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.

backtracking to Alabama (figuratively)

As you may have realized, there was a big gap between Thanksgiving when we arrived in Memphis, and when we left mid-January. No we weren’t there the whole time (egads!) but there was a lot of family and friends time and not much adventuring. So I’m trying to fill in a few of the holes with some short stops of interest. Completely out of order then, Oak Mountain state park, just south of Birmingham, Alabama, the day before the day before Christmas Eve.

A running buddy of mine in Charlotte is from the area so when I saw him at the Fillnow holiday kickball barbecue I asked for suggestions on where to camp. [I had originally wanted to camp near Talladega, just because, but turns out most of the camps near there are only open for race weeks. Not being super familiar with Nascar, I guess most people just camp at the race track so they don’t need a lot of overflow space.] So anywho, Chad suggested Oak Mountain and he nailed it. I just wish we had more time. It was a long day of driving from Concord (north of Charlotte) where we had left the Airstream to get the new toilet installed, all the way through Atlanta, to Birmingham. Even gaining an hour with the time change didn’t help.

just in case you need cash for your park entrance fees…

The attendant at the park entrance was very enthusiastic (new I think) and chatted with us forEVER and I just wanted to get out of the truck! The overly detailed directions did help though because it was pitch dark and the signs were rather tiny. It was a parallel parking spot that I did a decent job with and finally we could stretch out.

We were supposed to do a trail run that day at Crowder’s Mountain or somewhere on the way but it didn’t happen. So we got up and ran separately in the morning – exploring some of the many park hiking trails. They were rather tough but it was a nice sunny day and I was procrastinating getting back on the road so had fun playing in the woods – sometimes having to walk up the steepness… the strava elevation profile speaks for itself. I’d love to have ridden bikes through the park on the nice curvy roads and was super jealous as we saw some folks cruising by as we made our exit. Plus there were many more miles of hiking trails to run. Maybe we’ll be back some time.

windmills as far as the eye can see

There is not much to see driving east on I-40 across New Mexico. But as soon as you hit north Texas it is just miles and miles of wind farms. I find it quite beautiful and peaceful too. It does seem to go on forever at times though, so we broke it up with a fun little run in the country. But where to stop? Can I get a sign perhaps? Oh hey, how about at that gigantic cross on the side of the highway? Okay!

We can safely say we understand the wind farm situation. At least we chose to run into the wind on the way out and just coast back in with it at our backs. Except Tom had to spend about 10 minutes wrangling the sweetest dog that escaped her pen and was jogging down the country road with us. Finally he just knocked on the door and asked the owner to keep her inside while we left. Good grief. I’m sure we looked like lunatics to all the farm vehicles zipping by but it was a much needed workout and the scenery was kind of stunning. I felt like I was on that road in Forrest Gump where they deliver the angel wing packages. Cotton bolls swirled around me and I even got hit by a tumbleweed that escaped some barbed wire fencing. Big sky, I heart you.

The random overnight in Oklahoma City was unremarkable. Tom found an RV Park just off the highway and the highlight was a nice chat with an employee who refilled our propane tanks. As we pulled out for the last long day of driving to Memphis, Judy called. Early that morning Granpa had gone home to be with Jesus. He was at peace in his new perfect heavenly body, basking in the vision of a lifetime, where there is no pain or suffering. We will miss him terribly and I can only hope to honor him by spending the rest of my days running to the cross of Christ. Some days it might look a lot like a windmill.

that time I [didn’t] stay in a Wal-Mart parking lot

The drive across northeast Arizona was gorgeous. I think it’s called high desert? At elevation the landscape changes dramatically. It’s quite green. Of course I was driving up or down 7-10% grades most of the time so it was literally exhausting my right calf and I couldn’t take any pictures, but just google images of Tonto National Forest to get an idea. We were supposed to go for a bike ride or something so I had Tom find somewhere scenic on our route where we could hop out and go for a quick jaunt. Turns out we would be driving right through the middle of the Painted Desert. Perfect!

Or not so perfect. By the time we arrived there was a crazy storm brewing with really high winds, and the temperature had dropped significantly. And the park closes at sunset, which we were rapidly approaching. We had a nice chat with a ranger who suggested we just drive through to Blue Mesa and maybe walk the path they just built. There are pull-outs throughout the park, most suitable for RVs (they are plentiful in these parts), but she pointed out one or two we should avoid. We wasted too much time at the lookouts on the northern edge of the park not realizing how magnificent the Blue Mesa would be and we ended up getting chased out of the park by the rangers at dusk. And while we did not manage to avoid the rain storm, we were also there for some magnificent [double] rainbows.  It was just about a mile path down into and around the Blue Mesa. The perspective of looking back up at the rocks is much more powerful than standing on the rim looking down in. The water running off the rock down into the canyon was actually this pale purple-mauve color. There was also some petrified wood which I don’t think I’d ever seen – but it’s basically big pieces of tree trunks that look like sparkly rocks.

Although clearly we weren’t the first people to wander off the path to this particular piece of petrified wood, it was also clear that we were walking on quicksand so we quickly returned to the path as the sun was setting over the horizon. 

A local college hosts a charity bike ride through the park in the fall to raise scholarship funds. I’d love to come back and ride here on a slightly less windy, cold, stormy day. I caught this shot quickly as the ranger chasing us out stopped to close the gates behind us.

As we approached Albuquerque our plan was to stay overnight at the Camping World on the west side of the city. Upon arrival we discovered this was one of the few locations that does not allowed overnighting. Womp womp. It was past 9pm and too late to call any proper RV parks or check in to any campgrounds. We drove through the city and my hopes of running around Sandia Crest the next morning were dashed as we passed all the exits near the park. There was a Harvest Host site up the road I thought might work, but reviews mentioned something about being locked in behind a gate so that was out. In the end we resorted to a Wal-Mart parking lot in a little town just off the interstate. We weren’t alone but it was past 10pm, cold and windy. No point in unhitching, just dropped some jacks and made a little dinner. By the time we woke up all our neighbors were gone so we had a quick breakfast, hit up a grocery store Starbucks, and headed on. The view wasn’t terrible but it’s a shame we did zero exploring in New Mexico.

If my mother ever asks, we stayed at a campground, definitely NOT in a parking lot.