We spent a lovely night in the campground at Mesa Verde on Thursday night, and as I “slept on it”, I decided to spend a second night in the park. My plan was that we’d see the rest of the park during the morning and early afternoon, and come back to our campsite around 3-4 pm, where Joe would make us a nice “feast” as our pre-fast dinner. Then on Yom Kippur morning, we would take our time, perhaps simply stay put for a few hours, and then drive to Santa Fe, where we would arrive in time for dinner to break our fast. We would have two quiet, thoughtful days. Well, as they say, “man plans, and God laughs.”
We got a slow start on Friday morning, and we were delayed further by the road construction in the park. Just our luck to arrive when all the park roads are being repaved. There were approximately 4 traffic stops along the two-lane road which winds up the mountains,and each stop delayed us by anywhere from 5-15 minutes. We arrived at the Visitor Center to purchase tickets for the Cliff Palace tour at 10:30, and found a line out the door of the building! I waited about 20 minutes to buy our tickets, which meant that we took the 12 noon tour.
The tour was excellent! The ranger who led us was very knowledgeable and entertaining, and climbing down and up the rock-hewn steps, plus 5 ladders, each from 5-10 feet tall, was lots of fun. We thoroughly enjoyed every minute, and the buildings were fascinating.
Joe Climbs up the steep stairs to leave Cliff Palace
Roadside Scenery in New Mexico
When we finished the tour, however, Joe shared with me his concern regarding Mo’s electrical system, yet again. The battery indicator was reading way too high, as was the voltage meter he uses to monitor the system. He was very concerned that evidently the voltage regulator had broken again (something in the system seems to be jinxing every voltage regulator!) and it was overheating the battery. We decided to skip the museum and head down the mountain and back into Cortez to buy yet another voltage meter. An added complication was that we also needed to buy new headlights—when Joe turned the high beams on in the park’s tunnel, they got a surge of electricity and blew out. I was NOT comfortable not having high beams--these national park roads are DARK!!!
So we anxiously drove out of the park (stopping at the traffic delays yet again), hoping to make it back to Cortez and the auto parts store before 5 pm. My concern was two-fold—we obviously needed to deal with Mo, but it was erev Yom Kippur, and I also wanted (ideally) to be back at our campsite, parked, and fed, by sundown. As we drove down the highway toward the town, however, the voltage meter essentially “went through the ceiling”, and a puff of smoke came out of our rear-view camera screen. Joe went “HOLY COW!” and pulled off the road, approximately 5 miles outside of Cortez.
We quickly disconnected anything remotely related to electricity, and I immediately called Good Sam. Well, this time we DID have some luck—they sent us Art, an angel in the disguise of a “mobile mechanic”. Because Joe was able to tell the Good Sam dispatcher exactly what was going on, and then was able to talk to Art before Art left Cortez, it meant that Art came out with a new battery, a new voltage regulator, and some other possibly useful electrical items in his truck. I should add that while this entire thing was going on—waiting for Art, and then waiting while Joe and Art worked on the engine—I myself was looking up motels, rental cars, and restaurants in Cortez in our DeLorme program. I was CERTAIN that we were not going anywhere again under our own steam, since there was reason to believe that the entire electrical system, including all the house circuits, could have been damaged. I was expecting the worst.
But thank God and thank Art too, I was wrong. He and Joe not only put in a new battery (meanwhile our old one, once it cooled down, actually registered that it was usable again!) and new voltage regulator. They brainstormed together regarding what could possibly be going wrong over and over again. They came to the conclusion that it was one of the two connectors that linked the alternator and voltage regulator. The other connector was the one that Joe already replaced back when we were in Rapid City. Sure enough, they pulled out the second one, and it, too, was in bad shape. This is so infuriating, since we had the guys at Express Automotive working on this system several times with the exact same problems. We are so disgusted that they didn’t do the simplest thing and replace the old, aged connectors! But since they didn’t replace one of the filters when we had them ostensibly replace all the filters, fluids, etc. with this trip coming up, I suppose it’s not surprising they didn’t replace simple connectors either. Plus they didn’t put the engine cover on right, Joe and I had to reseat it on our first day of the trip because it was crooked. There is NO WAY we are ever going back there again, that is for sure!
So anyway, Art and Joe replaced the faulty connector, and much to my astonishment, we were back on the road. (And would you believe Art charged a mere $60 for this rescue mission, plus the cost of the parts?) It was about 5:45 PM, and we now had to continue into Cortez to the auto parts store to buy new headlights. And it was STILL erev Yom Kippur! We drove to the store, and Joe ran in, bought the lights, and replaced them in what was probably record time. I meanwhile calculated the sinking sun and decided there was no time to eat dinner in a restaurant, or for Joe to cook dinner as we’d formerly planned (plus he was drained anyway, no wonder!) We went instead to the local grocery store, bought some roasted chicken and side dishes at the deli, and hurried back to our campsite at Mesa Verde, arriving just before sundown. A few brachot, a hasty meal, heartfelt thanks to God for bringing us back safely to where we wanted to be, and then we collapsed!
That was yesterday. This morning we got up and decided that anything physically ambitious was out of the question on a fast day. So we spent an hour or so in the museum, which we’d skipped yesterday. It is a remarkably well-done museum tracing the history of the Ancestral Puebloans of the southwest, and has incredible displays of everything from tools, clothing, food, architecture, and art to displays regarding the local animals, geology, birds, flowers, etc. We were very impressed.
We left the museum at about noon, and headed off again, this time toward Albuquerque. I had decided that by the time we arrived at either Albuquerque or Santa Fe, there’d be no time to do much but eat dinner there. And since Santa Fe seemed to be a longer drive (because of slower roads), we chose Albuquerque instead. We arrived as I calculated, at dinner time, and we pulled over for Joe to whip up, in a mere 30 minutes, a dinner of spaghetti and meat sauce (all from scratch of course), salad with a lime-hummous-soy dressing that he created himself (it was beyond delicious!!!), and garlic toast! And then we drove another hour or so down Interstate 40. We are now stopped for the night at a rest area, and will continue tomorrow toward Amarillo and points beyond.