A New Trailer

April 2018

IMG_6122
We were lucky enough to see this cactus bloom on our last day in Palm Creek. The huge blooms last only a day.

While we were in Palm Creek we spent a lot of time thinking about our trailer. It is easy to get RV envy when you’re in a park filled with all kinds of fancy motorhomes…

IMG_6137

and after a year and a half on the road we had a few wishes. One, for a comfortable seating option. Our “sofa” is little more than foam cushions on plywood and after a while your butt is hurting and you can’t get comfortable. Also our propane furnace, like most RVs, uses forced air which is not very consistent. Either you’re hot while it’s blasting or you’re cold when it cycles off and it’s noisy. So we started looking at other options with the same quality we were used to in our Airstream. We even drove up to Phoenix to check out several motorhomes, but in the end we decided that none of them gave us the feel of our Airstream. Plus we knew a Class A would fundamentally change the way we travel and we didn’t want that. So we opted for another Airstream, a 30’ Classic. 

This one, a step up for our current model, has a real couch with recliners and even the dinette has real furniture with springs in the cushions. The biggie is that it has a radiant heating system that makes no noise but keeps the trailer at a consistent temperature. After a couple of visits to Airstream of Scottsdale, we settled on the model and color scheme we wanted, but they didn’t have it in stock. Alas, a quick internet search revealed that our old friends Airstream Adventures NW had the exact trailer we wanted. 

So this meant that once again we headed north in wet, cold April (why do we do this to ourselves?!!). Since this trip was about making time I made it easy for us and booked our stops in advance, making sure that the sites were long enough to stay hitched up. 

First stop outside Barstow made for a long driving day, nearly 8 hours. 

IMG_6153
Soon after we pulled in the sun was setting.

After another long day we arrived outside Sacramento to find a bunch of Airstreams at the RV park in Lodi. Turns out there was an Airstream rally starting the next day. In true Airstreamer fashion we were invited to join them and given a lovely jar of homemade jam. Yum! 

IMG_6161
Wow, our trailer looks really long from this angle, and no it doesn’t have any dents, just weird reflections. 

I made sure our driving days progressively got shorter figuring we would grow weary of the long travel days. We stopped on the California-Oregon border and were the only ones in the campground. 

IMG_6166
Our riverfront site was peaceful.

Outside Salem Oregon we stayed at Champoeg State Park, a nice change of pace from the RV parks we’d been in. Last stop was Kanaskat-Palmer State Park, 20 miles from our final destination. We arrived to sunshine and nearly 70 degrees so I took a walk down by the Green River to enjoy it. Good thing because the next day it started raining. Not just a little rain, a huge dumping. Welcome to Seattle!

IMG_6176
Back in the wet Northwest.

Thankfully Airstream Adventures put us under their awning so we could move our belongings without getting wet. They lined us up old door to new door which made it easy to move our belongings. While I was moving things, Chuck was working on the huge task of moving our ProPride (Hensley style) hitch. It took hours. 

IMG_6187
Old trailer on the left, brand spanking new one on the right.

We spent our first night in the new trailer under the canopy. While we didn’t have to listen to the rain pounding down on the trailer we did have the freeway sounds and the lights. Thank goodness for those new blackout shades. 

IMG_6220
Our site at Lake Pleasant.

After getting everything moved we headed to Lake Pleasant RV Park. With not many camping options close to Seattle this one is very convenient, being about a mile from our old house.

IMG_6260
The inside of the new trailer as viewed from the comfy couch.

As we worked on organizing the trailer, we crammed in lots of visits with friends and family but again we couldn’t believe we used to put up with all this grey, cold, wet weather not to mention the traffic and sheer number of people.

IMG_0893
There was still snow heading over the I-90 pass.

Next up we headed to Boise for sunshine and a visit with my sister and parents. We taught them Wizard, the game Bob and Mona hooked us on at Palm Creek, and soon they were hooked too. My mom couldn’t wait to play after dinner every evening. We enjoyed my Dad’s garden and fresh picked radishes.

IMG_6265

We even extended our stay a few days when I learned that my dad’s first softball game was coming up. At 80 years young he decided to join the senior softball league, playing on not just one but two teams. Go Flying Squirrels!

IMG_6286
That’s my dad #41 covering second base.

It was fun to watch my dad play after all those years of him watching his kids and grandkids play and a nice ending to our time with friends and family!

Palm Creek aka Pickleball Camp

Chuck read a blog by a couple who are are full-timing while looking for a RV casita to use as a winter base. One of the places they checked out was Palm Creek Golf and RV Resort in Casa Grande, just south of Phoenix. After reading their blog Chuck was itching to try it out and since we were feeling road weary we decided to book a whole month at Palm Creek. While it’s a more expensive option than we normally pick, we figured we wouldn’t be driving so our fuel savings would offset the more expensive camping fee, not that you can call this place camping. One night as a golf cart parade passed by our site we waved and the lady laughed and yelled out, “Our kids think we’re camping!” Yeah, there is no camping here.

IMG_5870

The best way to describe Palm Creek is a big summer camp for active retirees (albeit in the winter). Here you find folks happily engaging in every kind of activity you can imagine. There is golf, swimming, tennis, water volleyball, shuffleboard, lawn bowling and pickleball. Then there are the indoor activities like quilting, pottery, lapidary, silversmithing, stained glass, woodworking and more. Plus yoga, water aerobics, line dancing, cards, and a bunch of social clubs. They have dances and concerts and community parties in the park, like a car show and a hot air balloon glow.

 

 

Unlike other retiree parks we’ve stayed at, this one felt vibrant, even for us folks a bit under the average age. 🙂 Plus we got hooked on pickleball.

IMG_6066

Pickleball, what is that you say? Well, it in no way involves pickles. It’s kinda a mash-up of ping pong and tennis using a solid paddle, a plastic ball with holes (like a whiffle ball) and a smaller version of a tennis court. We arrived on Tuesday, took a beginner’s lesson on Thursday, started playing in organized round robins nearly every day and after two weeks we were down in the office extending our stay for an additional month. Seems that happens a lot around here.

IMG_5958

Our days pretty much looked like: get up, eat breakfast, lather up with sunscreen, go play pickleball, come back, eat lunch, shower, drink lots of water, and try to recoup before making dinner or joining friends for cocktails. People would ask “Have you been to see any of the sights?” and I’d respond “We’ve been to the grocery store.” Pretty much all we did was play, eat, sleep, and do laundry. But it was a nice change from our usual sightseeing and hiking and moving all the time. Who knew when we set out on this journey we would take up a new sport, the only one we’ve ever played together in our nearly 20 years, and have so much fun with it.

IMG_0773

After playing pickleball for only a month we played in the club’s members only tournament. My women’s partner was Mona, a 70 year young Canadian who is an inspiration to stay active. She and her husband, Bob, had more energy than either of us! We enjoyed getting to know them and hanging out together. They’re both a hoot and she races dragon boats!

IMG_6031

One other great thing about Palm Creek is that they have forged a connection with the local elementary school. This meant that I could, after waiting several weeks for my background check to clear, volunteer. Soon I was enjoying 2 days a week helping 6 year olds learn their ABCs (right up my alley since I taught K and 1st). It was exciting to be in a classroom again using my skills, but also eye opening. I realized how lucky I had been to teach in a highly regarded and supportive district and what a great job I’d done in my classroom even though I always felt like I should be doing more. Teaching is my calling but all the time and effort required definitely takes it’s toll and I don’t miss that. I was glad that I could enjoy the fun parts, like working with the kids, without all the other responsibilities of managing a classroom.

IMG_6044

In the end we stayed at Palm Creek for a full 3 months, January – March. This is by far the longest we’ve been in one spot since we left and it’s allowed us to make some deep social connections. Being introverts we aren’t great at socializing, but here it’s been easy. Part of that is because we’ve met people through a common activity, pickleball. It’s built in that you will see them several times a week if not daily and soon they invite you over for cocktails and then you’re inviting them over, and then they’re teaching you a new card game (try out Wizard if you haven’t). My daughter joked that my social life was busier than hers! All too soon we found it was the end of March and our friends were starting to head home and we were going to miss them. So guess what? We signed up to come back next year for more pickleball camp and fun times with friends!

IMG_6043

Back to the Desert

December 2017

On our way across Texas we stumbled upon the fanciest rest area we’ve encountered so far. It looked like a beautiful setting for a picnic although it was nearly empty.

After driving across Texas we found a spot in Las Cruces, NM to spend a few nights. It was right near the old town of Mesilla, which we explored one afternoon.

We enjoyed the colorful interior of La Posta as we ate lunch. Then we wandered into some shops and through the town square. The community Christmas tree was decorated with ornaments made by the local schoolchildren. Some of those popsicle stick designs looked familiar from our girls’ younger days. 🙂 Mesilla was such a cute little town! We definitely need to spend more time exploring New Mexico, but not now—it’s too cold in December!

Next we stopped at Lazydays KOA in Tucson. This is by far the nicest KOA we have ever seen. The free-for-the-picking citrus was too much to resist. We left with a giant bowl of oranges, lemons, and grapefruit.

IMG_5533

IMG_5544
We put up decorations inside…
IMG_5549
…and decorated the outside with a motion laser that reflected off the shiny exterior.

Our holidays ended up being a repeat of last year. Seems I’m making new traditions by returning to favorite places. In my last post I told you about our return visit to Padre Island for Thanksgiving. We also returned to one of our favorite campgrounds, Gilbert Ray, for Christmas.

IMG_5662
Chuck finally got that silver tree he’s always wanted! 🙂
DCIM100MEDIADJI_0004.JPG
He also got out his drone and took a few shots.
IMG_5680
Grilling up our Christmas dinner with a view.

And then we spent a fun filled New Year’s weekend with the 4CU Airstream Club at Picacho Peak again.

IMG_5713
Lots of beautiful sunsets in Arizona! Can you pick which Airstream is ours? Hint: look for the solar panels 🙂
IMG_5718
We got to peek inside this beautifully restored vintage Airstream.
IMG_5728
We tried our hand at giant Jenga.
IMG_5707
These folks know how to build a campfire!

IMG_5785

While this has been a repeat of last year, our next stop will definitely be something new– a whole month spent at an upscale RV Resort. But that’s for next time.

Trekking Through Texas

Mid-November – mid-December 2017

After our 4 days at Guadelupe/Carlsbad it was time to head all the way across Texas. Texas is humongous, which you don’t realize until you drive across it, and then you forget until you have to drive across it again. 🙂

We broke up the trek with a few stops. The first one was a return visit to Monahans Sandhills State Park. After an arduous drive that included potholed roads, long road construction delays, and tons of oilfield truck traffic we arrived to sun glinting off the dunes. Then the rain moved in to spoil any hopes of sand sledding, so it wasn’t as stunning as our last visit. Still I did get out for a nice walk around the dunes on our last day.

IMG_E5205

Next we planned on staying at the SKP Park in Hondo TX, but when we arrived we found mayhem. They were repaving the internal roads so half the park was closed, including the dry camping, and they had crammed everyone into the other half so had no spots available. Wish they would have said something on their website, but luckily they pointed us to nearby Quiet RV Park, which was just that, and since they accepted Passport America we got half off our site. So in the end it actually worked out great for us. Plus we found a delicious local BBQ joint.

IMG_5215
Our site at Quiet RV Park backed up to farm fields.
IMG_E5216
If you’re ever in Hondo TX try the BBQ turkey at Heavy’s!

Our last stop was Lake Corpus Christi State Park. We wanted a short drive to Padre Island, since sites are first come first serve and often fill up, so this park to the west of Corpus Christi fit the bill. Unfortunately it seemed more like a place for locals to come and party on the weekends or go fishing than a great place to camp. The sites and roads were crumbling and muddy from the recent and continuing rains.

IMG_5219

IMG_E5230
Hunting season so the deer are hiding out at the state park 🙂

I have to admit my gloomy mood matched the gloomy setting and our rainy 3 days here seemed to stretch on forever. But we were rewarded when we pulled into the campground at Padre Island and had our pick of several oceanfront spots. We choose the exact same spot we were in last year since we knew it afforded great ocean views right from our trailer.

IMG_5335
Looking back at our site from the dunes you can just see the solar panels raised to catch the winter sun.

Ahh, 2 weeks at the ocean. I could instantly feel my mood improving and my stress dissipating. Just like last year it felt like we were on vacation. I know that’s funny because most people look at our life and think we’re on vacation all the time. In reality there is a lot of time spent planning, maintaining the trailer, doing chores, and taking care of everyday life, but somehow when we hit the beach we feel relaxed. We take daily walks and observe the tides and just chill.

Each day the beach is a little different. This time on the day we arrived there was tons of sargassum seaweed, trash, and small man-o-war all washed up by a recent storm. Apparently the currents bring a lot of stuff from the south tip of Florida and the coast of Mexico up this way. Another day the beach was littered with jellyfish. We saw hardly any of the tiny seashells we had seen last year and even saw some different birds this time.

We made a daily habit of picking up a trash bag or two from the campground host and filling it. About 90% of what we picked up were toothbrushes, plastic bottles, parts of shoes, bottle lids, plastic bags and random pieces of brightly colored plastic. Many times the plastic was so brittle that it would shatter into tiny pieces when we tried to pick it up. I totally understand how they find sea animals whose stomachs are filled with plastic. Unfortunately these creatures mistake the plastic pieces for food. We even saw two seagulls fighting over a piece of brightly colored plastic. If you want to do one thing to help the environment, cut back on your use of plastic in any way that you can!

We drove down the island to Big Shell Beach. It is covered with shell fragments that have been tumbled in the waves. They look like broken pieces of pottery.

IMG_5328IMG_5326

Again we celebrated Thanksgiving with a feast prepared in our trailer. Turkey breast, green bean casserole, marshmallow sweet potatoes and squash cooked on the grill, biscuits cooked in the solar oven, and mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce and salad to round out the meal. Not bad at all.

IMG_0678
Thanksgiving dinner with a view!

After our relaxing “ beach vacation” we headed to Mission, Texas. Chuck has been searching for places with RV casitas. Basically this means a tiny house next to a parking pad for your RV. We figure this might be the next step for us. It would give us a break from the trailer and a place to spend the winter while our trailer served as a guest house for our visitors. One place that seemed to fit the bill was Retama Village. It’s down in the very tip of Texas just a stone’s throw from the Rio Grande.

IMG_5349
Our site next to a one bedroom casita.

Our first week there was glorious. The weather was in the 80s and the clubhouse and pool were beautiful. Our site was just across from some friendly Airstream folks who had us over for cocktails and conversation. They had recently purchased a casita and were kind enough to share their thought process and experiences.

We enjoyed a week of sunshine, dips in the pool, and butterflies everywhere (the area is on their migration path). What we didn’t find was an interesting town. Instead there was lots of sprawl and traffic and chain stores, but not an area with that interesting, vibrant small downtown feel. We did manage to find a cute little spot to enjoy my birthday dinner.

IMG_5370IMG_5368

And we visited the nearby National Butterfly Center.

At the end of the week we had a list of pros and cons, but were still on the fence.

Pros
own the land
stick built structure
hookups for RV
landscaping maintained by park
low cost of living
beautiful clubhouse/pool
butterflies

Cons
far from family
not a lot of organized activities
not an interesting town
traffic
bugs
humid

We decided we needed a little more time exploring before we could make a decision, so we moved to the adjoining Bentsen Palm RV Park.

IMG_5492

Here we discovered another con, the wild fluctuations in the weather.

IMG_0700

Waking up to 30 degrees and snow was quite a shock after the 80 degree weather of the week before! And it kinda tipped the balance for us. So after we waited out the cold front moving across south Texas we made the long trek back across this vast state to spend our winter in Arizona. But that’s a story for next time.

 

2 More National Parks!

November 2017

After a road weary fall, we decided to head to the Texas coast. We loved our stay there last year for Thanksgiving and two weeks at the National Seashore sounded like just the break we needed. We also wanted to check out some RV casitas we’ve been researching as an option for a winter base. Plus, there was a week of nice weather in the forecast. This meant we could hit up two more national parks, Guadelupe and Carlsbad, that we haven’t been able to visit because of their high elevation.

We arrived at Guadelupe Mountains National Park on November 3rd. The RV camping is basically spots in the parking lot so nothing special, but it put us right in the middle of the views. Guadelupe is a “desert meets mountains” sort of place so you have yucca and cactus alongside juniper and pine.

IMG_E4969
You can see our shiny trailer parked in the “camping” area.

This parking lot was also the major trailhead so we saw a lot of backpackers getting their permits and heading out for multi-night treks. As the weather turned chillier and stormier over the weekend we were glad to be snug in our trailer!

IMG_4988

Lucky for us we picked a beautiful morning to hike to Devil’s Hall. Being in the desert we’ve missed out on fall colors so it was a treat to see so much beautiful color on the trees along the way.

IMG_5007

Before you get to Devil’s Hall You have to navigate the Devil’s Staircase.

IMG_5018

I’m about half way up it here. It was even trickier coming back down.  🙂 The hall is a narrow passage between two cliffs of layered stone. It was pretty cool.

The color was just as amazing on our way back.

IMG_4996IMG_5065IMG_4994

We also visited a couple of sights in the park. There are ruins of a Butterfield Overland Mail Stagecoach Stop, the highest on the route at 5,534 feet. Butterfield was the first transcontinental mail service. The coaches ran round the clock, covering the 2800 miles in 25 days or less. The stations were important to provide food and fresh horses.

We walked around the Frijole Ranch. The buildings weren’t open the day we were there, but we peered in the windows. The red building was once the schoolhouse. They also had an amazing spring-fed irrigation system that watered an orchard.

Guadelupe and Carlsbad are about 45 miles apart so we could have driven to the caverns, but we opted to move our trailer to a boondocking spot closer to the park.

IMG_E5187

By now you should know that caves are not really my thing, but I have to say Carlsbad blew me away. I had researched the options and found you could hike through the Natural Opening and down into the cave at your own pace. It didn’t look like there were any tight spaces so I thought I’d be fine and I was.

Turns out I was too enthralled by all the cool cave formations to feel claustrophobic, plus the rooms are huge!

IMG_5145

Every turn brought another amazing view.

IMG_5167

IMG_E5156

Often times it felt like we were on the set of Star Trek landing on a distant planet.

IMG_E5146

After walking the paved trail from the Natural Entrance, you end up 800 feet below the surface in the Big Room, which has a 1.25 mile loop trail.

IMG_5148

This room is gigantic, the size of 14 football fields, and filled with formations.

IMG_E5176IMG_E5153IMG_5173IMG_5166IMG_5155IMG_5152IMG_5122

By the end we were on overload and happy to take the elevator back up 38 floors to the surface.

If you only visit one cave in your lifetime, this is the one. What an amazing journey into a strange underground world. Even though I’m not a cave person I loved it. Although I do think I’ve now fulfilled all my cave needs for a lifetime. 🙂

Well that brings our grand total to 15 National Parks!

Hopping Around Arizona

I can’t believe it’s been almost 3 months since I’ve posted. I knew I was behind, but I didn’t realize it was that bad. A little while back a fellow RV blogger (watsonswander.com) posted about her struggles to keep updated on her blog and I could totally relate. I just haven’t felt like writing. Maybe it’s because we haven’t been to a lot of new places, or I’ve been kinda road weary from our busy fall, or maybe because a lot of times I feel like I send these blogs out into the online universe and don’t really know if anyone is reading them. Well, that’s not totally true. I know my mom is reading 🙂 and I like having a record of our travels, so here comes some catching up.

IMG_4803
Nice large site at Gilbert Ray

After our mid-October stay at Lost Dutchman State Park just north of Phoenix, we returned to the SKP Coop in Benson AZ. We were headed to an Airstream Rally in New Mexico, but realized we were both worn out and just needed to find a spot to lay low for a bit. With one of our favorite parks only an hour away we headed back to Tucson and spent a few days among the saguaros at Gilbert Ray Campground. Its so peaceful among the saguaros and it was just what we needed.

IMG_4788

The sunsets are always amazing!

We lucked into a few nights at Dead Horse Ranch State Park just outside Sedona. While the park itself was nothing spectacular, the surrounding area is amazing.

IMG_4817
Our site at Dead Horse Ranch

We took a long drive down dirt roads scoping out some of the boondocking in the area and enjoying the views.

We walked through downtown reading about the history of the area…

enjoyed tamales at a cute little spot…

IMG_4831
Our lunch at Tamaliza was delicious!

and played the giant xylophone.

IMG_4846

Everywhere you turned there were great views of the red rocks. This is an area that definitely requires a return visit. There is so much to explore and we didn’t even get to experience any of the great hiking.

Next up was a stay at a park many folks have recommended, Catalina State Park, just north of Tucson. While we enjoyed the views and the proximity to amenities, our campsite was not so appealing with it’s setting among the sandy scrub.

IMG_E4885
If you stood out on the road you could see the beautiful view and not see the major ant highway crossing our site. 🙂

IMG_E4909

IMG_E4905

IMG_E4904

IMG_E4903
Hiking in Catalina State Park

I guess we can’t complain too much when we’re enjoying so much sunny weather.

After Catalina we were headed east (more on that next time) so ended up at the Benson SKP park again to catch up on laundry. After all, it had been two weeks. With four different stops in that time I don’t think we did anything to help our road weariness, but we’re planning for some down time soon.

More New Mexico Adventures

Traveling further south we stopped for a few nights at City of Rocks State Park. It’s kinda strange because you are driving through grasslands and fields and then these rocks just pop up out of nowhere.

IMG_4576

IMG_4636

There are lots of cool rock formations to climb on and around.

 

You can camp right up among the rocks, but we chose the hook-up sites and had this great view of the rocks from our site.

IMG_4605

IMG_4624

IMG_4623
There were both cottontails and jackrabbits all over the campground.

One afternoon I took my bike on the trail that loops the campground.

IMG_4629

The trail was longer and hillier than it looked and I had forgotten we were still at a high elevation and it was nearly 90 degrees so I very nearly didn’t make it back. Boy that dry desert air really takes it out of you! Took me a couple of days to recoup.

We made a visit to Silver City which was supposed to have lots of cool artist shops, but most were closed on Tuesday. The few we did find had interesting stuff.

We had more great evening views.

IMG_4612

IMG_4626

Sadly we had to leave New Mexico and head toward Phoenix so I could fly to Boise for my nephew’s wedding. On the way we stopped in Benson AZ at an Escapees Park. We love the Escapees parks for their friendly folks, reasonable rates, and especially their clean, cheap laundry facilities! This one had great desert views and we enjoyed the sunny weather.

IMG_4650

IMG_4656
There were a couple of folks who had train displays. 

IMG_4732IMG_4735

On our way to Phoenix we needed a place to stop for lunch. Luckily we happened upon the Casa Grande National Monument. It was a great stop for lunch and a little exploration.

IMG_4666

IMG_4667

IMG_4668

IMG_4671

Outside Phoenix we stayed at Lost Dutchmen State Park. We had heard so many good things about this park that we were disappointed when our spot turned out to be in a crowded loop. Riding through the campground we found other nicer spots but none were open for the 9 days we were staying. Luckily during the week it was quieter and less crowded.

Still the views of the Superstition Mountains as they changed in the evening light were great. While Chuck enjoyed those and some 90 degree days, I flew to Boise for highs in the 50s and a great visit with family.

IMG_0580
The happy couple cutting the cake that my niece baked for them. 
IMG_4708
I got to hang out with our beautiful daughters.
IMG_4709
A family photo at the wedding.

So after Chuck’s week of projects around the trailer and my busy week with family, it’s time to make some decisions about where we head next. There are so many possibilities that sometimes it can be daunting. We’ve had such a busy month that I think we need a few days to relax before we decide.

Valley of Fires

After Taos, we headed to Valley of Fires Recreation Area in Carrizozo. Here we were greeted by stunning views, a walk through black lava fields, and lots of wind. This place is definitely worth a stop, even if you just walk the path through the lava field.

IMG_4398
From the hilltop observation point you can see our trailer with the lava fields to the left.
IMG_4376
Looking south from the start of the lava trail toward the observation hill.
IMG_4389
These ropey strands of lava rock have a special Hawaiian name that I can’t remember. 🙂

IMG_4391

 

IMG_4439

IMG_4386
Looking back up from the trail you can see out great spot on the ridge. 
IMG_4354
The clouds and sun made for dramatic views.
IMG_4435
We had views of the lava field right out our windows!
IMG_4457
The clouds made for a spectacular sunset!

IMG_4446

Since we had been moving around quite a bit we opted to stay in our awesome site instead of moving closer to the other places we wanted to explore. This meant about an hour’s drive to White Sands National Monument but it was a beautiful day so it wasn’t bad.

IMG_4401
This is one of those beautiful national park buildings. It was built by the WPA in the late 1930s from adobe bricks covered with stucco.

IMG_4406

IMG_4409
After a few miles you are driving right on the sand.

IMG_4414

IMG_4415
We enjoyed walking barefoot in the dunes. The sand is super soft and it was cool and damp even though it was around 80 degrees out.

Another day we drove 45 minutes to Three Rivers Petroglyph Recreation Site. They have over 21,000 petroglyphs that were chipped into the rock over 600 years ago. They are so cool that it took us forever to hike the 1.5 mile trail. By the time we came back down we were the only car left in the parking lot!

This was such a cool area that we will have to come back. After all we missed the Smokey the Bear Museum and gravesite. Yes, there was an actual Smokey the Bear and he was from New Mexico. Who knew?

 

A few days in Taos

No matter how hard I try it seems like I’m only getting further behind on the blog. So in a last ditch effort to catch up I posted two blogs last week and now I’m blowing through the last month with multiple posts today.

We arrived in New Mexico to cooler, cloudy weather in the mountains north of Taos. We stayed a couple of nights at Eagle’s Nest State Park, part of New Mexico’s Enchanted Loop. There was some pretty mountain scenery heading through the pass and nice views from our campsite, but we didn’t do much exploring. At over 8,000 feet in elevation it was cooler than we wanted so we headed to the lower elevation of Taos at 6,900 feet.

The Taos Valley RV Park was kinda quirky and in need of some attention, but it got us close to the sights.

IMG_4339
Your neighbor pulls in from the opposite direction so their door faces you and you share the center strip. Behind the little fence is their table. It’s a little odd.

We walked on the Rio Grande Bridge, the most beautiful steel bridge according to the sign, in Rio Grande del Norte National Monument. I had never seen crisis hotline phones out on a bridge, but it makes sense. We even spotted a big horn sheep.

IMG_4277

IMG_4278

IMG_4279

IMG_4283

IMG_4287

IMG_4288

Afterwards we stopped at Taos Brewing Company for some food and beer. We found the coolest old truck in their parking lot. Someone is also putting in a collection of old trailers for overnight rentals. I would have loved to peek inside in all of them.

Another day we explored the Taos Pueblo. I expected the pueblo to have plaques explaining the history, but I guess you have to take a tour to get information, which we weren’t keen on doing. Still it was a photographer’s dream to just wander around.

IMG_4307

IMG_4308

IMG_4311

IMG_4317

IMG_4323

IMG_4325

IMG_4329

We walked around Taos’ central square but found it a bit touristy. We preferred the metal sculptures and Mexican imported goods at a shop on the outskirts of town. We also found a cool local t-shirt shop.

This has been our first stay in New Mexico and it’s left me excited to see more.

 

KY to OH to KS to OK

September 6 – 21, 2017

Even though it’s only been a few weeks since we left Ohio, it seems like a blur. We’ve made so many stops that it’s hard to keep them straight in my mind. So I’ll try my best to lay it out.

Originally we had planned to head to Shenandoah National Park and then onto the Outer Banks of North Carolina and down the coast into Florida for the winter. With Hurricane Irma churning out at sea we decided to head toward Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky instead. We figured we could re-evaluate after we had a better idea of what Irma would do and either head back toward Virginia or make a new plan. So off to Kentucky we drove.

IMG_4037 (1)

First stop Big Bone Lick State Park. We didn’t see much of the park because we only spent one night, but we did find that not one spot was level. There was mini-golf and a pool (closed for the season) so I’m sure this place is popular with families. Since the campground is up a very steep hill we didn’t even make the trek down to check out the lake.

Continuing on Chuck found the driving tough. The roads were in bad shape and crowded with semi trucks. I think Louisville must be a big shipping hub because the airport was filled with UPS cargo planes.

When we made it to Mammoth Cave we found a mostly empty campground. The ranger recommended a pull through spot with some sun for our solar and we got set up and rode our bikes down to the visitor’s center. There we found interesting exhibits about the formation and history of the caves and picked up information about cave tours that are friendly to those of us who are clautrophobic. 😉

On Friday we rode the gravel trail through the woods to a pond where I had my first ever sighting of actual frogs jumping on lily pads. Sorry no photo. On Saturday they have an open cave tour where you can go at your own pace which sounded perfect to me. It started at the cave’s historic entrance.

 

A nice big opening leading down a wide hallway into a massive room. This is just my style. While it was warm outside it was around 50 degrees in the cave. In fact you could feel a good breeze at the opening and in the morning there is often fog emerging from the cave. This large entrance goes about 1/4 mile into the cave with smaller passageways branching off.

 

IMG_4120
The hallway coming in
IMG_4100
In the middle are remains of old salt peter mining operations. On the right are memorials to fallen soldiers from WWI. 
IMG_4112
Proof I made it in the cave.
IMG_4108
The end of the big room.

While the caves were cool, above ground this was another woodsy, dark park. So we were glad to think about making our way somewhere with open, sunny skies. With Hurricane Irma still looming ominously off Florida’s coast we decided to ditch any hopes we had of staying east this fall and winter. Instead we set a course to Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas.

Stopping overnight in Tennessee, we found a site at Pin Oak Campground that was level enough to stay hitched up. That night the rains, remnants of Hurricane Harvey, moved in. I heard a drip in the night, but told myself it was outside and went back to sleep. In the morning we awoke to a huge puddle of water on our table and floor. The new skylight was leaking in a big way. Chuck removed the interior frame and water came pouring out. Water was running behind our aluminum walls and dripping out at the seams.

IMG_4158
Drips coming down from each screw and the wood framing is soaked.

It was a no-brainer to turn ourselves around and head back the way we had come, covering the 500 miles back to the factory in one very long driving day. Luckily the rain let off after a bit so we got some relief, but about 1/2 hour outside Jackson Center it started raining again. So after finding a spot we got to work tying a tarp over the skylight and turned on the dehumidifier to try to dry things out.

They couldn’t squeeze us in the next day, but did get us taken care of the following day. So more time spent hanging out at the factory. Not so bad as I do love it there. It’s sort of comforting and calming to be surrounded by lots of other Airstream trailers. We did more laundry, chatted with other folks who were there getting service, and found a few more things we needed in the Airstream store. 🙂

The most exciting part was meeting Brian and Leigh, fellow Airstream full-timers who started Campendium, a website with reviews and information about campgrounds. We discovered Campendium before we left Seattle, and it has been our go to source for finding places to camp, including those great boondocking spots. Chuck posts reviews of every place we stay on the site and was even a beta tester of their new app so it was so fun to meet them in person. So there was some good that came out of this return trip to Ohio!

We also decided to head straight for the southwest and skip Hot Springs. We just couldn’t bring ourselves to drive down crowded, bumpy I-75, I-71, and I-65 again. Instead we headed for New Mexico with a short stop in Wichita, KS for a visit with Chuck’s brother.

IMG_4194

Stop 1 – Lincoln Trail State Park, IL for one buggy, humid night. Thankfully we had hook-ups!

IMG_4200
Notice how high the front of the trailer is!

Stop 2 – Cottonwoods RV Park, Columbia, MO for one cramped night where we had to unhitch to get level.

Stop 3 – USI RV Park, Wichita, KS for 3 nights and a nice visit with family.

Stop 4 – Corral Drive-In RV Park, Guymon, OK. Finally some wide open views, but also very windy. This place is the best idea ever! Over a year ago Chuck and I said that someday we should buy an old drive-in movie theater and convert it to an RV park where you could watch movies. Well, someone did just that in the middle of nowhere Oklahoma. Too bad they only show movies in the summer. It would have been so cool to watch one from our site!

Next stop, New Mexico!