Letters From a Bus
November 2007: Home Base
6th entry for September/November
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Technical Problems in Santa Fe

Santa Fe, NM, Day Nine at Santa Fe Skies RV Park, Site: Marigold #5

Monday, November 26, 2007 — Six Months

Sunday, our first day in Santa Fe, we were delayed from sightseeing because of battery concerns.  This turned out to be a forecast of things to come. 

We were excited to be in Santa Fe.  We’d never been in the area before.  We’d heard much about the beauty and history of the area.  But doing much as tourists this time around just wasn’t meant to be. 

Monday morning Dennis was waiting to talk to a Tiffin technician.  After discussion with Tiffin it was decided that the Solar Regulator is defective.  It is a battery charge monitor panel on our hall wall.  It shows voltage and current charging status.  It has been disconnected and we are waiting for a new one.  Meanwhile the batteries seem to be charging correctly.

The Brady's pulled out in style playing "On the Road Again" with musical horns. We were sorry to see them go. They were a very nice couple and David was extremely helpful to Dennis in detecting that our batteries were working properly.


With battery worries removed we were finally able to leave the bus and go into town.  Monday was a beautiful, warm sunny day.  We parked in the downtown plaza at noon.  No sooner had we walked to the plaza then we ran into our friends, Dale and Marcel.  They were in town for the Thanksgiving weekend and staying a block away at the historic La Fonda Hotel.  We walked back to their hotel with them to see the Pueblo-style décor in their luxurious room.  Then we left and they made ready to keep their appointments for an afternoon of massage and body treatments in the hotel’s spa.

Back on the plaza we followed Dale’s recommendation to find lunch at The French Pastry Shop & Creperie.  We enjoyed crepes filled with chicken and mushrooms.  The little restaurant was popular and had a charming interior.  Welcome to old Santa Fe!  After lunch we walked along E. San Francisco St. and around the plaza doing a little window-shopping.  We could do no more than look — Santa Fe is more expensive than San Francisco and Aspen combined.  I was amazed.

We parked near the St. Francis Cathedral and walked a few blocks over to the Plaza. Santa Fe, NM 11/19/07
Immediately we ran into Dale and Marcel in the Plaza. They showed us their beautiful room at the La Fonda. I took a photo looking towards the Cathedral from their balcony. As it happened we parked by their hotel looking up at their balcony. Santa Fe, NM 11/19/07
On their recommendation we went to the Creperie for lunch and then walked up and down E. San Francisco St. and around the Plaza sightseeing and window shopping.
Santa Fe, NM 11/19/07

That evening we drove to Tomasitas Santa Fe Station on South Guadalupe St. where we met Marcel and Dale and Dale’s brother Dana with his wife, Tammy.  The restaurant is located next to the old railroad depot and is a big favorite with Dana and Tammy who live in Santa Fe.  Pitchers of margaritas arrived and we followed Tammy’s lead in ordering the Monday night special, a delicious enchilada, served up in the style of New Mexican cuisine.  We had a lively time and lots of fun at dinner.  Dale and Dana are hilarious together.  Tammy is an English teacher and I found much in common with her.  We are invited to their house for Thanksgiving so it was good to meet them in advance.

On Tuesday we found ourselves tired and disorganized.  Maybe it was the 7000' elevation. We didn’t feel like being tourists.  One thing about living in your home — wherever you are you still have the errands and duties of home life.  So we frittered the day away with house keeping and errands.  We noticed that the weather was changing.  We had beautiful blue skies and seventy-degree weather on Monday.  Clouds began to gather on Tuesday although it was still sunny. 

We really liked Santa Fe Skies Park and our living environment.  It was quiet and we had terrific views.  Each day we walked the dogs twice around the perimeter of the Park on the trail built by the Park and ranch owners.

(Left) I took a photo of the office as seen through my bedroom window. (Right) This view is just to the right of the office. I am standing by the bus facing south. I could watch the flag waving in the constant breeze while lying in bed. The flag was much closer than it appears to be in this photo.
(Left) Standing with my back to the office, here is a view of our bus site, Marigold 5. David Brady is gone but Doug McCloud is still parked behind us. (Right) Before David left, our three buses were parked in a row. We're in the middle.
Standing by the fence next to our bus I am looking (left) northwest towards town and (right) northeast towards the Sangre de Cristo Mountains of the southern Colorado and northern New Mexico Rocky Mountains area.
Just to the left of the entrance is a path that goes all the way around the Park.
A walk around the perimeter takes about fifteen minutes. The Park is 20 acres. Next to it is a 100 acre ranch. They are owned by the same people.
There were many of these plants in the area. Left is a Whipple Cholla, a low-growing shrub with yellow flowers that bloom Mar. to Oct. It produces fruit and grows in mixed shrub, grasslands, pinyon-juniper communities. Right is a juniper tree. I believe it is a Utah Juniper, member of the Cypress family. It has many berry-like cones. It grows on flats, slopes, low-elev. drainages, dry pinyon-juniper woods. It could also be a Rocky Mountain Juniper.
By the trail along the edge of the Park near the road entrance to the ranch was an impomptu collection of farm equipment. We stopped to look at a roller and a grader and a loader. Dennis grew up on a farm and knows about these things.
Wednesday was another lost day in terms of being a Santa Fe tourist.  We located Trader Joe’s and did some shopping to contribute towards Thanksgiving dinner.  I was prepared to cook some dishes but Dale and Dana are the chief Thanksgiving cooks and they seemed to have all the traditional foods under control.  Wednesday was very cold and windy.  We were cold when we walked the dogs around the perimeter trail of the RV Park.
Standing in our Park looking towards the Santa Fe downtown, I took this sunset scene on Tuesday, 11/20/07 at 6:00:36 PM. I took this sunrise scene looking through the windshield on Wednesday, 11/21/07 at 7:46:34 AM. The sun is coming up over the tops of RVs parked in front of us.

At 5:30 AM on Thanksgiving morning it was 45° inside the bus and 23° outside.  This is when we discovered that we had no heat.  Up until then the outside temperature had not fallen to below freezing.  We have two heating systems.  We’ve always used our electric heating system.  The heat is blown out of vents in the ceiling.  When temperatures fall below 32° the electric heat fails.  All it does is to blow out cold air.  

The diesel burner runs our other heating system.  On the thermostat it is called gas heat.  We switched our thermostat from heat mode electric to heat mode gas and waited for something to happen.  Nothing.  No heat.  The diesel burner runs the aqua-hot system, which gives us hot water.  That has always worked and we still had hot water.  What were we doing wrong?  I made coffee as usual and we both crawled back into bed.  Dennis broke out the manuals.  He also got online and tried to get information on the Tiffin RV Network.  It was a mystery.  We didn’t know why the heat wouldn’t come on. Naturally this happened on a holiday. No help was available.

We warmed up with hot showers and then hopped into our heated car and drove to warm I-HOP for breakfast.  Then we shopped in a warm Albertson’s grocery store.  About 11:00 AM the outside temperature warmed up enough to allow the electric heating to function.  Slowly the bus warmed up and we prepared for Thanksgiving dinner.  We loaded up the car with beer, wine, Martinelli’s cider, flowers and appetizers and drove to Dana and Tammy’s house.  They live in a new housing development called El Dorado about 15 miles northeast of Santa Fe. 

We discovered Dale and Marcel and Dana all busy finishing up preparations.  Dale was getting ready to roast a batch of root vegetables and Dana had his pies and muffins in the oven.  The turkey was roasting in an oven of neighbors who were out of town.  I helped Tammy to set up a buffet table and the dining table.  Dennis helped to see if the turkey was finished.  Dinner was terrific and everything came out as planned.  Dale’s Williams & Sonoma turkey dressing was delicious and so were Dana’s pies.

Dana and Tammy live in a new housing development called El Dorado. It's northeast of Santa Fe.
Thursday, 11/22/07
Above left, Tammy perches on Dana's knee but she has to go check that turkey. Above right, Dale, Tammy and Dana serve up and get ready to sit down and eat. Left, Dennis and I relax after dinner. Right, Marcel and Dale relax after all their hard work. Thursday, 11/22/07
We returned to our bus late afternoon and found that the dogs were safe and the bus was still warm.  That lasted until 10:00 PM.  Then the blowers began to pump out cold air. 

Friday morning brought us a big surprise — snow!  The whole world was white with about two inches of snow.  I was thrilled but cold.  I brought coffee to bed and we huddled under the covers until eight.  It was 20° outside and 40° inside. 

This was taken a day later on Saturday. We woke up to snow on Friday morning so in these photos some of it has melted. 11/24/07 at 8:58:16 AM. I didn't have my camera and couldn't take a photo Friday morning. Saturday, 11/24/07 at 10:52:16 AM.
Saturday, 11/24/07 at 9:00:06 AM. Saturday, 11/24/07 at 8:59:58 AM.
Saturday, 11/24/07 at 4:17:56 AM. Sunset, Saturday, 11/24/07 at 5:48:50 PM

Friday morning, Dale called to say that I’d left my camera at Dana and Tammy’s house and she had it with her.  We arranged to meet at the Plaza Café Restaurant for breakfast.  Once again we took hot showers and looked to our warm car to get us warm.  I tried to build a nest on the bed with my comforter for the dogs.  They seemed to be all right with the cold.  We drove downtown and met near the plaza for breakfast.  It was actually snowing.  At breakfast I asked Tammy where we should go to get some cold weather items.  Tammy said she had piles of extras and she immediately gave me her knitted cap and scarf and a pair of really wonderful, warm leather gloves.  She told us to go to Big Five Sporting Goods or else Target or Wal*Mart. 

After breakfast we walked around the plaza to window shop with Dale and Marcel before they needed to pack and leave for the airport in Albuquerque.  My hat, scarf and gloves made a huge difference to me and I actually enjoyed walking through snowflakes around the plaza.  I made some small purchases of little decorative Christmas items for the bus and we had a lovely time. 

Snow in the Plaza on the day after Thanksgiving.
Santa Fe, Friday, 11/23/07

After Dale and Marcel left we drove to the Big Five.  We bought warm furry slippers for Dennis.  We each bought a set of thermal underwear, tops and bottoms, as well as thermal socks.  We got a knit hat and gloves for Dennis.  Thus fortified we returned to the bus.  We did not want to move the bus in snow conditions.  We had put in calls to Tiffin and to Aqua-hot.  Clearly we were stuck with a cold bus until after the four-day holiday. 

It was 2:30 PM when we got back and we found that the bus was still cold.  The heat never came on all day.  We put on our new thermals and piled on layers of clothes including hat and scarf!  I made hot-spiced tea.  We were not comfortable but the cold was bearable — barely.  We held out for a few hours.  Then we got in our heated car and took the dogs with us.  We drove around and got the car interior up to very hot.  Then we parked at the Olive Garden and left the dogs in the car. 

We came home from Big Five and found that the heater had never come on. I made hot spiced tea. Dennis tried to do some work. He had a big bag of mail just delivered from the office. Cold Bus, Santa Fe, Friday, 11/23/07

Again we went to a familiar restaurant just as an excuse to get warm.  The comfortable booth felt wonderful.  We ordered the artichoke appetizer and a salad.  Then we skipped an entree and went straight to dessert.  We returned to our car to find the dogs comfortable and the car still passably warm.  We got home at 6:15 PM and went straight to bed wearing our thermals and I put my red flannel pajamas over the thermals.  The sheets felt very cold.  We watched TV but it was difficult because the air was so cold I could barely keep my head out of the covers to watch.  I should have worn my new knitted hat and scarf.  I quit and went to sleep early.

Saturday morning we dressed and took the dogs with us in the warm car and went to I-HOP again.  Fighting the cold made me feel tired and cross.  We went to I-HOP because it was easy to find and a known entity — reliable.  There’s nothing like a warm, comfortable booth and a thermos of coffee to cheer you up.  Afterwards we drove across the street to Bed, Bath & Beyond.  Because our bed had felt so cold the night before, I bought a thick bed mat — a “Smart Fabric Technology Fiberbed” mattress topper.  I also bought flannel sheets and flannel king pillowcases. 

We got back to our bus at 10:00 AM and talked about leaving.  However it would take a lot of time to make our preparations to travel.  The slides all have canopies that stretch over them.  They were each covered with two inches of snow.  Dennis had to get out the ladder and sweep each of them clear.  While he was working the sun came out and it got warmer.  The electric heater started to work.  I made the bed with new pad and flannel sheets.  The deadline to leave is noon or you pay for an extra day.  We were pre-paid anyway.  The weather forecast predicted that it would get a little warmer each day. 

We decided to stay.  We even stayed in the bus for dinner, eating some of Dennis’s soup and a little leftover turkey Tammy had given us.  By the time the heat quit we were in bed.  The new pad and flannel sheets felt wonderful. Together with our thermal underwear, they helped us to feel warm.  We felt very successful.

But Dennis made a mistake.  Every night he had left the heat on in the living room, even though it blew cold air.  It helped to keep the basement warm enough so that water in our pipes wouldn’t freeze.  He got up at 1:30 AM to turn it on but it was too late.  In the morning we had no water.  The water pipe outside had frozen because the Park heating element attached to the pipe had kicked off.  We thought our bus water pipes had frozen also.  Actually they hadn’t but we could receive no water from the site water pipe.  We also had no water from our holding tank because the pipelines by our holding tank pump were frozen. 

No water!  I use drinking water to make coffee so I used that but we couldn’t take showers.  We huddled in bed and then dressed and got in the heated car and headed for I-HOP.  But Dennis felt ill.  Halfway there he turned around and we went back to the bus.  He said he couldn’t stand the smell of food.  I left him in our cold bus and drove the dogs to I-HOP where I parked the car in the sun to help them stay warm. 


Afterwards I grocery shopped and then I returned to Bed, Bath & Beyond. We had been using an old comforter I brought but it had no cover.  I was tired of messing with the complicated bedspread and four small square pillows that came with the bed as part of the Tiffin decoration scheme.  I chose a heavy duvet with a red and black Navajo Indian design.  (It’s called “Mesa”.)  It came with matching shams so I bought two extra pillows. 

At home I packed away the gold Tiffin bedspread, pillow cover, bed skirt and the four decorative but useless square pillows.  I replaced them with the standard and king pillows we use for back support to sit up in bed.  The king duvet became our new bedspread.  The rich colors matched our southwest location and looked perfect for winter warmth and Christmas cheer.

Dennis had gotten sick.  He thought he might have food poisoning but later we decided it could have been a virus.  He was able to detach our water hose and he pulled it under the bus to the south side where it could be exposed to sunshine.  Eventually it thawed and we had water again.  Eventually the electric heat began to function.  Dennis spent most of the day lying in the sun on the couch.  Sometimes he paid attention to football games and sometimes he slept.  I gave him some saltines and a diet coke, but he didn’t eat.  At four in the afternoon he crawled into bed with a high fever.  I couldn’t find a thermometer but his skin was hot all night.  It scared me.  That night I made sure the living room heat was on.  I also let a tiny trickle of water drip out from each of our three faucets.  In the morning we had water — nothing frozen.

On Monday morning at 6:40 AM I noted that the air temperature in the shade was 18° and in the sun it was 25°.  Inside the bus it was 55°.  I wrote the following in my journal.


“Windshield smeared with ice obscures view.  There are dawn reds on horizon.  It is clear so once the sun is up it will provide warmth.  The air will heat up to above 32° and then the electric heater will become efficient.  Right now it is blowing a small amount of air that is neither cold nor warm.

'I woke at five and stayed under warm covers until six.  Then I got up and made coffee.  Now I sit in my cab chair wearing underwear, red flannel pajamas, my heavy white terrycloth robe and thermal socks.  I have on my knitted scarf and hat and a red throw around my shoulders.  The cream throw is over my legs.  I don’t need my gloves.  I’m sure I look a sight.  Cold is not cute unless you own fur.  My coffee has gotten cold."


"This morning Dennis’s fever is gone.  He is up and taking a shower.  The four-day holiday is finished.  Today we will get answers and find out what needs to be done.  This week has been a lost week.  Except for Cerrillos Road, on the east side, we saw little or nothing of Santa Fe.  We had two brief outings in the plaza with Dale and Marcel.  We met her brother and sister-in-law for dinner.  We went to their house for Thanksgiving.  On Friday we woke to snow and we’ve fought the heat problem ever since.  That’s it.  That’s all we’ve done.

‘Now the question is whether to stay or leave.  With the heat fixed we could explore some more now that we’re familiar with the area. Certainly, we like Santa Fe.  Or should we leave and go to a warmer area?  At this point I’m leaning towards warmer.  We can come back when there is springtime warmth.  I don’t know.  At this point everything seems like a big effort.  I have little enthusiasm for exploration or being a tourist.

‘8:30 AM  I’m out of the shower and dressed.  The bus is 58°.  There are clouds.  It is overcast.  The sun is anemic.  BUT THE GAS HEAT IS WORKING!

‘Brent called promptly at 8:00 AM while I was in the shower.  He’s on central time so he called at nine from Tiffin in Alabama.  The problem was small — just as we thought.  It was a loose wire in the basement.  Now diesel burner aqua-hot heat is coming out of other vents — vents near the floor.  It works quietly and it feels wonderful.  Thank god.”

We paid in advance at Santa Fe Skies RV Park for ten days.  Monday was to be our last day.  With our heating problem solved we decided to remain for our last day and get ready to leave promptly on Tuesday morning.  This gave Dennis a day to rest and recuperate before driving.  We both voted for warmth.  I suggested we head south on I-25 and go towards a warmer climate.  Why not become “Winter Texans” and see the Texas gulf?
Elsa Walton, Santa Fe Skies RV Park, Santa Fe, NM, Monday, November 26, 2007