12 April 2011

Postcard from New Mexico

Las Cruces, NM

We hunkered down at the KOA in Las Cruces waiting for the wind to ease so we could get to Santa Fe. The KOA has a wonderful view (I've said that before) which at the moment is non-existent: everything is obliterated by dust. Not only are the Organ Pipe Mountains lost from view, so too are the cultivated fields at the bottom of the hill where the park is situated... yikes!

This dust storm puts me in mind of childhood days in Stockton. They had dust storms too... peat dust. The afternoon wind would howl and the bottom land in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta would become airborne. Gave us something to chew as we struggled head-down into the blast. Not to mention what it did to the interior of a house!

The dogs could give a damn, of course. They were excited about new smells and new people to bark at till they got the required scratches behind the ears. So they're pretty much happy campers.

I had planned on 2 nites in order to let the wind die down, but the forecast for Santa Fe said there was a chance of rain then snow along with headwinds on the way there. So we stayed 3 nites in Las Cruces.

We had cross winds getting here from Benson, AZ. The rig did reasonably well and I didn't have a single surprise lane-change. Our MOR/Ryde pin box and suspension parts are amazing!

Santa Fe, NM

We rolled into Santa Fe Skies RV Park on Monday afternoon and had our choice of sites (we're ahead of the summer crowd I guess). We chose site Y-9 for our stay here.

We used to have a a fence about 10-20 yards behind the rig, then a view across the mesa toward the prison (3 miles away?) and the Ortiz Mountains on the horizon. Now the fence has been moved and the space between the rig and the new fence is filled with a solar array. The park has finished the installation of 810 solar panels, each capable of 238 Watts. At full output he solar array will generate 192 kW. Amazing stuff for a small privately owned RV park (125 spaces?).

There was no time to rest as I had the first of my regular doctor appointments starting at 10:00 the next morning. Along with doctors confirming we're still alive, we'll start getting the house ready to go on the market. So this is going to be a busy stay if we're to get on our way to Maine to see grand kids!

And that is a segue to fuel costs.

Saving $$$

Banks Power Shop
It's amazing what it costs to save money. Last January I had Banks Engineering in Azusa, CA install everything they offer for our 2008 Ford F-350. We skipped the Banks SpeedBrake since the Ford tow/haul mode seems to work OK. Since Banks doesn't remove the diesel particulate filter (the infamous DPF), we can't expect miraculous improvement in fuel economy like friends Dan & Betty got on their 2006 Dodge truck. Still we hoped for some gains to try and offset the rising cost of diesel... $4.36/gal (!) when we filled up in Santa Fe.

Banks showroom at the Power Shop
The bottom line has been a net gain. The last time we made this trip we ended up at 9.4 mpg as calculated by the built-in computer (Ford claims it's more accurate than odometer/fuel pump readings). This time the computer said 10.9 mpg which is a gain of about 16%. By my reckoning that means roughly every 7th tank will be free and is applied as a credit to the $4,500 investment in Banks gear. Each fill-up currently costs on the order of $150, so it's going to take a long while to recap the cost: 30 "free" tanks out of about 210 tanks altogether. At 250 miles/day that means we'll have to go almost 53,000 miles to break even. That's not an unreasonable distance for us since we've already put 32,000 on the truck since October 2009.

In the service bay at Banks
If you're gathering info on what Banks can do for your Ford 6.4 liter Power Stroke pulling over 15,000# (a 5th wheel) and you're not familiar with the region, here's a little geography lesson. The trip from Benson, AZ starts at about 3,600' elevation, goes thru a lot of +/- grade changes till it reaches Albuquerque, NM at about 5,300', then the last 50 miles is mostly up-hill to Santa Fe, NM. We're at 6,800' here at the park. The computed distance is at least 515 miles (Yahoo! maps), but we added about 45 miles running around Las Cruces and another 15 in Santa Fe before filling the tank. This means the truck's built-in computer, which maintains a 400-mile rolling average, had only current-trip data when we stopped with 576 miles on the odometer. We had some gusty crosswinds from Benson to Las Cruces, then relatively still air from Las Cruces to Santa Fe. If I had to venture a guess it would be that we saw about average mileage for this trip... crosswinds & no headwinds and a substantial elevation change.