Sunday, January 18, 2015

Columbux NM, Tucson, Why AZ BLM, & Buckeye

Location: Buckeye, United States

So we FLED south on Monday before New Years to Poncho Villa SP, south of Deming NM. We stayed there one night last January, but didn't care for it at all. We can't either one remember what we didn't like - possibbly roads on all sides of every site. We prefer back-in sites with some degree of privacy. . .for what, I have no idea. Just don't like feeling like we're sitting in a fish bowl, I guess. The site we picked was near the only road in & out, but we overlooked the group gathering area which was very empty during our week's stay. And we had a nice picnic table under a shelter with some landscraping of yuccas & cacti on both sides.

The first evening a gentleman walked over & talked for a bit. Then later, a retired camp host for NM State Parks came by to welcome us. It really felt good to have friendly neighbors again. Oh, did I mention - there was no snow or mud around, still nippy with the wind, but definitely OK. We were invited to a campground meet & greet New Year's Eve afternoon, early enuf for everyone to walk home before dark. We had a good time meeting everyone.

We ate breakfast one day at a kewl, little bread & breakfast located in an older home there in Columbus. There's not many businesses or houses there, but as someone said, "there's at least one person in town who sells or does whatever you need."

Since I desperately needed a new pair of glasses, we decided to go across the border to Palomas Mexico instead of going to Yuma & Algadones later. There is a FREE parking area on the US side ($7 in Yuma) & a much shorter walk across the border to a much smaller town. There weren't a bunch of men standing around to send you to their dentist, pharmacist, or optician either. I found an optical shop, walked in, waited 15 minutes or so to be seen, had a VERY thorough exam, & picked up my new frames (just like my old ones) & scratch-resistent, progressive transistions lenses after a 2-hr wait for $195. Another shop advertised glasses in 1 hour, but I was very happy with Medical Vision Optical (575-544-1776). I shopped for a new t-shirt, but the only real store in town is the Pink Store (painted pink, of course). We each had a (huge) quesadia & Mexican Coke. It's the Coke I remember from my teenage years - real sugar but not as acidic or horribly sweet like today's version.

When we first got to the campground, we noticed one of the braces on the receiver deck at the back of our trailer had broken loose - probably from the rough, bouncy ride over the snow & frozen ruts getting our of Albuqueque. Thankfully, we found an English-speaking welder right outside of Columbus who not only welded the break but also put a couple of extra braces under the deck - all for $40. We were pleased.

After a week of warmer - but still needed jackets weather, we knew it was past time to get back to the Arizona desert!! We took Highway 9 which runs from El Paso west through Columbus & all the way to the AZ border. It's pretty lonesome out there with only a few tiny little communities. And we saw evidence of previous snow. We drove north then & picked up I-10 just east of the AZ border. I kept watching for siguaros, but didn't see any until on the west side of Tucson. We were going to boondock on the west side of town (in a sand lot), but it was getting too late to put out the solar panels & we still needed a little heat at night, so we checked out Gilbert Ray State Park at $20 for an electric hookup. It was a nice, quiet campground, & the sites in Loop H had nice space between sites.

Our first 2015 Arizona sunrise was gorgeous. But we left early & drove the Ajo Highway west out of Tucson, as usual. I don't think we've ever been on I-10 between Phoenix & Tuscon. But we ended up in Why AZ, & hung a left for about a mile & hung out for a week at the BLM there. It was fairly flat, not too gravely or sandy, & had good bushes all around for "privacy". We made a few trips to Ajo for groceries, & even went south past Organ Pipe National Park to cross into Mexico again. Parked for free & walked over. . .'cause we wanted another Mexican Coke. There wasn't much to the "town" we saw.

After a week of more clouds & a sprinkling of rain several days, we pulled up stakes & headed north through Gila Bend to dump tanks & get water (free) at the Shell Station on the east side of town. . .to Buckeye Regional Park, SW of Phoenix. It's a nice little campground & free boondocking (with shelters). This time we went on a side road heading north out of the park & found a nice site & shelter perched on the hills overlooking the night lights of Buckeye & I-10. Amazingly peaceful site so close to "the city" & a Walmart with some gorgeous sunsets. Also ran into Phoenix to visit with my cousin one day. We're off tomorrow to the Quartzsite RV show before heading north for new adventures. It sure feels like coming home being back in the Sonoran Desert!!

Cold, Snowy Albuquerque

Location: Buckeye, United States

From Santa Fe, we drove south down (Scenic) Highway 14 to Hidden Valley RV Resort, in the hills/mountains east of Tijaras  (east of Albaquerque along I-40) to stay off the road for 11 days during the holiday crazies. The particular site we were put in has very little gravel & trees on the south which prevent the sun melting the snow pack in that one site. So getting set up on snow that first day was unsettling. warmed up & melted the snow on our site so we had lots of mud right at our door. Between our four feet & Kira's four feet, the mud was maddening. A couple of days layer at least it froze so the mud stopped being an issue. Little did I know our situation was going to get worse tho. We did have a quiet, cozy Christmas Day, eating crockpot lasagna.

We awoke the day after Christmas to -1° outside & 4" of snow on the now very frozen mud. Yikes, this was totally unexpected for us. And then it snowed another inch before noon. Although we we warm enough with full sun shining in our windows, we hadn't thought to fill up our fresh water tank back during the warm, muddy days, so WE RAN OUT OF FRESH WATER. Have you ever scooped up snow to melt in the toilet to be able to flush? It does work at least, just slowly. The worst part tho was trudging to the bathroom building to get water just to make coffee - for three days. Now Kira was in dog-heaven with the fluffy snow, but me not so much.

Finally when another cold blast & snow were predicted Monday before New Years, we decided to head SOUTH, right to the border. Although this was a Coast to Coast campground, they still charged an extra $3/day + tax (for something, I never figured out what), we left three days early!!! Oh, I got laundry done also, but one washer ate my $1.25, & since we left before the office opened, we lost that money too. However, it was SO good to be out of the cold & snow. It was good to see the snow & ice melting off the trailer as we got farther south.

Oh, we took a drive north on Highway 14, then west up to Sandia Peak, the tallest mountain east of Albuquerque. Saw glimpses of the desert below as we climbed, but there are lots of tall pine trees in the way. I was looking forward to viewing Albuquerque to the west of that peak, but about a mile from the top, we got into dense fog, or a low cloud. Couldn't see squat, so we went home. We also made a Walmart run in Albuquerque & drove around their old plaza. Probably a pretty light show at night, but we didn't want to drive back down there in the cold & nighttime traffic. Santa Fe & Taos was enough Christmas cheer. So we ended 2014 in much warmer weather.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Santa Fe Adventures

Location: Tijeras, United States

After leaving Caballo Lake SP, Riverside Campground, we headed north up I-25 for Santa Fe. . .because Jeff wanted to see the city's Christmas lights & decorations. But - it's December, so I had worries about the weather possibilities. Since I do most of our travel plans, it only seemed fair to accomodate Jeff's wishes tho, so off we went on another adventure.

We had planned to go to Hyde Memorial SP in the mountains NE of Santa Fe, but after checking the NM DOT site on the way up, it showed the road leading to the SP closed or at least snow/ice covered. Time to stir the jello - & decided to go to Santa Fe Skies RV Park, SW of town, right off I-25 - expensive but neccesary. Also, since the front right tire on the pickup was flat that morning, we spent all morning getting that fixed - well, just aired up, no cause for going flat, & didn't get on the road until noon. Guess it just needed winter air in it, but that delay got us to Santa Fe right at sunset.

Saturday was full of new experiences. We headed east on I-40 to Las Vegas (NM, not NV), then north to check 5 more NM State Parks that are along the other side of the mountains east of Santa Fe.

First was Storrie Lake, just north of Las Vegas. Besides the lake being low (no surprise), the campground was small, close sites, & not interesting at all. Next up the road was Morphy Lake SP. Oh my, this is my vision of a mountain lake campground!! The road (more one-lane blacktopped trail in places) was a very steep, twisty route out of a valley & up over a mountain to descend into the campground on the other side. The Park was technically closed, but I crawled thru the gate to walk down to the lake. Just gorgeous!! More campsites were beyond where I walked so I'm not sure about cell phone or satellite TV reception. Definitely gona return sometime tho. Finally, we checked out Coyotte Creek SP as it was open. Nestled in a wide valley, not heavily forested, had definite possibilities.

Unfortunately, these mountain roads had very low speed limits & took longer than I'd planned. So, instead of continuing north to see what we could see at Eagle Nest SP (closed for the winter) & Cimarron Canyon SP, we turned west on Hwy 64 toward Taos. We went thru the kewl mountain town of Angel Fire which is lake town in the summer & a ski town in the winter. Then we went up, over, & down the mountain east of Taos. Fantastic!

Several weeks before, I had contacted Deonne Kahler, a Scamp owner who lives in Taos & blogs  ( here) about her travels. Since we didn't see all the state parks we'd planned, we suprised Deonne by getting into Taos earlier than expected. We met her at the historic Taos Inn in the old part of town, but had time to get something to eat before she arrived. I had a scrumpuous shrimp quesadilla, unlike anything some place like Taco Bell could ever fix. We had a great visit with Deonne & in fact stayed longer than planned.

It was nearly dark by the time we headed south down the canyon along the Rio Grande River to Santa Fe. We don't do much after-dark driving anymore, so that trip was more tense than it would've been during daylight hours.Thankfully, we traveled this route three years ago when going from Pagosa Springs to San Antonio. No problems on the highway, & even stopped along the way for a cheap gas fillup. Trying to navigate in the dark to Santa Fe's Plaza to view the Christmas Lights required several turn arounds to finally get there. Finally, Jeff got to see a large light display. New Mexico also includes lots of luminaries this time of year. These are paper sacks with sand & a small candle inside sitting all along (flat) roof tops & balconies. Very festive. But it was a l-o-n-g & exciting day & returning to the trailer & Kira felt really, really good.

We only spent two nights near Santa Fe, & headed south again to the only Coast to Coast campground in NM, Hidden Valley RV Resort, east of Albuquerque in the mountains near Tijaras, to hole up during Christmas until New Years Day.

Caballo Lake SP, Riverside Campground

Location: Tijeras, United States

We left Oliver Lee SP, south of Alamagordo NM after 5 days, & traveled west, past White Sands Nat'l Monument, to Las Cruces, & north up I-25 to Caballo Lake SP, south of Truth or Consequences, to the campground below the dam called Riverside Campground. Last March, we dry camped at the Percha Dam Campground, just south of where we went this time. Since our NM State Park pass is still active, we opted for a $4/night electric site since this winter weather farther north in NM could be unpleasant.

While here, I wanted to see Silver City NM again, but this time by going up, over, & thru the Cibola National Forest in the mountains west of ToC. Previous heavy rains caused A LOT of road wash-outs, but Highway 125 was finally passable again. Wow, it's so nice to get high enough to see acres of mountains covered with huge Ponderoza Pines & distant views of rolling desert hills.

The road going up the east side of the mountain followed the terrain, climbing above wide valleys & canyons, but the road going down the west side stayed in a very narrow canyon with a (currently) trickling creek right next to the road winding its way to Silver City, with only a few distant views to the west.

While in Silver City, we decided to eat a late lunch at the Adobe Springs Restaurant. Jeff had a Reuben sandwich & I had a delicious turkey club on sourdough with sweet potato fries. Since they were such big sandwiches, we each only had half. The other half was almost better the next day. The slow trip back over the mountain was just as fantastic, but we didn't get back to the trailer until right after dark. Definitely worth the trip.

We also got to visit with Emily again in ToC. In fact, she unexpected treated us to a pre-Christmas lunch at an Asian restaurant. Again, the meals were too big to eat in one sitting, so we took home left overs. It was definitely great to visit with Emily again.

We had one day of rain, but I finally got a chance to photograph these strange trees around the campground. They seem to be some kind of cedar based on the color of the wood where branches have been trimmed off. Such knobs, bumps, & horizontal trunks.

Overall, this is a quiet, spaceous campground, but only dry campsites are located along the Rio Grande River on the east side of the campground where we had wanted to camp. After five days tho, we both felt the urge to move to our next adventure - in Santa Fe.

Oliver Lee SP Revisited

Location: Tijeras, United States

We left Brantley Lake SP, near Carlsbad NM, for Artesia NM (great statue in town) to pick up Highway 82 west to Alamagordo NM & Oliver Lee SP (again). It sure was nice to climb above the flat desert of eastern NM (looks just like western TX) & into the Lincoln Nat'l Forest. Although I love TREES, the currently bare trees in MO & AR are just depressing anymore. That makes tall, mountain pines that much more gorgeous. Seeing Cloudcroft again was nice too. And the route west, down the mountain to Alamagordo was as awesome as the last time!

We decided to select a site with electric & water this visit instead of dry camping like before. We must be getting spoiled or something 'cause we're not in a hurry to drag out the solar panels & boondock for some reason (the weather and/or cheap E/W campsites in NM with our State Park pass).

We really enjoy looking west over the valley, both day & night, from the campground snugged at the bottom of the mountain at Dog Canyon. And seeing a couple of colorful sunsets & one interesting sunrise was a welcomed treat. Kira & I took numerous walks around the campground (all either UP or DOWN) & one trip down to the stream coming out of Dog Canyon.

Since we'd only seen the east-west portion of the Lincoln NF, we took a drive south on Highway 54 (the same highway running thru my hometown in MO) toward Las Cruces, but turned east on highway (not so much of one) 506 (Owen Prather Hwy) to loop around & come thru the Lincoln NF from the south end. Unfortunately, the blacktop turned to gravel a few miles east - thru the Air Force Missile Range. We saw a couple of pickups & cows, but nothing "military" looking. Finally, we turned north on a gravel road which wandered thru lots of creek beds that were thankfully dry for now. It was very evident tho that a BUNCH of water crashes down thru these washes. And the gravel became bigger & rougher. Oh, & of course, no cell signal if we blew a tire or got stuck. Whew, I was glad to finally make it to the sleepy little mountain community of Timberton & blacktop! The drive UP to Cloudcroft thru the Forest was pretty, but much the same as the east-west route. It was an interesting drive, but nothing we need to revisit.

Our 5-day stay was nice, but those itchy feet started calling again. Besides, we had a date-specifc destination to make.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Heading West Once Again

Location: Artesia, United States

Time to get caught up with our adventures since my last post over a month ago. Once again I'm posting from my Android smart phone & BlogAway app, using a USB mini keyboard, with digital camera photos uploaded to my phone. Sure is a change from my laptop using Live Writer.

After leaving Branson Nov 4 in the rain, we spent the next three weeks hanging around AR waiting to have my annual mamogram. Everything is fine (breath again), but we still haven't been successful in scheduling & completing our various VA medical appointments to be able to leave the area when we want.

We stayed at Maumelle Campground, a Corps of Engineer campground right along the Arkansas River, northwest of Little Rock. We had forgotten how large the campsites at COE parks are. But after 10 days, we needed to leave there for our appointment at Little House Custom for a few upgrades.

We discovered a nice, quiet city park along Monticello Lake, southwest of Mt Pleasant TX (which is on I-30) to get from Little Rock to LHC. It's only $7/night for electric (& water during warm weather), but TX charges an additional $2/person/day. Hmm, same $11/night at a COE - but it's within an hour of LHC.

We arrived at LHC at 9am, & between Larry & his new helper Ken, we got an electric jack & 2" lifts installed. We (me mostly) wanted the new shocks also, but the supply of them is exhausted for a bit. We were done & gone by 11am. Whew - that was fast.

We then traveled a couple of hours over local roads back to Texarkana to the Wright Patman COE, Rocky Point Campground. We got a site on the north side of the Lake, right along the shore. Short of having a covered shelter, this was real close to a perfect campsite.And the sunsets there were reminiscent of those glorious winter sunsets in the desert!

So then it was back to Maumelle Campground in Little Rock for my mamogram before we could FINALLY exit the area to start our SW winter. We stopped once again at Monticello Lake for a night, & then traveled to Tres Rios (three rivers) RV Resort near Glen Rose TX the day before Thanksgiving. This campground is owned by Ocean Canyon, the owners also of Compton Ridge in Branson, a Coast to Coast park, & located along the Brazos River. We stayed for a week with FHU, waiting on the arrival of mail. For Thanksgiving, we went to a local restaurant, Riverhouse Grill located in a large, handsome old house. The traditional turkey dinner of 3 courses was expensive, but it was sort of a celebration. As much as we cherish all the Thanksgivings spent with my parents thru the decades, this was a very special day this year also.

Along the Cross Branch on the south side of Glen Rose is Big Rocks Park, a unique rocky outcropping, most warn smooth by many floods but some grotesquely erroded. For non-red rocks, I found them awesome.

There was also this unique abandoned rock house designed in the same archectural style of other houses in the area.

Although this area southwest of Ft Worth is known for numerous fossils & dinosaur tracks, we stopped by for a free look at the Chisolm Trail Museum. Since it was Sunday tho, no voluntary docents were around to explain the various displays.

Another Casita pulled in our last day, Chris & Kay from Dallas, headed to the Matagorda Madness rally. Hope to see them again when we return to this campground.

After doing some laundry & getting our mail, we headed west again. We spent a quiet FREE night at the little but neat city park in Lemesa TX. Visitors & tourists can stay up to four nights for free with electric & water. As Jeff has follow-up checkups at the VA in Little Rock every six months, we will most likely take this same route & stops back in the Spring. Or not - love these jello plans.

So finally we've made it to New Mexico to check out another State Park. This time it's Brantley Lake SP, north of Carlsbad. We're camped on a hill overlooking the Lake & the surrounding area to the north, with a nice covered shelter on a concrete pad & rock windscreen wall. The wind has been strong from the south & then from the north, sometimes changing within a few hours. We had some rain one night, & one morning of fog, but never below freezing. It even got warm enough yesterday to take my water squirt bottle & a microfiber cloth to actually wipe down the trailer. Boy it was filthy but cleaned up amazingly easy. Two other Casitas have arrived at the Park while we were here too. We had a great visit with Camala & Charley from El Paso. We've really enjoyed our time here at this SP & plan to return (probably during our easterly Spring migration).

We plan to once again visit Oliver Lee SP, south of Alamagordo, tomorrow. Then up to Truth or Consequences for either Percha Dam and/or Caballo Lake Riverside Campground. And to visit again with Emily. Then up to Santa Fe's Hyde Park Memorial SP. Jeff is curious about the Christmas lights & decorations in town, & I want to investigate Taos again. Since it's higher elevation in northern New Mexico, & it's December, we won't be staying too long, especially if there's SNOW. We have until the end of March 2015 to continue using the $10/night discount from the $225 NM State Parks pass we got last March 1st. It paid for itself last year, so the $4/night for electric & water sites this winter is NICE. We plan to return from AZ for March, & will probably get another NM Pass next winter.