New Mexico = my new love

I intentionally chose the middle spot on the row that had no other reservations around it when I booked online at Elephant Butte State Park. Wouldn’t you say I pretty much nailed that back in parking job? Did I mention it was pitch dark when I arrived? I missed the teeny tiny street sign and had to make a 10 point turn on the beach to backtrack. My luck ran out when I opened the trailer door to discover that a bunch of stuff had escaped the pantry, broken, spilled, and covered the floor as I drove around on that beach… so I spent most of the evening mopping up red wine and strawberry preserves and will be finding shards of glass for days to come I’m sure.

That being said, I did not get up at 6:30 to go swim at the municipal pool whose lap swim hours were only 7-9am (a 30 minute drive away to boot). I wasn’t too disappointed, it was a short workout anyways, and there were hiking trails to explore. The park ranger struggled to find a map for me and went on and on forever about which trailhead to start from. Despite his diatribe I still made a wrong turn and ended up driving around on yet another beach – it seems pretty commonplace here. I got to the right place eventually and the trail is pretty clearly marked as you can see.

it was either up…

Who doesn’t love running up steep hills on loose gravel at 4500′ of elevation?

or it was down…

 

a lot of brown, and then there’s me

At least the rangers won’t have a hard time finding me if there’s a flash flood or rattlesnake encounter. (Important to note: the only wildlife I saw was the backside of a jackrabbit).

strategically located picnic spots

After the run I stopped at the visitor center to buy a second night and the gal started chatting me up about helping with her taxes. No thank you! Time for the hot springs baby! I hooked the now unfrozen hose back up for a quick shower (micro-managing my gray water accumulation this week) and headed into town.: Truth or Consequences. I’ve been dying to check out this town. (As though Elephant Butte wasn’t interesting enough.) TripAdvisor said Riverbend Hot Springs was the #1 thing to do so by all means…

The office was tiny and chaotic as 4 employees tried to manage checking in 4 sets of guests at once. I don’t think any of us had reservations to soak which didn’t help, but still. I opted for a private soak for only $3 more than the communal variety. It was heaven. 50 minutes in a 103* personal hot spring with a waterfall and mountain views. My phone conveniently died the moment after I took the pic so I just luxuriated in the solitude.

I still had a decent amount of daylight after my soak and shower so I headed out towards the big dam. They don’t allow pedestrians on it anymore but there are a couple pullouts with historical markers.

The views were fantastic. Mountains all around, and the lake is just so interesting.

Seems a bit chilly for houseboats but I know nothing about them. There were signs for another EB rec area so I drove on down and saw signs for another RV campground. It was a super sketchy curvy narrow road with cliff edges and deer jumping out at me (one waaaay too close call) – I would never try to take the Airstream down there. But sure enough there were some big fifth wheels back in there. Talk about remote.

I wanted to explore the rest of the park where I was camped before the sun set – I’d seen some Airstreams glistening across the way, and trucks down on the rocky beaches. What’s the point of having a giant truck and 4 wheel drive if you don’t try and get in some tricky situations right? I should really be getting paid by Dodge and Airstream for some of these shots…

My nosy adventure in the truck confirmed that I needed to run around some more in the morning. I knew I had a long day planned so I tried to get to sleep early but let’s be honest, I’m a night owl. My fun-filled Friday night consisted of a trip to Wal-mart after watching the sun set, and working on this blog. Yep, I’m a party animal.

sunset from my campground

Even though I didn’t get up very early, I still went for the run. Actually, as I was brushing my teeth, the camp host Judy stopped by to make sure I’d paid a second night (because I didn’t display the appropriate car tag) and we killed some time chatting (still in my pajamas). We remarked how the wind had really died down, so I must go for a run. I left from the campground and ran down one of the sand roads to the beach. You can really just wander around wherever you want here apparently. But getting off the “road” meant super soft sinking sand and quite a workout. Ouch.

I was super reluctant to leave and hope there will be a time to return – maybe when it’s warm enough to swim in the lake?! I know the pictures don’t do the scenery justice, the scale is off somehow. The landscape is just fascinating. Definitely have to bring a fat tire bike for that sand though!

sleeping by sinkholes sounds safe

It was a long day driving across west Texas on some two lane state highways with zero rest stops. I was good on gas and such, but I mean, at some point a girl has go to go ya know? I do have my own personal lavatory in my mobile home but I couldn’t even find a place to pull off the highway to use it! Nothing but ranch land, oil derreks, and cotton fields for hours. The only turn offs were one lane dirt roads that I’d never be able to turn around on. Finally I pulled off and blocked this “driveway” when I couldn’t stand it anymore! Glamorous isn’t it?

Eventually I crossed the state line into New Mexico. I knew this not because of some big visitor center or welcome signs, but rather a subtle change in the color and condition of the road. Now New Mexico does have some little rest stops that were quite cute- picnic areas with metal shades and all the quaint metalworking horses and cowboys and what not. I drove through the town that makes a LOT of them (maybe all!?) and it actually made me wish that I had a ranch just so I could custom design a grand entryway with cowgirls and bicycles marking my territory.

I was thoroughly enjoying the landscape all the way to Bottomless Lakes State Park where I had a reservation, just for the night, and was delighted to discover I’d gained an hour and would have plenty of time to ride my bike around the park. After driving the wrong way into the campground I completed a long slow loop to get situated the right way to pull into my waterfront spot. The wind was atrocious however (and smelled like poop). Eddy the camp host discouraged riding the loop and suggested I hit the mountain bike trail on the north side instead. Well that would be great if ya know, I had a mountain bike. So I resigned to running the trail instead.

It was a good run, just windy as hell. I could hardly enjoy the scenery for trying to not trip on the rocks. I did have some fun playing with the GoPro though in some of the easier sections where I could set up the tripod without getting stuck by a cactus.

 Eddy had also mentioned that sunset was nice from the bluff above the campground. He wasn’t wrong. From up there I could also get a better idea of the whole lake area including the beach that I’m sure must be busy in the warmer months. Gobs of picnic areas for the day users. Later I would wander around with a headlamp to stargaze but it got a little eery in the pitch dark.

I moseyed into Roswell for dinner and drove around for a while before picking a place off Yelp. I didn’t really have any interest in the alien stuff and reviews of the #1 attraction (the UFO museum) weren’t that good so yeah, I passed. Big D’s Downtown Dive sounded like a promising spot for a bite and I was a little disappointed to discover it was like an order at the counter type place. No atmosphere or bar to hang out and chat with locals. The food was really good though so the reviews were right in that regard. My lazy eyed order taker spent a lot of (perhaps too much) time chatting with me about the level of heat in the sauce on my Angry Hippie sandwich but totally failed to mention that the garlic fries I added were freakishly peppered and basically inedible.

After dinner I wanted to star gaze but it was cooooold. So I went for a stroll around the lake to try and stay warm while watching for shooting stars. Then I got creeped out by weird noises in the dark so I set up a chair on the beach in front of my site. No shooting stars. Much sadness. New Mexico state parks have really really good free wifi so I watched some Netflix and tossed and turned. I had woken up pretty early, had a long day of driving, a hard run, and some wine. Sleep should have come, but it did not. There’s something in the atmosphere in the area and I was up til at least 3am jumping at every weird noise. In my state, I completely forgot to unhook the water hose and the line definitely froze. I used my tank store til it thawed out enough to push some water through but I had to shake a bunch of icicles out of it before unhooking for the drive. Thankfully Airstream has anti-freeze tanks so it was just a hose issue and the sun thawed it out pretty quickly. So many details to trailer life. In light of the refrigerator debacle the day before, I stopped at an RV park near town to refill my empty propane tank before heading to White Sands. With another few nights booked at a state park and overnight temps below freezing I didn’t want to risk running out! I feel like I’m getting the hang of this thing but it never goes perfectly.

Le Sage Riviera (Grover Beach)

Le Sage Riviera

That sounds a lot fancier than it actually is. But apparently central and southern California’s RV Park off seasons aren’t quite as quiet as those in Oregon. And we haven’t always been that good about advance planning. So our first (and second) choices for parks in Pismo Beach were full up. Tom’s mom lives in nearby SLO or San Luis Obispo, so location was important, and I was ready for some beach time. As it turns out I’m pretty sure we could have stayed at the beachfront no frills (dry) campground nearby, but I wasn’t in charge of reservations. No biggie, but the park was tiny and full of big rigs and we were lined up like sardines in there. Pulling in at night was no picnic either. We had to make a U-turn to get into our “street” which was phenomenally awkward, and Tom was so worn out by it that he literally could not understand my directions to line up the trailer. So I did it. My parking lot practice was paying off.

We set up camp then headed straight to Judy’s house for dinner. She lives in a little four-plex in downtown SLO and had been cooking and baking up a vegan storm for us. We had a lovely time chatting while Tom started our heaps of laundry. Sunday morning I headed straight to the beach to soak up some Vitamin D and quiet my thoughts. It was heaven. Eventually I fetched Tom and we wandered over to see the Monarchs img_2735which were remarkable. Thousands of them migrate to these same trees every year and humans crowd the shoulders of the PCH to stop and marvel at them fluttering overhead.

Unfortunately the days are short, even if the sun is warm, so we hopped in the truck and headed north to Montana de Oro  img_2752

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img_2765  state park with intentions of an easy bike ride followed by a sunset hike along the bluff. Turns out it isn’t a great location for road riding (mountain bikes everywhere though!) so we just went for a much longer hike than planned. The stupidly parked in a lot a mile away from the main beach area where the Bluff Trail is located, and had to schlep through the super soft sandy dunes trails to get there. The cliffs were beautiful and the place got busy for sunset. The Bluff Trail is very tame, flat, well groomed, and well-trafficked. There were families with unattended children running perilously close to the cliff edges, lots of runners, some hippies w their guitars, asian tourists with their selfie sticks, and even a fisherman harvesting something out on some rocks that for the life of me I could not figure out how he got to (or more importantly, how he’d get back!). As the sun set we hustled back up the road to the truck because we were hosting Judy for dinner back at the trailer and were running really late. But as a former full-timer herself (she spent a year towing the kids around the country back in the 70s), she was content to wander around the park and down to the beach in our absence.

We rose early and went for separate beach runs in the morning fog. A few miles south they allow overnight camping on the beach so lots of RVs were digging themselves out of the sand before the day users showed up in their jeeps. It sounds fun, but oh my, just think of all the sand, everywhere, in the trailer, in the mechanics of the truck… plus it gets cold at night! No thank you! We had a long drive ahead of us, including the much-dreaded trek through LA. Tom handled it like a champ and when we were finally able to pull over in San Bernardino we switched. My first pull! On the highway, in the dark, eeee! To be continued…

moments before I start driving
moments before I start driving

Ireland’s RV Park (Gold Beach, OR)

I had really wanted to spend some time on the Oregon coast, but the northern part – the beaches and rock formations you see in all the movies and pictures. I’d spent time researching RV parks and state campgrounds even back when I was still working. But it’s a rather long drive from Seattle for a weekend and plus the sites were still super booked up in October and a lot close by November. Then when we decided to do Hood River and Bend it was the completely wrong direction logistically and would have added a ton of driving and the weather was turning… so it got nixed. But I needed SOME Oregon coastline before we left the state for a while.

roadside scenic viewpoint
roadside scenic viewpoint

There was a century ride on Jay’s website that formed a figure 8 with Gold Beach as it’s center so that’s how we ended up at Ireland’s in Gold Beach on a rainy Saturday afternoon.

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The rain just kept getting worse and worse but we had to walk a few blocks to the Inn to check-in so I put on my thermal running tights, “waterproof” boots, and raincoat and trudged up the street. Then Tom figured we were already pretty wet so why not wander around and see if there was anything interesting nearby? There was not. We walked a big loop through a shabby mobile home park trying to find a cut through to the beach as puddles formed in our shoes. img_2480I did at least walk out to the beach and up the tiny lighthouse but it was a stay in kind of night.

Sunday was an improvement so we went for a long walk on the beach, getting chased down by the incoming tide and mounds of fluffy sea foam blowing in the wind. img_2495 img_2485Then we jumped on our bikes and headed north for the easier half of the century ride since the weather didn’t give us much hope that the sweeping views from the hard hilly half would even be possible. I can break it down into thirds – the chip seal section, the hillbilly img_2488section, and the windy section. The hillbilly section was actually quite beautiful and had nice road surfaces so it made for good riding. Back on the waterfront was fairly miserable though and the views were mostly of sheep. Crossing the bridge back into Gold Beach wasn’t as scary as I anticipated and we were done. The campground was still pretty quiet but a big fifth wheel had been replaced by a little pop-up and we eyed the couple curiously as they secured multiple tarps over the mesh sides and washed their dishes next to the spigot. That is pretty hardcore, by comparison we merely pretend to camp while we enjoy the luxuriousness of our modern Airstream.

I got in a “quick” challenging beach run Monday morning before we hit the road for a beautiful drive down Highway 101 where we averaged about 35mph for the rest of the day…