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6/14/10, Sawpit, CO - This was a great travel day, but one that was filled with Ups, Downs, then Ups again.

Before leaving camp this morning, I had to mend the throat lash on Bob’s bridle. He snagged it yesterday on the trailer and almost tipped over the trailer in the process. Biothane harness is tough, but will give way to a determined 2200 pound horse. Fortunately, I had a Conway buckle that was the right side and I was back in business.

Five miles with a nice gentle downgrade, brought me to the ranch of my friends Dave and Carla. Unfortunately, nobody was home, but cell service was available, so I was able to use my cell phone for the first time in over a week.

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One of the many carloads of people that stopped during the day.  The horses are more of a sucker for the kids than I am.

There was a nice turnout off the road in front of Dave’s ranch (right next to Leopard Creek, so I stopped for an early lunch.  After I fed the horses, I grabbed my fly rod and tried to find some hungry fish - no luck.

I was just about ready to hitch up when Ralph stopped by and we sat on the front porch of the wagon and had a couple of beers.

After lunch it was a quick run down to the town of Placerville, where I stopped at the mercantile and grabbed a couple of supplies.

Continuing east on route 145, I got a mile short of the town of Sawpit, before pulling over at a likely looking campsite.  It was public land, with plenty of grass for the team, and the river was close by for water.

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Moving down the last of Leopard Creek Canyon.  The ridge up ahead marked where Leopard Creek dumped into the San Miguel River.

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Stopping at the Mercantile in Placerville. When it’s flat ground like this and the team is a little tired, I back them up half a step, then tie the lines back to a pair of cleats in the driving compartment.  Then if they want to move forward, the bit comes up tight in there mouth before the heel chains get tight, which would cause the wagon to move forward. The trick is to not pull the lines tight enough to cause them to back up.  If I do it right, I can go shopping without them moving the wagon at all. If I do it wrong, (usually causing them to back up) I have to run outside, shouting, “whoa!”

My first chores when I set up camp, is to unharness the horses and get their playpen up.  While they’re nibbling on some grass, I get them some water.  This evening, I had to fish it out of the river with a bucket, tied to the end of a lead rope.  The river bank was about 7 feet tall, so it was the best way of retrieving water without falling in.  My next chore is to get the generator going and a charge going back on the batteries. The refrigerator cycles on so much in hot weather, it really pulls a lot of juice out of the batteries. Finally, I can sit my butt down and have a cocktail or a beer.  Of course, I can count on Billy to start begging for his oats before I’m done - Brat!

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My water retrieval system

Tonight, I had coffee instead of a drink.  I had just taken my first sip, when two things happened: Billy started begging, then the generator conked out.  As I had just filled it up with gas, I was a little surprised.  Then, I saw a cloud of smoke, and I was even more surprised. Then the smoke got thicker, and I grew alarmed.  Running over to the generator, I saw two foot high flames rising from it, that quickly grew to about 5 feet high. Not seeing anything that I could put it out with, I ran back to the trailer and grabbed a 7 gallon jug of water. It had a wide mouth, but not wide enough. It doused the fire, but a little flame remained to re-ignite it. Running back to the trailer, I grabbed another jug of water. This time, I poured it into two buckets first.  (All this time, I was hoping that the gasoline tank wouldn’t explode.)  One bucket of water put out the flames. I used the second bucket to make sure they didn’t come back.

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My burned up generator.  I think the fuel line leading to the carburetor either melted or tore.  It let down enough fuel from the tank to cause a pretty good sized fire.  Fortunately, the woods, grass and brush around it were all green and still damp from the rain yesterday.  The bucket method is not the best for extinguishing a forest fire.

In the aftermath of the fire, my first thought was, ‘This is catostraphic. How will I recharge the batteries enough to keep the refrigerator going?’

But, I quickly moved my mind into ‘Positive Territory’, and thought, ‘This is great; I’ve been looking for an excuse to quit using the refrigerator and generator’.  Without the refrigerator, the solar panel, and an occasional recharge at someone’s house, should be enough to keep the batteries charged. It took 2 gallons of gas a day to keep the batteries charged, primarily to run the refrigerator.  If I didn’t have to use the generator, I could save $6 a day; money that I really needed for other things.

Without the refrigerator, I’ll have to buy a bag of ice when I get groceries, and only by enough perishables for two days. The remainder of the time between grocery shopping days, I’ll use canned meat and powdered milk. And, I’ll have to learn to drink warm sodas and beer, or find a stream to keep them cold.

All in all, burning up the generator, without a forest fire or an exploding gas tank was a good thing. I now have more money for oats, and more time in which to do other things.  If I was British, and used to warm beer, I would be all set!

My buddy Jim still hasn’t found a place for me in Telluride. Unless things pan out soon, I’m going to skip the Bluegrass Festival, and make my way towards the Dolores river (on route 145 to Cortez).  Anyway, a week of fishing in the river has got to be better than Lyle Lovett (Julia Roberts thought so!)