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.

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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.

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There were both cottontails and jackrabbits all over the campground.

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

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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.

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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.

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There were a couple of folks who had train displays. 

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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.

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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.

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The happy couple cutting the cake that my niece baked for them. 
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I got to hang out with our beautiful daughters.
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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.

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

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

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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

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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.

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

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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!

Back at the Factory

August 31 – September 5, 2017

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We really enjoyed our time here at the factory in June for the Alumapalooza rally. This time I wasn’t sure how we would like it without all the excitement of the rally. No need to worry, it was just as great this time around.

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Trailers waiting for service. They’ll be working overtime all winter long.

Airstream has a small camping area with full hook-ups called the Terraport. Our appointment was on Tuesday after Labor Day so we arrived on Thursday figuring we’d spend the holiday weekend in the terraport and skip the crowds at all the campgrounds.

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Our terraport spot

We picked a spot that had our windows looking out on the factory and it was fun to watch all the comings and goings—workers leaving at the end of their shifts, half-finished vans driving around, semis dropping off vans to be made into Airstream Interstates.

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Vans waiting to be turned into Airstream Interstates

The best was watching the steady parade of finished trailers leaving the lot. It was the end of the month so I’m sure they were trying to get as many out the door as possible. We’d watch pick-up trucks arrive, stop at the guard house to check in and then a little while later stop back at the guard house to check out, this time with a brand new trailer in tow. Amazing that this is how all those trailers get to the dealers, one pick-up at a time.

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Shiny trailers out every window!

Even with all the noise of the factory machinery, the train that goes through town, semis coming and going, and tractors hitching up and moving trailers (back-up beeps galore), it was a calming place for us to be. There just something about being where people are building beautiful, functional, portable living spaces by hand.

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Chassis for the new Atlas Motorhome

Friday morning our phone rang and the service advisor said they had a free technician and wanted to start us early. We quickly dressed and stowed everything, just in time for the tractor to arrive and pull our trailer into the service bay.

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Our trailer heading off for service

We went over all the work with the tech and then headed down to Dayton to grab lunch and run errands. We returned just before they towed our trailer back out to our spot in the terraport. The tech was proud to show us all he had finished up, including a new skylight replacing one that had cracked.

We spent the weekend relaxing, watching the always interesting parade of trucks in and out of the factory, and getting things done around the trailer. I had tried to find a local fair or event to visit, but had no luck.

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Airstream Lobby

On Monday, bright and early at 7am, the technician was back to pick up our trailer and finish up the work. Their work day is 7am – 3:30pm. We headed off for breakfast, did laundry in town, returned to spend a little time shopping in the Airstream store, and hang out in the nice lobby chatting with other folks there for service. By afternoon Joel had finished up all the work and returned our trailer to our spot ready for it’s next adventure!

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I have to admit I’m a little sad to leave this place but more parks are calling and the weather’s getting ready to turn so we must move on.

Returning to Ohio

August 10 – 31, 2017

After our wonderful visit to Acadia we had 3 weeks to make our way back toward Ohio for our September service appointment. We decided to take a route through southern New York and Pennsylvania rather than retrace our path through upstate New York. Sadly that meant no return visit to the land of Amish fry pies. 😦

From Schoodic Woods we headed down the Maine coast back to Freeport and Winslow Memorial Campground where we restocked and did a few chores. Our next stop was Schodack Island State Park along the Hudson River in New York. We read there was a kayaking trail so had high hopes. The park turned out to be an overgrown jungle. There were vines climbing up the trees, dense brush crowding the paths, bugs and mud.

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Our little slice of the jungle!

We went to take a look at the kayak launch site. You had to drive down a dirt path under the canopy of jungle, slide your boat down some boards while you navigate steep stairs, and then launch off the dock ramp into a muddy stream. It was so muddy that they had a rope to pull your boat back up onto the dock ramp. A sign warned that if you got stuck in shallow water you should not get out of the boat because you would get stuck in the muck. You had to just sit in your boat and wait for the tide to come back in. Needless to say we did not go kayaking.

We did ride down a trail that left near the boat dock and paralleled the river, but because of the dense brush there were no views. It was humid and dark and buggy and kinda creepy. This place reminded me of the sci-fi shows where the plants go crazy and take over everything. I half expected one to send out a vine and wrap me up.

On the plus side they had nice, new bathrooms with a book exchange and the Good Humor Ice Cream truck came right through the campground.

Our next stop, Bald Eagle State Park in Pennsylvania, also promised kayaking. The open skies were more to our liking.

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We got the kayak out twice for paddles on the lake and took a bike ride up to the lodge in the park.

 

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Beautiful views from the new lodge.

On laundry day we found a great little coffee place that served a delicious breakfast made with local ingredients and a laundromat with a chandelier.

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With some rainy weather came a stunning sunset!

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Next up was Maumee Bay State Park on the shores of Lake Erie in Ohio. We had such a relaxing stay at this park back in early June that we decided a return visit was in order.

We enjoyed daily bike rides (spotted a deer) and this time we made a visit to the Toledo Art Museum (free and worthwhile).

Our next stop was P&S Trailer. Airstreams ride close to the ground which makes for great towing, but also means you have to be careful you don’t hit the tail end when going up or down inclines. We’ve bent both skid plates on the back bumper so we knew we were hitting things and once Chuck even had to pound back into place the metal surrounding our water tank. In Bar Harbor we barely made it into that beautiful water view sight, clearing it by less than an inch. So we knew a lift kit was necessary, especially since we tend to like places that are down rutted, dirt roads.

Before on the left and after on the right with the 3″ lift installed.

It turned out to be a bigger job than P&S anticipated. They had never lifted a trailer as new as ours and the positioning of the axles in relation to the tanks was different so it took a bit longer than expected. That meant a stay at a hotel which felt pretty strange after all these months in the trailer, but we made the most of it enjoying unlimited hot water for showers. It also meant finding places to kill some time while they were working. We ended up walking around the Rutherford B. Hayes Memorial Library in nearby Fremont. The gates, relics from the White House, were pretty cool.

Our last stop before hitting the Airstream factory was Alum Creek State Park, another stop picked for the possibility of kayaking. Unfortunately the weather wasn’t great so we spent our day running errands with a stop for Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream on the recommendation of my sister. Thanks Val!

Next up we return to the Airstream factory for Labor Day weekend and our warranty service.

 

Quiet Acadia

Schoodic Woods Campground
Nights: 7
Bikes: 1
Paddles: 1
Timeframe: 1st week of August

So I’ve gotten even further behind on posting—we visited Schoodic nearly a month and a half ago! Here’s a quick recap.

After the busy Bar Harbor area of Acadia National Park we reveled in the peace and quiet on the Schoodic Peninsula. This part of the park is about an hour drive away (or a hop on the passenger ferry plus the bus) so not a lot of folks bother to explore Schoodic. That was okay with us because it made for a nice, relaxing week.

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After our awesome campsite at Bar Harbor we were ready to be a little let down, but we found another great spot waiting for us. The campground at Schoodic Woods has only been open about 2 years and it is beautiful! There are lots of trees but also lots of open sky which is what we like.

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Our awesome pull through site could have fit two giant motorhomes!

Spaces are big and come with electric hookups, rare for a national park campground.

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Bathroom Building

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The bathrooms are the nicest I’ve ever seen.

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The architecture of the visitor’s center is stunning. This campground is a great find.

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Selfie along the loop drive.

This side of the park is set on a peninsula. The 6 mile, one-way “loop” road travels along the entire shore, but doesn’t connect back to itself. We drove it our first day, but it was even better when we took our bikes later in the week.

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Since the road has two lanes, both going in the same direction, cars have their own lane to pass you. We could peddle along soaking in all the water views and not worry about holding up traffic.

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Awesome water views!
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A lighthouse on one of the islands. That’s Cadillac Mountain in the distance, which we drove up when we were on the other side of the park.
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Pink Granite “beach” at Schoodic Point, the tip of the peninsula. 
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Be sure to stop at the Schoodic Education and Research Center to tour the small visitor’s center in this building. It has really interesting brick and stone work and was used by the military for top secret communications.

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When you get to the end of the road you exit the park and have to return on regular roads with no shoulders so we were glad the ranger recommended a bike path that cuts back to the campground. Unfortunately the bike paths on this side of the park are not as nice as those over on Mount Desert Island. These are made of loose gravel, which made the uphill going even harder, but we made it back.

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By the time we took the spur out to the point and the trail back to the campground we ended up riding 10 miles.

Off course all that exercise meant we deserved a treat. I got out the solar oven and tried a new recipe for Peanut Butter Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Bars (recipe below).

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The delicious smell of cookies baking attracted this fellow who I had to keep chasing off.

Most of the kayaking around here is for those used to ocean waves, and the ranger recommended that we go to a pond outside the park. Thanks to Google, Chuck found a a protected area right off the Frazer Point picnic area recommended by a local kayaker. Mosquito Harbor turned out to be perfect and not at all plagued by its namesake.

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We did a better job inflating the kayak this time which made the ride even better. It was fun tooling around exploring the little nooks and crannies.

Just so you don’t think it’s fun and games all the time we did have to do laundry (found the biggest laundromat ever!) and defrost the refrigerator, which meant time for a tiny snowman. 🙂

On our last day we couldn’t pass up one more drive along the loop. This time we stopped at a beach we spotted on our bike ride.

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We laughed about the sign but once we got down there we understood. The beach was covered with round stones, golf ball to basketball size, and it was so tempting to take one, but we resisted.

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It was mesmerizing to listen to the stones gently tumbling as a wave came in and then the water trickling back out as the wave receded. It would make for a very relaxing nature sound CD!

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If Acadia wasn’t so far out here I think we would come back to this little corner of the Schoodic Woods! Who knows, maybe someday we will. For now we’re checking off national park number 12 and heading back to Ohio for some warranty work.

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Oh, and if you’re ever in this neck of the woods there’s a great little farmer’s market in Winter Harbor. 🙂

Oatmeal Nut Butter Chocolate Chip Bars
Yield: 12 cookies with kind of a chewy muffin texture.

Ingredients
1/3 cup gluten-free thick rolled oats (33g)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup almond butter (64g)
1/4 cup peanut butter (64g)
1/3 cup brown sugar (70g)
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup chocolate chips (57g)

Instructions

  1. Line GoSun oven tray with parchment paper.
  2. In medium bowl beat peanut butter, almond butter, brown sugar, eggs, and vanilla until smooth, about 2 minutes.
  3. Sprinkle baking soda, salt and oats into bowl. Mix until combined. Stir in the chocolate chips. The dough will be very sticky!
  4. Scoop dough into prepared tray, smoothing out and leaving 1/2“ at ends (they puff up a lot and you don’t want them to hit the top of the tube).
  5. Bake in solar oven for 25 to 40 minutes (depending on your level of sun) or until top deflates a bit and toothpick comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Enjoy!

If you want a regular oven version of this recipe I adapted it from: http://meaningfuleats.com/flourless-oatmeal-almond-butter-chocolate-chip-cookies-gluten-free-dairy-free/