Home Away From Home, New Mexico

Making Miles

Wow, I thought it was going to be warmer when we woke up in Elk City, Oklahoma this morning and it was warmer but that’s relative! It was 33 degrees with a real feel of 26 and 15 mph wind. I hustled out to get the car set for towing without a coat so really felt the chill. 8:30 seems to be our usual time of departure no matter how we prepare the night before. This morning Jerry tried to replace a fuse and that took a bit of time making us run a little later.

I spent the morning ride taking care of some business for both Mom and us and then trying to determine where we could spend the night. Harvest Host has several places in New Mexico but they were either not opened during January or they didn’t meet Jerry’s mile requirements. Rest areas in Texas are also difficult to find! Although listed on the GPS some are non-existent. We finally stopped at the Welcome to New Mexico Center just to go in and ask about staying at rest stops along the way. We specifically asked about the rest stop in Moriarty and she checked to make sure it was opened. I asked about the safety and she said to lock up everything we had and not trust anyone. What an endorsement. I knew Jerry was getting tired so we headed to Rattlesnake Draw Rest Stop – yes Rattlesnake Draw – that creates a warm and fuzzy moment doesn’t it? As we traveled along I was still searching for an alternate overnight and located a casino on our route that had full hookup and was only $11. That sounded good to me but it was too far to drive. We finally pulled in Rattlesnake Draw and oh, my gosh. There was no center, just some picnic areas and several truckers. The entire place looked a bit sketchy. Jerry looked at me and I told him I trusted his judgement. He pulled out!

The search renewed I went to RV Park Reviews website and found a Passport campground in Bernalillo which was not too far away. It wasn’t on our route but seemed to be the best alternative. They had a pull through site, full hookup and honored Passport at $15 a night! Traffic was heavy in Albuquerque but moving until we got to Bernalillo and what a traffic jam. Traffic congestion was quite heavy with some road construction so it probably took us 40 minutes to go 1 ½ miles. We missed the entrance so had to go up, turn around and get back into the traffic. Fortunately that was accomplished fairly easily.

Check in at Coronado RV Park, a city owned park was quickly accomplished and set up was done. As always the jacks showed an excess slope so I had to manually adjust the jacks with Jerry telling me which one to lower or raise. That is always a bit challenging but we got it done. Each site had a picnic shelter and indoor outdoor carpet which would make a great place for grilling.

I wish I could say that after setup we walked around and enjoyed the beautiful vista but we both collapsed. Jerry had a snack and I had a cup of hot tea. For the first time since we left home we had fairly decent WiFi so we both checked e-mail and caught up on the news.

Probably one of the best things I did before leaving home was get the ingredients for stew beef in the crockpot. We had it last night for the third time and finally finished it off. It was really good and a great idea for traveling but I don’t think I want any more anytime soon.

Because we had to unhook the water last night due to freezing temps we both took showers and then after watching NCIS I hit the bed and was asleep quickly. Unfortunately I didn’t stay that way. It was a long night!

We forgot to lessen the air on our sleep number bed so when we stopped for the night the bed was 100% on both sides at 5000 plus feet in altitude. Our home town is at 43 feet above sea level so quite a difference. Jerry got it down to 85 on both sides which is where we like it and we’ll lower it still in the morning.

The highlight of the day was seeing all of the beautiful landscapes as we traveled I40. Traveling through Texas we saw many wind mills. Boy, they are huge and you don’t realize it until you get up close to them. I took some pictures but the majesty and immensity, the enormity just can’t be captured. We also got to see the Sandia Mountains in Albuquerque which are so very different than our North Carolina mountains. Even in the winter the Smokey Mountains are still vibrant with life while the Sandia Mountains appear to be just brown. The sky here is a different color of blue though, indescribable but just different from NC. With the pale blue sky the Sandia Mountains were a beautiful sight. Wish we had had more time to explore but I guess there’s always next year.

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Texas

On the Way to Amarillo

Well, here it is a little after 6:00 mountain time and we’re nearly ready to go. We’ve prepared the food to go in the crockpot mid-morning (well, actually Jerry did it). I am dressed and ready to go and we can have the coach ready to go in 15 minutes. The problem is (not to mention the infernal wind) it is completely dark outside and we’ve got to put the car on the dolly plus drive out of these strange roads. Think we’ll be sitting for a while. This may be one of those rare mornings when I see the sun rise! (Written first thing Tuesday morning)

(A little later) On the way to Amarillo via Roswell – that’s the way the GPS took us – we saw a sign stating not to pick up hitchhikers as there was a prison nearby. Then we saw a sign indicating a rest stop ahead. Don’t think we’ll use that one.

As we passed through Roswell which is a fairy large town we saw various references to aliens, e.g. Third Rock from the Sun Alien Spacecraft store, UFO museum, lots of alien statues but though we went right through the heart of Roswell we saw no mention of Area 51. There were lots of statues of little and big green men though.

Even though Carlsbad is on the edge of New Mexico we drove nearly 200 miles through New Mexico before we got to the Texas border and then we knew we were in cow country. There were literally hundreds of cattle plus a very active railroad that followed the highway. As we neared Amarillo the winds picked up reaffirming our decision to stay in Fort Davis Sunday. It was a very stressful drive for Jerry with sustained winds of 30 mph and gusts up to 55. We stopped in Hertford, the Beef Capital of the World and got gas. When I went to open the door to go out to help Jerry align the coach to the gas tank I nearly lost control of the door and when I tried to go back in I could hardly get in.

We finally got the gas and got back on the road and arrived at Amarillo Ranch RV Park about 1:00 – we think. Going from Central to Mountain time has kept us very confused! It was so windy that we decided not to put the living room or bedroom slides out although I noticed others had their slides out. By the time we had lunch and got everything settled it was 3:30 and we couldn’t decide what to do. We had had a pretty long day already and I knew Jerry was tired from fighting that wind so we just elected to spend the afternoon inside. We did walk over to the office at one point but other than that it was a quiet afternoon except for hearing the wind blow.

Before we left Carlsbad we got everything ready to go in the crockpot for Crockpot Cowboy Casserole intending to put it on around 10:00. Quite frankly I forgot all about it until we stopped for gas. Then while Jerry was gassing up I was inside frantically throwing ingredients in the crockpot, opening cans, etc. I got it done but we had to wait until after 7:00 to eat. It’s a good recipe for traveling and also a good recipe if you need to feed several people. We’ll be having leftovers one night soon.

New Mexico

Carlsbad Caverns

We had a restful and quiet weekend – kind of! Being in a motor home in a high wind advisory is not quiet! In fact we had to pull in two of the slides Saturday night and we were rocking all night. It was not a particularly restful night to say the least.

Jerry had said that he wanted to get an early start to Carlsbad on Sunday morning so I got on up around 7:00. The wind was still blowing, the wind advisory was still in effect and we were still rocking. I was never afraid of turning over but I was worried about the toppers on our slides plus I didn’t know if the wind could knock our slides out of alignment. Jerry did not get up so I began to think he might have alternate plans. He did. When he finally got up he said that he just didn’t think it was safe to be on the road in an RV with 35+ mile winds. I had already told him that RVer’s often changed their plans due to wind. We decided to stay an extra day in Fort Davis. Jerry saw the owner of the park and paid for an extra night as had some others in the park.

In the meantime we decided it was a good time to wash the linens and do some cleaning in the coach. Also I began the process of trying to change our reservations at Brantley Lake State Park in Carlsbad, New Mexico. This is the first time that I have dealt with Reserve America and it will probably be my last. In fact, I’m about to the point of not making reservations anymore! I called the park and left a message. By early afternoon no one had returned my call so I called again. The gentleman who answered the phone said he was new and really didn’t know but he’d check it out and get back to me. He did and just told me that I had to go through Reserve America. I went on the web site and because it was the day of arrival my only choice was to cancel the reservation. I couldn’t change it and there were a couple of fees involved with my getting a total refund of $13. We finally decided to heck with it. We’d just lose the Sunday night reservation and get up early Monday and stay there Monday night. That meant changing our reservation in Amarillo and Caprock so finally I just said let’s get up real early, be on the road no later than 8:00 and get to Carlsbad, see the caverns, spend one night and be on our way so that is what we decided to do.

With that settled we spent the rest of day watching football and updating the blog. Around mid-afternoon the wind finally died down but it was too late to leave plus we had paid for the night. I took a short walk around the park just to get out a bit. Although it’s a small park I saw rigs from as far away as Alaska. I thought we were a long way from home!

We got up early Monday morning and were pulling out of the park by 7:55. Probably a record for us.

On the way we saw several oil rigs and noticed that there was a burn ban in effect. Everywhere we looked was brown grass and we saw a lot of irrigation systems. There were also more cows than we’ve seen anywhere else.

We stopped at a Stripes station outside of Pecos for gas. I have never been to a more congested station. Lots of big trucks, small trucks, a few cars, truck with trailers. We saw that we could get in easily so decided to try it. Probably should have done off route 3 miles to the Flying J as several empty cars indicated that you had to go inside the station – pretty much of a mess!

We got to Brantley Lake State Park around noon but had a little trouble finding our site. Since we were supposed to come in yesterday the park ranger did not have our information and I couldn’t get the confirmation e-mail to download. We finally got it straight and quickly set up, ate a sandwich then off to Carlsbad Caverns we went. Somewhere I heard that the caverns were 24 miles away but it was more like 40. Had I known that I probably would not have chosen to stay at the park but in riding to the caverns we both decided that I had probably made a good choice despite the distance involved.

img_1791What can I say about Carlsbad Caverns that hasn’t already been said thousands of times? Simply put they are spectacular. We took the self-guided tour which has its advantages and disadvantages. On a guided tour there are usually a lot of people and you have to move at a certain pace. On a self-guided tour you go at your own pace often alone but if you have a question there is no one to answer it so it’s a toss-up! We enjoyed the self-guided tour and took our time walking the mile through the Great Room which is the largest known natural limestone chamber in the Western Hemisphere. Floor space is estimated to be more than 600,000 square feet which is comparable to 14 football fields. It is so massive with stalactites, stalagmites, columns and other speleotherms, (a term that encompasses the stalactites, stalagmites and other cave deposits made chiefly of calcite), everywhere. During the very middle of the tour it turned to more massive borders and huge rocks rather than the stalactites and stalagmites but then reverted to them nearer the end.

ladderThere is an undeveloped section of the cavern called the Lower Cave consisting of more than one mile of surveyed passages. The Lower Cave and other undeveloped passages are being preserved in their natural state for scientific study. In fact, they are still discovering new passages and rooms! In 1924 there was a six month exploration and a cave guide built a wire ladder that descended 90 feet into the Lower Cave but explorers felt uneasy dangling in the dark pit on that ladder. Can you just imagine?

img_1805After the tour we stopped at a local group of stores at the entrance and just wandered around. Jerry got his picture taken with the aliens!

Our next stop was the local Walmart to pick up some groceries. We couldn’t decide what we wanted for dinner so we decided that we’d go out and get the pizza we tried to get on Saturday but first we had to take the groceries back to the RV. On the way back into the park Jerry suddenly slammed on brakes and there on the side of the road was a long horned cow contentedly grazing. There were two cows on the other side of the road as well. Jerry had seen them earlier and realized that there was no fence to be seen although there are a couple of cattle guards. Do the cows just roam free?

We got to the campground, put the groceries up and turned around and headed back to Carlsbad for pizza. On the way out we were going very slowly looking for cows! I thought we had passed the area where we had seen them but nope, suddenly again, there he was. We stopped so I could get a picture. The cow started to walk off and then he just turned around and looked at us. We made note of where he was so we could be more careful there when we returned. Of course we knew there was no guarantee that he’d still be in that area later. We’ve seen more animals here than anywhere else including Big Bend. The park is hopping with jackrabbits plus as we were leaving Carlsbad Caverns we saw a herd of deer. I thought they looked a bit different and realized that they are long eared deer, quite different from the deer we see in North Carolina.

We went to the Pizza Inn and got the buffet, nothing fancy or regional but good and filling. We drove very carefully on the way in to Brantley Lake but saw no cows! Whew! Now what to do? It’s 7:15 mountain time, 8:15 central time and 9:15 eastern time. We want to get up and be out of here by 8:00 mountain time but what time do we go to bed? Needless to say we’re confused!