Left turn at Albuquerque

BugsABQ“I knew I shoulda taken that left turn at Albuquerque!” — Bugs Bunny



If we had, we would be in California right now, instead of this:

Chatfield SP Airstream snow

It was a bit of a shock to wake up in Chatfield State Park to snow falling, since even the gloomy forecast didn’t predict it until the following night. What a change from the previous day’s sunny 72 degrees.

And the danged snow just kept coming down all morning, until we had about five inches on the grass. Emma was delighted, Eleanor was tickled to take photos from inside the Airstream, and I was horrified. That’s how we all generally react to snow.

Chatfield SP Eleanor photo

Well, in such a situation there are clear protocols: First, crank up the heat.  Second, make a hearty breakfast.  Third, go outside and throw snowballs around.  We’re in an Airstream that we just loaded for five months on the road, so believe me when I say we had all the gear needed for this event: warm socks, a variety of teas, lots of propane, cold weather clothes, toast & marmalade, bad/classic movies on DVD, etc.

We were due at a rally in Fort Collins, but waited until about noon to leave the state park, hoping the weather would clear.  It didn’t. Weighing the options it seemed like the best move was to tow during midday when the temperatures were sufficiently above freezing to avoid icing on the roads. The trek to Fort Collins up I-25 was slow and occasionally “exciting” but overall safe enough and we got to the KOA in fine condition.

Fort Collins Airstream slushThe GL had to fight a little to push the Airstream back into the snow-filled campsite. Even with all-wheel drive it was tough when the all-season tires slipped. This is definitely winter tire weather.

However, please notice the tire tracks on the snow: one pass to get parked—that’s our “performance guarantee”. I hate hacking the trailer into a site (going back and forth repeatedly). Eleanor took the brunt of this particular job since she had to go out in the wet slush and heavy falling snow to guide me in.

It’s probably a testament to the devotion and hardiness of the local Airstream club that more than half of the rally attendees eventually arrived despite the conditions.

Normally I’ll do everything possible to avoid snow. Towing in snow is craziness. We once bailed out of a great trip in Banff because it was October and a small snowstorm was looming. At that time of year one good snowfall might mean you’re stuck for weeks, because just as one begins to melt another snowfall arrives.

But this is May, so any snow that lands will melt quickly even up here at 5,000 feet.  The roads and bridges aren’t going to freeze (at least not for long) and there was no chance of the temperatures declining further as long as we didn’t go further up in altitude. So coming here was a calculated decision. No biggie to wait out a couple of days of snow.

We started our trip with full propane cylinders of course, but using the furnace all night and the catalytic heater all day means we will probably drain a cylinder before we leave on Sunday. Normally I don’t have to buy propane until the end of the summer. We’d be burning it even faster if we didn’t have the catalytic heater to use during the day (it’s much more efficient than the furnace).

Our strategy lately is to run the cat heater by day because it’s efficient. It’s fine for our 30 foot trailer down to about freezing. Below that, the ends of the trailer tends to get chilly. At night when temperatures are likely to drop below freezing we switch to the furnace. That way the trailer is heated more evenly and the holding tanks get a little warmth too (so they don’t freeze).

All of this will hopefully be of academic interest only in a few days. I’m looking forward to rolling down to the Great Plains and points east for a sudden switch to summertime greenery and warmth.  So for us, summer starts Sunday or Monday.


  1. says

    An electric heater (ours is a milk house style) is great for daytime cold. You pay for electricity if you have hookups. And it doesn’t use up propane.

  2. David B Johnson says

    It takes skill and practice to back a 30 footer perfectly into a campsite. I’m a hacker myself. Your many years of Airstreaming show as single tracks in the snow. David