I collected a new instrument array from the junkyard but it turned out to be slightly different to mine. Mine has proper meters for oil pressure and charge rate, this only had warning lights, so as there was no other source and since all measurements showed the charge rate to be OK I decided to let it ride, I'll pick up another instrument array somewhere along the way.

I drove around the Colorado National Monument, pretty, but not all that special after all the amazing rocks I've seen in Utah. Here's a view of Fruita. The garage where I spent so much time is close by the white rectangle in the centre.

I returned the dashboard to the junkyard in Grand Junction, they gave me a full refund, that was nice. (It only cost $50). I did some essential shopping (and some not so essential) then dropped back to Sam's Club to buy gas. When I
started the van the starter motor did not cut out, then it stopped, and I had no electrics. The starter motor not cutting out was one of the problems Bill had been trying to fix following the burn-out. It was now 6 pm so I decided to lay my head where I was stopped. Didn't have a lot of option really.

I phoned the garage in the morning, they had all sorts of delays, finally the tow truck arrived at 1.30 pm. The couldn't do much the rest of the day, so I passed my fourth night broken down, this time outside the garage again.

After a lot of fiddling and testing they got the electrics to work. A cut out between the 2 batteries had cut out. Bill just cut out the cut out, took it out of the system, said it wasn't really needed. It was now mid day Friday so I left and took a more or less direct route to Bruce Wood's to find out about the Snowmass rally. I did stop to buy a name tag for small cat, on which I wrote "I live in a Texas RV", giving the licence plate number and my cell phone number!

There was no one at Bruce's when I got there, I phoned, he was at a sponsor party, but gave me directions to the parking spot for the balloon rally and even told me how to find a power plug in. When I reached Snowmass I found some information about the rally, it had started with a flight Friday morning. Drat, I didn't know that! Mind you, it would not have made a lot of difference if I had known, I was stuck in the garage broken down, and I would only have been worried if I had known I was missing the start of the rally!

I wandered around the balloons in the morning, marveling at one system, the pilot pressed a button on his trailer, the trailer roof went up, he pressed another button and the floor tipped up, turned his basket around and deposited it on the ground. I took a quick look inside the trailer. I think it would be fair to say that the hydraulic systems in there looked
quite complex. I finally found a balloon on the ground behind a van that didn't have a tail lift - probably the only one on the field that did not have some sort of auto loading or lifting system - and which also had quick disconnect tanks. Again probably the only one on the field. That's my sort of ballooning. So I rapidly made the acquaintance of Russ and Anna
Robinson.

They had a nice little flight, very light winds in the valley, it was possible to climb a touch and find a wind going the other way.

It was really pretty looking around the valley, the aspens are starting to turn golden. The aspens turning gold are even more impressive because they change colour at different rates, whole clumps of trees will change at the same time though, because these clumps of 50 or 100 trees are all actually the same tree, with an interconnected root system. It was actually quite cold first thing, there had been a gentle ground frost.

After the flight, the American tradition, the tailgate party. Several in action, over the field. I finally got to talk with Bruce and Pam. And their children David and Amy who helped with much needed exercise for little cat. Turns out Bruce is the current organizer of the meet, which is now in it's 28th year.

I had a quick look at the shopping centre, and when leaving, the starter stuck on. I cut the ignition, and after a couple of seconds the starter stopped. It did it the same thing again. Then it was OK. So it seems all that work Bill did on the van has not completely fixed the problems caused when he trapped the wire and melted other wires all over the place. Maybe a proper auto electrician will be able to fix it.

Then another party, which was supposed to lead into a balloon glow, but it was spattering with rain and windy so the glow did not work. It's forecast to be rotten weather in the morning also but I'll get up and see, you never know. I looked at the weather in the morning. Windy, so I wrote up my journal then decided to leave around mid morning. I said good bye to Russ and Anna and I wanted to ring Bruce before I left so I dialled the toll free number I use to access my phone account. Now I had been warned before I arrived that Snowmass is expensive, and my experience seemed to back that up, but I though it was pushing it a bit when the operator on my toll free number asked me to put in $8. I tried a couple more phones with the same result but then found one at the gas station that let me dial my toll free number without having to put any money in at all. Wow! That one must have slipped through the net.

It was a very pleasant drive heading south, lots more aspens changing colour.

All the while the road was climbing but I reached the top. 12,095 feet.

It came on to rain while I was looking at the view from the top. And it was cold. Bitterly cold, with a strong wind. It continued to rain so I stopped by a lake. No sense in driving when you can't see the view. I'm also not enjoying the drive so much. It's a bit unsettling to be wondering all the time if the battery really is being charged, and also to be wondering each time I stop if the van will start when I want to move on. Takes some of the pleasure away.

I've time to jot down some of the stronger general memories I have of Mexico. There are churches everywhere, full, absolutely full, with fresh flowers and huge congregations, I've seen people standing outside because there's no room inside. I'll remember the plazas, every town or village has it's shady plaza in the town centre. I'll remember how everyone smiles and waves. They've no money, but they smile, all the time. I didn't see or even hear of any bandits. I was surprised how green it was everywhere, I had expected a dry brown country, it had even seemed like that on my last flying visit, but no, this time, lots of green. I was fascinated by the Mayan ruins, my, what these people might have become if their civilisation had continued uninterrupted, like the Greeks or the Romans. I expected shanty towns and instead found lovely old colonial style towns. I did not expect to find such a beautiful country, with such gorgeous scenery.

Now, what were the good things about returning to the USA? Small things mostly. There is no rubbish. Everywhere, or almost everywhere, in Mexico is strewn with rubbish. People will throw away empty drink cans even in their own garden. It was nice to return and not to be swatting or spraying flies all the time. There's probably a connection. It's nice to be able to wear shorts if I feel like it. In Mexico no one wears shorts, especially in the larger towns, I felt I had to change into jeans to try to look less out of place. (I am about a foot taller than most Mexicans, so I already stand out like a sore thumb!) It's nice to be able to buy disposable plates of a decent size, Mexican plates are minute. It's great to be able to pull off the road without problem, either to stop for a few moments, or to stop for the night, in Mexico there's often no way to pull off the road, I've driven 20 miles before I can find somewhere to stop long enough to grab a cold drink from the back. It's nice to be able to listen to the radio, to hear the news. There appear to be few radio stations in Mexico, and they are all in Spanish, of course.

Best regards

David Barker

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