where it was the same, but at least we got to put on dry clothes. The dunes exist because of the wind, but this was just nuts. We saw another bunny near our campsite.
Our impromptu Cinco de Mayo taco “bar” (Thank you, T!) turned into a full Mexican feast! The food was great! We then spent the rest of the evening by The Best Fire Of All Time™ (Thank You, A!!) making jokes with our new friends.
But once back at our own RV, the WiFi went sideways and glitchy. No matter that we saw a Starlink launch the night before, we were too scared to put up the dish in this wind.
Oh, and we also learned that a little, white, fluffy dog, Chewy, went missing. 🙁 While we hoped for the best we feared for the worst.
Day 4 – Happy Derby Day and birthday …and then tragedy in our group
The group went to hike the sand dunes and then up to Zapata Falls. The weather (wind) was not kind, so since we were just at both last fall, we skipped and went to the hot springs instead. We had a great afternoon chatting/joking with another defector and enjoying the springs and food/drinks. The defector noticed that we were the only three in the whole place without any tattoos. (Granted, no one was naked.) After he pointed it out, I paid better attention…and I’m pretty sure our defector friend was correct. Every time I saw someone that I thought “maybe” about, they’d turn around and reveal one.
Later, when the main group came back, we gently toasted to J for her birthday (she doesn’t like a big deal made, so we respectfully kept it quiet). We even stood at the bar with a group to watch the ponies run, picking a “favorite” and cheering and cheersing when E’s fave, Mage, won the whole thing. After the race, we headed back to our chairs to eat our dinner.
But before our food arrived….
…our group leader/bday host (J) came over to me and said that one of us (P) wasn’t feeling well, that it was bad, and that her partner (M) was literally running to him. P is M&J’s best friend. I dressed and headed back to the camping area. P couldn’t move his right arm. M drove him in P’s truck and made the 30-minute drive to the nearest hospital in 15 minutes. Literally every step was handled in the very most efficient way possible.
The hospital staff did some scans and found that P had a brain bleed. They couldn’t get a helicopter, but found a fixed-wing plane and put him on it straight to Denver where brain surgeons were standing by. From the stories, P was handling things well (concerned about the scar it would leave) and was having some worse symptoms (hopefully from the meds). He was also morbid. When M gave J the phone so she could tell him she loves him, P told J, “I won’t die today [or] tomorrow, but I’ll die the next day.” My friends, if you are ever in this state, don’t say this to your BFFs.
Several of us rallied around J to offer comfort, support, and help. We made sure she closed their tab and got the card back; we took their untouched dinner boxes to our fridge since hers was packed full. We devised a plan to get P’s truck and fifth wheel back to Denver, which required us cutting our trip short, E driving the truck and fifth wheel (something he’s never done), and me driving our rig and Jeep. Oh and meanwhile, M has his own health issues and J was worried about him having a bad day, next.
Understandably, J was a mess while M was still engaged in response mode. Once M was back, J was better (hungry, finally), but it was a long and sad night for them both. When we got back to our rig, we tidied up as best we could and tried to get some sleep for what was sure to be a long day. Happy birthday, I guess, J. 🙁
Day 5 – the undoing of best-laid plans
As we were shaking the cobwebs off for the morning and packing up a few more things to get ready to leave, we got a text from J. They At that point, P was still in an ICU, was not a candidate for surgery, and his sister was there. Everything was in a holding pattern and nothing major could happen on a Sunday, so everyone finished the trip.
Originally, P was planning to make Caldo de Res for everyone for dinner, so after E & I tidied up his trailer to get it ready for travel, J & I prepped the ingredients and made the broth in his honor. After she finished cooking it, she sent him a picture of it; he was glad that it wasn’t going to waste.
We then had a picnic lunch and gave M’s dog (N) a few frisbee chases. Next, E & I went to the hot springs and hung out both with one of our new friends from the trip and also with new people we met there. We met C who bought an RV park; that was cool.
We stopped by J&M’s trailer for some of the Mexican soup and met R, who was going to drive P’s truck/trailer back to Denver. Then, we all went for one last soaking.
[ Cool thing: the place closes at 10pm nightly, but the night before, from 10pm-12am, they held one of at least two Senior Prom after parties. Since it’s normally a 21+ space, this is something unique and fun that the HS kids have never done. I wish we had known, I’d have loved to see the kids strolling in in their prom attire. ]
Mostly due to decompression needs, we shut the place down.
Oh and we also learned that Chewy was found! Unbelievable! He was outside in ~30º weather for a couple of nights. We are very glad he is back with his family. Based on my own lost-pet experiences, I’ll just bet he stays very close by from now on.
Day 6 – skipping the rest
Packing (the nemesis of RVing) took up most of our “morning” time. Once we were hooked up, we drove over to J&M’s trailer (while R was dumping the tanks of P’s trailer), and learned more bad news. The docs don’t expect P to last more than a week. My heart is breaking for J&M at the idea of losing their best friend and on this trip and alongside her birthday. Truthfully, this trip and several other summer ones were planned just for him. J even delayed the sale of her boat by a whole year/season just so P could have another few trips with it.
We hurried to dump tanks and get out of the way, and then we were off. We had planned to spend a couple of days on some Jeep trails NW of Colorado Springs, but it was raining, so we opted to head on home. That made for a longer-than normal travel day for us, but that is precisely why we keep our travel days short.
After we put the rig “to bed”, we headed to one of our favorite Mexican restaurants, ate too much, remembered some important things we forgot, went back, and finally made it home.
We checked in with J&M, who got to go see P at the hospital. Despite everything, he’s in good spirits.
And you know what? We should all be so lucky to get to have fun with friends on our last moments of existence. He might not be ready to go out (we don’t know him well enough to know that) but he is going out doing things he loves with people he loves.
In addition, there is a group of full-time RV friends who have heard the news. Several of them are headed this way. Some even stowed their rigs and are flying in. He won’t die alone; he will be surrounded with love.