Wrapping Up 2016

A camping Christmas trip with our family ended 2016 in a delightful way!

Advertisements

2016 is now in the “books,” and 2017 has already seen our first snow of the winter season and of the new year.  Thankfully, it was nothing like the mega storm that introduced 2016 to us, and we only received about an inch this time.  My back starts hurting just looking again at some of the photos from last January and remembering all the snow Hubby and I shoveled for three straight days.  Ugh!

IMG_2409
Girly Girl had lots of fun in the foot of snow we received the first week of January in 2016.
IMG_2367
The foot of snow caused lots of issues for the next two weeks in our city and area, but it was so very pretty, too.

It’s been several weeks since my last post, but all is well, good in fact.  I just took a little break to enjoy the Christmas season and take a few things “off my plate” for a bit.  I also had more holiday prep work to do this year, due to our ten day Christmas and New Years trip to the mountains of far West Texas.

2016-12-25-17-46-46-1smdke
Spending “golden hour” at the top of Skyline Drive on Christmas Evening with my family is a precious memory now.  We captured some great photos of family and scenery here.
2016-12-25-17-48-28smdke
Sunset at Davis Mountain State Park on Christmas evening with historic Indian Lodge in the distance was absolutely gorgeous.  We had the view all to ourselves, something I will always remember fondly.  This was literally the last ray of sunshine on Christmas Day. 😉

 

2016-12-25-18-08-02smdke
The Belt of Venus is always so beautiful in this area, and it was lovely once again on Christmas evening.

All our kids joined us for a long Christmas weekend in the Davis Mountains, and they all departed for home on Tuesday afternoon after lunch, driving to El Paso together then catching their respective flights.  It was a most enjoyable holiday for me, and I think for all of us.  After all, what mama doesn’t like to have all her kiddos with her for the holidays?

We secured our daughter and son-in-law a room at the historic Indian Lodge (see photos below) during their stay, which was just a mile away from our RV in the state park, and our son stayed with us in the RV.  With all the additional space inside now, as compared to our previous RV, we were all quite comfortable, even with the dogs who slept on their nice, new beds next to him.

By cooking some dishes ahead of time, I was able to serve all our favorite holiday foods in the RV… tamales for Christmas Eve, sausage toasts and eggs for Christmas morning, and ham, turkey, cornbread dressing, black-eyed peas, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and yeast rolls for Christmas dinner.  We even enjoyed a Christmas morning picnic together at our site for breakfast, which was a real treat!  Truly, the weather was gorgeous the entire week we were there.

2016-12-28-12-44-46smdke
Our festive picnic table at our site for Christmas.  Snoopy and Woodstock helped to light up the holiday nights at our site, along with three mason jar lanterns on the table.

 

2016-12-26-17-52-57asmdke
It was a real treat to have a visit from several mule deer late each afternoon during our vacation week, with our first visit on Christmas Day!  We also saw several javelina at our campsite on our first night, as well as some great birds all over the park during our stay.

Following our picnic breakfast, we opened gifts inside the RV in our comfortable living area, which was so much fun.  As usual, the dogs each had a gift of their own to start things off, and I can say that we all received some very nice gifts.  My family was especially good to me, but the real treat for me was just having everyone together for a few days of fun.

The weather was gorgeous in far West Texas the entire week we were there, which certainly helped make our trip more manageable and truly enjoyable.  We even ran our air conditioner for a bit on a few afternoons, too.  I’m sure some friends may think we’ve lost our minds spending the holidays in our RV, but we enjoyed our time in the Davis Mountains with our family more than anything we’ve done for the holidays in many years.  With all the cooking done ahead of time, meals were easy and tasty with minimal clean-up needed afterward, leaving quality time for visiting, hiking and playing games together.

2016-12-25-16-56-14smdke
My long, long shadow during a walk in the park late on Christmas afternoon.  I feel so at home here now and have even entertained the thought of retiring in this very remote area that holds some family history for me.

After the kids left, Hubby and I enjoyed a few days all by ourselves, followed by two days with two friends who made their first trip to the area for the New Year’s weekend in their RV, the same friends we’ve started traveling with a bit over the past year.  We enjoyed showing them around, and they also spent some time on their own at the McDonald Observatory, which we have seen many times on previous trips.  Hubby and the friends hiked from the state park to the national park, and I picked them up there after we all toured the fort area together on New Years Eve.

2016-12-31-15-52-04smdke
We always enjoy a quick visit to the national park in Fort Davis.  Just before our trip, I also learned that a family member, now deceased, actually lived at this fort for a time when he was a young boy!

Our holiday trip was pretty much perfect for us, spending time both with family and friends, as well as quality time alone.  We even made new friends, a couple close to our age that just recently started their full-time RV journey, and we exchanged contact information with them.  It was delightful to visit with them off and on all during our vacation week.

Hubby and I opted to dine out a little more on this trip because there are some really good restaurants in town.  Rumor has it we dined at our favorite Mexican food restaurant three times during our week in the area and that our waitress knew what we wanted to order as soon as we sat down on our second and third visits.  We dined there on the evening we arrived with our son, for lunch with all the kids on Tuesday before they left, and again with our friends on New Year’s Eve.

2016-12-23-19-18-00smdke
Cueva De Leon is our favorite restaurant in the area with the best chips and salsa and chile rellenos to die for! 🙂

We also dined at three other restaurants in town during our stay, which was a nice treat for us.  All were very good, and two were new to us.

2016-12-28-12-00-48smdke
We ate lunch at Poco Mexico for the first time… yummy!
2016-12-28-17-27-25smdke
We made a return visit for burgers at the Fort Davis Drug Store and Hotel.  My green chile and Swiss cheese burger with homemade onion rings was awesome!
2016-12-31-11-44-33smdke
We enjoyed delicious panini sandwiches at The Porch, a new restaurant for us that serves breakfast and lunch and is part of the historic Hotel Limpia.

(On a side note, I couldn’t disagree more with the Trip Advisor restaurant ratings for Fort Davis restaurants, especially the #1 pick listed right now.  We’ve tried that place twice and are not at all impressed with it.  We won’t try again.  In our opinion, after many trips to the area, Cueva De Leon is by far the best in town.) 

Hubby and I also drove to both Alpine and Marfa on separate drives.  We had to make a quick trip to Alpine with our son on Christmas Eve morning in search of a new coffee pot, after ours unexpectedly died on us.  Thankfully, we found one at the big hardware store, the last one on the shelf, because we would have had a crisis on our hands without a coffee pot!

Our scenic drive to Marfa on an overcast day after the kids left was nice, and we saw the pretty courthouse there, along with the historic Hotel Paisano and the whimsical El Cosmico campground south of town.  On their drive back to El Paso, the kids stopped for photos at Prada Marfa, too.

Hubby and I also enjoyed a Thursday evening presentation at Indian Lodge where the hotel manager told us all about the history of the lodge from the CCC era to date, and she also pointed out several of the original furniture pieces from that time period, marked by the metal strappings at the bottom of each one.  It was a nice evening with other hotel guests and campers, complete with hot cider and cookies by a warm fire inside.

2016-12-29-19-53-42smdke
I’ve seen this beautiful table at Indian Lodge on each trip to the area, but it was interesting to learn that it is one of the original pieces from the CCC era.

She also shared that Indian Lodge will close in September 2017 for four months for exterior resurfacing, just in case anyone is planning a trip to the area and would like to stay there.

The week prior to our trip was a fun and busy week, too.

Prior to Christmas, I also hosted my second annual cookie swap on the Monday evening before Christmas.  It was a big success once again, with two new participants this year, in addition to those returning from last year’s swap.  This year, we actually decorated cookies together for the first time, and it was so much fun, even though it was more prep work for me.  I think we will have to keep doing this in future years, if only for the laughs… which were many!  Those ladies pretty much destroyed my kitchen decorating cookies, and I would do it again in a heartbeat.

After the cookie swap, I was able to provide some awesome cookie platters to my elderly neighbor, to Hubby’s side of the family during our evening together the next night and to the state park staff on Christmas Eve morning, while also saving lots of cookies for my family to enjoy during our trip, too.

2016-12-20-09-17-49asmfs
Christmas cookies are a tradition with us, and swapping cookies with friends makes the tradition even more special.  This tray included cowboy cookies, snickerdoodles, holiday thumbprints, peanut butter with chocolate kisses, cardamom cream cheese cookie press cookies and decorated star sugar cookies that we all decorated together.  I also made a few other types of cookies not shown here, including oatmeal with fresh cranberries and chocolate chip, and I totally hoarded the white chocolate and cranberry cookies that one of the new ladies brought to the exchange!

Just before we departed on our Christmas trip, we spent a delightful evening with Hubby’s side of the family on Tuesday evening, including some family members from the Dallas area.  The big home-cooked meal was a real treat for all of us during those last busy days before Christmas, with meatloaf served as the main entrée.  It was our first opportunity to gather together in our nephew’s new home with his precious wife and girls, and they were good sports to host everyone while still in the process of moving in.  They wouldn’t have it any other way.

I didn’t have an opportunity to celebrate a friends Christmas with my two special friends here before we left on our trip, but we are hoping to finally get together one evening this week.  I have grown accustomed to this fun tradition over more recent years and definitely missed our fun gathering.

I trust you all had a wonderful Christmas and wish you all the best in 2017!

 

Roaming in Red River

A fun and scenic day trip with the dogs

On our recent trip to the Enchanted Circle area in New Mexico, we opted to load up ourselves and the dogs for a day trip to Red River on Thursday.  The clouds had finally melted away, and the sun was shining, so it was a great day for a scenic drive to a beautiful area.

As we approached the base of Bobcat Pass, though, we encountered a long delay of twenty minutes due to road construction that resulted in only one lane of traffic across the entire pass. In fact, the wait was so long that several cars finally gave up and turned around toward Eagle Nest.  We considered doing the same, but I’m glad we waited it out.

Finally, the lead pickup escorted our very long line of cars across the steep pass (9820 ft.) and back down into Red River, taking it very slow the entire way.  We were certainly glad that we were not in our motor home for this drive on this day, and we smelled hot brakes from other cars as we arrived in town.  Fortunately, our brakes were fine.  Hubby did a good job to not ride the brake as we came down off the pass.

FYI – Bobcat Pass is the highest mountain pass in New Mexico.

img_3307smfs
On the road to Red River for the day with the pups

The dogs dearly love to go anywhere at any time, whether on a walk, a car ride or a RV trip.  We only have to say “let’s go in the car” one time, and they are off to the car!  😀

img_3309smfs
Following the lead truck through road construction down Bobcat Pass into Red River
img_3311smfs
Red River ahead as we drove down from Bobcat Pass

As we approached Red River ahead of us, I remembered the words to the chorus of “Red River Valley” that I learned as a kid, and it made me smile.  I almost broke out in song… almost.  Hubby didn’t need any distractions on this particular drive, so I’ll just share it here.

Then come sit by my side if you love me
Do not hasten to bid me adieu
Just remember the Red River Valley
And the cowboy that’s loved you so true

Once we approached the edge of town, we were finally free from the long line of cars and were ready to do some exploring!

img_3312smfs
Entering Red River, New Mexico (8671 ft.)

This is a truly beautiful area with lots of tall trees, and quaint little Red River is a cute, touristy town with an Alpine theme.  It offers year-round fun with snow skiing in the winter and outdoor fun in the warmer months, especially in summer when so many people are looking for a cool area to escape the heat at home.  The ski lifts are located in the middle of town and are easily accessed by walking from several lodges nearby and just a short drive from all the other lodges in town.

img_3318smfs
Ski lift in Red River
img_3319smfs
Lift house at Red River ski area

 

Throwback:  Hubby and I skied the slopes in Red River many years ago with a group of friends before any of us had children, and we have some great memories of that particular trip.  Our group rented a large cabin for two nights, and the heater struggled to keep us warm.  It also sounded something like a 747 taking off, too.  It wasn’t too much fun at the time, but we certainly laugh about now.  Good times, fun memories!

We carried a picnic lunch with us on this day trip, since we had the dogs along for the ride, and we found a perfect picnic spot right in the middle of town at a pretty park in front of the Red River Conference Center.  It was just a short walk over to the river just behind the conference center, and we enjoyed a quick walk there after lunch with the dogs.

I wish we would have had more time to just walk around town and along the river, but we were also on a little mission to check out RV campgrounds in the area.  We certainly enjoyed the hour or so we spent eating our picnic lunch and walking along the scenic river, though.

img_3314smfs
Pretty park in Red River
img_3315smfs
Our picnic spot
2016-09-08-12-47-39smfs
Toni Woerndle Memorial River Park on the Red River behind the conference center
2016-09-08-12-48-04smfs
A nice walk along the river
2016-09-08-12-48-13smfs
A ray of sunshine as we crossed the bridge
2016-09-08-12-48-55smfs
Crystal-clear water in the Red River
2016-09-08-12-49-06smfs
Lodges along the river would provide a nice, scenic stay in the area
2016-09-08-12-49-22smfs
Another secluded picnic spot on the river
2016-09-08-12-50-15smfs
Such a nice walk along the river
img_3316smfs
Red River Conference Center on the Red River

 

After our picnic and walk along the river, we got back in the car and proceeded to check out the RV parks and national forest campgrounds in this area.  Well, I should say we tried to check out the national forest campgrounds, but just like the ones at Cloudcroft, most of them were already closed for the year, even though it was only the week after Labor Day.  It looked like there might be some nice ones, but once again, they are not made available to the public as they should be, a continuing gripe of ours concerning the national forest campgrounds in New Mexico.

There are some decent options in the private RV parks in or near town, so if we ever opt to take the RV over steep Bobcat Pass into Red River, we will likely stay at one of them if we can actually secure a reservation.  For the record, our first choice of the private RV parks would be Road Runner RV Resort, and our second choice would be River Ranch RV Park.  We were especially impressed by the staff and facilities at Road Runner RV Resort, too.  I honestly don’t think we would consider any other RV parks in this area, but summer time visitors would certainly want to check out the national forest options, too.  I wish we could have seen them.

Based on our experience on this day, though, we will likely base camp elsewhere in the RV and make a day trip to Red River instead.  It is such a popular tourist town, especially in the summer months, so it is generally not easy to secure reservations due to the many RVers who reserve far ahead of time and stay in this area for the entire season to escape the summer heat.

We might also consider reserving a pet-friendly room in Red River overnight if we want to have a bit more time there on future trips while leaving the RV elsewhere in the area.  Several motels and lodges there are pet-friendly and can be found at the link below.  Most are also in town within walking distance to most everything we would want to see, which is not the case with the RV parks.

Red River Pet-Friendly Lodging

Red River is such a beautiful, delightful area in the Enchanted Circle, and it most definitely worth a visit.  I’m ready to go back again!

Beauty, Reality… and Beauty

I will never forget visiting this place.

On our recent vacation to the Enchanted Circle area of northern New Mexico, we revisited the amazing Rio Grande Gorge again after more than twenty years.  This area is actually a state park now, but it is still mostly just a natural scenic area, spanned by an amazing bridge.

Just prior to our visit to the Rio Grande Gorge, our first stop that Tuesday afternoon was a brief hour-long visit to Old Town in Taos, where we walked with the dogs and met so many nice people there who spoke to us and petted them.

Dogs are the perfect ice breaker when meeting new people, and even though we only went in a few stores while alternating outside with the dogs, we had a great time.  We would never have met so many nice people and chatted with them without having the dogs along, and the dogs relished every moment of the attention while getting some good exercise in this unique and historic place.  Big Red is such a people person, offering his paw to shake hands with pretty much everyone that spoke to him, and Girly Girl sat reasonably still when kids came up to pet her, wagging her long, fluffy tail as fast as she could.

Fun times, nice memories and lovely people, and I’m thinking a girls trip here sometime in the future would be so much fun!  It would be fun to spend a long weekend here sometime, for sure.

img_201609smfs
The square in historic Old Town in Taos

 

After our quick visit to Old Town, we then headed out of town toward the Rio Grande Gorge.

In the remainder of this post, I want to share two aspects of this place that seem to stand in stark contradiction to each other.  Sometimes life sends an unexpected dose of reality my way when I least suspect it, and such was the case on the day we visited this park.

First… the beauty.

The Rio Grande Gorge is a beautiful, magnificent sight to see.  I vaguely remembered it from our quick visit many years ago, but seeing it again made me realize that it was truly more beautiful than I remembered it to be.

2016-09-06-16-13-54smfsAs we drove out from Taos to Rio Grande Gorge State Park, we would never guess such an amazing sight existed in the flat land just ten miles from town if we didn’t already know it was there.  The delightful thing about canyons is how they sneak up on you and thrust their beauty right in your face all at once, unlike mountains that you see coming at you for hours ahead of time.  We couldn’t see anything about this famous place in advance, and I happily savored the “shock” factor when I saw it.

img_3179smfs
As you approach the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, you would never suspect such a magnificent sight existed below the bridge, but the many visitors are a quick hint to the existence of that sight.
2016-09-06-16-44-21smfs
Rio Grande Gorge State Park
2016-09-06-16-42-23smfs
Rio Grande Gorge Bridge

This was our first real sightseeing excursion on our trip to the Enchanted Circle area.  The lighting that afternoon was a bit challenging to capture both the canyon and the sky in a decent manner, but I’m pleased with the photos, given that no photo can actually do justice to a place like this anyway.  There is no way to capture such massive three-dimensional beauty in a small, two-dimensional photo, but I gave it my best “shot.”

img_3161smfsimg_3163smfsimg_3167smfsimg_3168smfsimg_3172smfsimg_3173smfs

A small herd of elk was grazing near the bridge, but they never would turn around to capture a better photo.  This was the best I could do… elk behinds!

img_3175smfs

Now… onto the reality of this place.

In my previous Wordless Wednesday post, I shared a photo that I took at a lookout spot on the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge.  It is a photo of a suicide crisis call unit, and these units are now pretty much everywhere on the bridge.  I certainly did not remember seeing those units on our previous visit.

img_3165smfs

img_3162smfs

I am going to freely admit that seeing these units everywhere on the bridge really affected me deeply, and seeing them also left a huge impression on my take-away feeling from seeing this beautiful natural sight.  I initially left this area with a heavy and conflicted heart, seeing such magnificent beauty while witnessing the evidence of a hard reality of the struggles that apparently have brought far too many people here in recent years for a vastly different reason.

It is unsettling times like these that cause me to dig deeper until I find something I’m looking for.  While we were enjoying a lovely getaway in the mountains for a week of vacation together, someone else was going through their own personal hell.  I confess that I personally cannot relate to something like this, even though I have a close family member who has attempted suicide twice via drug overdose.  Thankfully, there are others that relate to these situations and are gifted to do something to make a real difference.

As I continued to ponder this dichotomy of life, a quote literally came my way in a Facebook post by a friend…

“Beauty is simply reality seen with the eyes of love.”

And it hit me like a ton of bricks… the beauty of what was happening in the placement of those call units.  The sight that initially unsettled me terribly and caused me to dig deeper for a few days, is now a thing of beauty itself.

I have a long-time friend that lives near this area, and subsequent to our visit, she told me that the units are making a difference in the lives of the courageous people that push those buttons and make those calls.  For this outcome, I find myself with such admiration and gratitude for the people that have devoted themselves and their time to try to save others and help them at the most dire time in their life.

Seeing people through the eyes of love changes everything, and those call units and the people that staff the phones 24/7 on the other end are truly beautiful… far more beautiful than even this magnificent canyon.  These people have already seen in advance the beauty of the lives of the hurting people on the other end, and they are determined to make a difference.  God bless them for their significant efforts and life-saving impact in these beautiful lives.

This is truly, truly a beautiful place.

 

Our Enchanted Circle Vacation

Our first RV trip to this beautiful area

We enjoyed a nice vacation in the mountains of northern New Mexico last week, our first time to vacation in this area in our RV.  Northern New Mexico is a further drive for us than southern New Mexico, but we wanted to spend some time in that area in our RV.  I’m so glad we did!

We certainly visited this great area to just relax and enjoy being out in our RV again, but we also wanted to check out RV campgrounds for future trips back here, too.  I will share a bit about what we found as far as RV options in this post, after first giving a little background on why we no longer attempt to camp in another part of the state.

We love visiting the mountains of New Mexico for a cool break when the weather is hot at home, but since we started vacationing by RV five years ago, we have only visited the mountains of southern New Mexico in our RV, specifically the national forest campgrounds in the Cloudcroft area.

Tularosa Basin Overlook 1
The Cloudcroft area is beautiful, but, unfortunately, we’ve found it is not really a great place to visit in the RV in summer months.

 

While it is a pretty area and closer to home for us, we’ve found that the mountain area of southern New Mexico just does not seem to work for us in our RV for a few reasons.  The national forest campgrounds are definitely the best campgrounds in the forest, but we cannot reserve a site in them ahead of time.  Also, all but one of these campgrounds are closed after Labor Day, which is actually the best time of the year to visit this area weather-wise when the daytime temperatures are more moderate than in summer months.  We’ve also looked into most all of the private campgrounds in this area, but none of them are appealing to us, and most are usually booked on weekends anyway.  To sum it up, it is very hard to find suitable sites in this area in our RV.

We’ve decided to just pass on visiting the southern New Mexico mountains area in our RV for now until better options are available.  We have always loved visiting Ruidoso and Cloudcroft and have done so for decades, staying in cabins or lodges there.  It’s just not a good option in our RV and with our dogs, which is sad.  We love this area a lot, but we don’t love taking our RV there right now.  The folks that run the national forest campgrounds in this area need to keep their campgrounds open longer, since they definitely have a monopoly on the good RV camping options in the area.  They also need to allow some sites to be reserved in advance.  Shutting these lovely campgrounds down on Labor Day is just ridiculous.

After visiting northern New Mexico and the camping options there last week, we found some nice options for our RV.  Unlike the national forest campgrounds at Cloudcroft, some sites in the national forest campgrounds at Red River can actually be reserved online.  However, just like the national forest campgrounds at Cloudcroft, most of the campgrounds are closed after Labor Day.  I just do not get this at all.  The campground that was open, Fawn Lakes Campground in the Carson National Forest, seemed to only have sites for smaller RVs and probably could not accommodate ours.

There are two private RV parks on either side of town in Red River that we would consider, and both sit on the river not far from town.  Our first choice would be Roadrunner RV Resort, and our second choice would be River Ranch.  Both are pretty nice parks but experience high demand in the summer months with people reserving far in advance, and once again, sites are pretty close but do-able.

The other possible downside for us to the Red River area is Highway 38 into Red River, which is a pretty steep climb both ways (almost 10,000 feet) to cross Bobcat Pass, the highest elevation pass in the state of New Mexico.  We encountered a long road construction delay on this stretch of road, which delayed us over twenty minutes.  We were also forced to creep up and down the pass behind a lead truck, and we were very glad that we were not in our RV.  We certainly smelled hot brakes when we finally arrived in town.  Fortunately, they were not ours.

img_3309smfs
Following a lead car far ahead of us down Bobcat Pass into Red River, we were delayed 20 minutes in arriving there due to road repairs.

 

I suspect this is the time of year for road repairs in this area before winter sets in, as we ran into a similar delay on our drive over the pass to Taos on another day.  While the drive to Red River in our RV is do-able for us, we may just opt to base camp elsewhere and make this a day trip on future trips to the area, just as we did last week.

There are some nice state park options available, especially at heavily wooded Cimarron Canyon State Park.  While this state park only offers boondocking options, like the national forest campgrounds, the park is open year-round.  In the summer months, some sites can also be reserved online.  It’s a beautiful place, even though Highway 64 runs through the middle of the park.  The park stretches for miles on either side of the highway along the Cimarron River, and in our 38′ RV, we would fit in the Ponderosa Campground.  We pulled into this campground to check it out on Saturday morning, and the camp host could not have been nicer to us, giving us some helpful information for a return trip someday.  He wanted us to stay there that night, but we needed to start our drive home.  I didn’t take any pictures while we were briefly stopped there, but photos can be found online.

Eagle Nest Lake State Park is another option in our RV.  Again, it is boondocking camping only, but many of the sites sit on the edge of scenic Eagle Nest Lake, which is quite beautiful with mountains just across the lake.  The colorful wildflowers were especially pretty there, too.

img_3215smfs
Overnight camping sites at Eagle Nest Lake State Park, no hookups but very pretty!

 

There is no tree shade at these overnight sites, but the weather is typically cooler than southern New Mexico, often at least fifteen degrees cooler.  We also found a private campground with full hookups just outside this park that we would consider if sites are available, Angel Nest RV Retreat, since the state park is within easy walking distance.  I believe this park is open until sometime in October, too.  In the tiny town of Eagle Nest, we would also consider Lost Eagle RV Park, which sits in the middle of town within walking distance to businesses there, probably just for a night.

We also checked out Coyote Creek State Park, which is deep in the Carson National Forest on Coyote Creek south of Angel Fire.

img_3276smfs
Reservation RV sites near the river at Coyote Creek State Park

 

This park offers some hookups, including electricity, and it was pretty much empty on the day we visited.  RVs need to drive to this park from the south, though, as there is a six mile stretch of road from Angel Fire to the park that prohibits vehicles over ten feet in length, and for good reason!  We even joked as we drove to the park that this road reminded us of driving the epic twisting road to Hana on Maui.  I might avoid this park if there is a chance of flooding, but otherwise, it would be a nice, quiet place to camp for a few days.

One thing we noticed at some of the state parks on this trip is that they seemed to have no paid staff on duty when we were there, which is not a good thing in our book.  We are spoiled to well-staffed state parks in Texas, I guess, but this fact definitely was noticeable to us.

We actually opted to base camp at Angel Fire RV Resort for the week, and while it is fairly expensive for RV camping, we found it to be well worth the price we paid for the high quality facilities there.  Sometimes we opt for a non-RV trip for a week of vacation each year, but this year, we opted to make our vacation week a RV trip, bringing the dogs along.  Not boarding our two dogs saved us $60 a night, which is about the nightly cost of sites at this park.  They gave Hubby a discount on his round of golf since he was a resort guest, and we also received two free tickets to ride the chair lift to the top of the Angel Fire ski mountain, a $24 value.  These little perks helped to justify the nightly rate a bit.  Hubby really needed Wi-Fi for some business needs on this trip (unfortunately), and the Wi-Fi service was excellent at our site.  I thought that this park was in the town of Angel Fire, but happily, it actually sits about three miles out of town, and the views from our site were just beautiful.

2016-09-05-19-29-31smfs
Evening campfire at Angel Fire RV Resort

 

RVs need to avoid Highway 434 to the south of Angel Fire, the road to Coyote Creek State Park, so we drove into Angel Fire via Highway 64 from Cimarron and Eagle Nest.  The staff at the resort will ask RVers to send photos of the RV if it is over ten years old for pre-approval, and this was not an issue for us, as they sent us an immediate approval once I sent our photos.  We even saw a pop-up camper there during our stay.  Given the fact that most private RV parks with full hookups in this area are not cheap, we would have no issue paying just a little more money and staying at this park again.  I think on future trips, we may opt for a brief stay at one of the beautiful state parks, in addition to some nights at Angel Fire RV Resort, to enjoy a more traditional forest camping experience, too.

One more thing we noticed on this trip is the dog-friendly experience we had in the Angel Fire area.  Unlike southern New Mexico, there are some dog-friendly trails and businesses available, and it was nice to take the dogs on a two-mile hike in the forest, something we cannot do at Cloudcroft and Ruidoso, as dogs are forbidden on those trails.  The camp host at Cimarron Canyon State Park also told us that the trails there are dog-friendly trails.

img_3366smfs
A beautiful dog-friendly trail in Angel Fire

 

We put 1300 miles on the car on our trip, and we saw so many great sights in the area.  I’m working on photos and will try to share more about our trip here soon.  We can’t wait to return to this beautiful and mostly uncrowded area!

Time to Load the RV

Our “Summer” is now upon us… finally!

We are leaving on Friday for our first full week of vacation since May 2015, and I am more than ready, especially since the worst of the summer heat seems to now be behind us.

Since we bought our new-to-us RV back in May, our second RV, we’ve enjoyed two weekend trips and one slightly longer trip over the 4th of July, but those shorter trips are just not the same as a full week off with a weekend on either end.

2016-07-04-18.20.57smfs
Our 4th of July trip was a great break from the summer heat.

 

2016-06-04-15.59.54sm
A quick weekend test trip in early June
2016-08-21-11.30.38smfs
A quick weekend out to the canyon with friends in early August during a little break in the heat
IMG_20160820_145013_241smfs
An epic first-time hike in one of our favorite state parks!

 

IMG_20160820_134309_268smfs.jpg
Yes, this is a rattlesnake seen on our last trip.  They are seen often on the trails at in and around the canyon.  Great care should always be used when hiking in areas where these guys are present, including carrying a snake bite kit.

This will be a solo trip for us and the dogs, and it will also be a slightly different RV trip for us, as we will enjoy both rural camping and camping in town for a change to allow us to take advantage of some activities and dining options nearby.  We will also be able to do a bit of fact finding for possible future trips back to this area in the RV, too.

2016-08-20-15.26.02smfs
Our “synchronized sleepers” taking a nap in the RV on a cool day at the canyon… in honor of the Olympics going on that day, of course!

Our upcoming trip will be our first longer trip in this particular RV, and it will also be our first test trip in colder weather.  We’ve really had to give some thought to suddenly going from hot summer days to cold nights near freezing and cooler days next week.  We normally don’t make a trip in cold conditions until the winter months, so our packing efforts are quite deliberate in hopes that we don’t forget something important.

The following discussion came after several recent visits with fellow RV friends who also vacation by RV regularly.  Some are new to RVing and some are not.  We all face the same challenge of code restrictions that limit the amount of time our RVs can be parked at home, only 24 hours at a time.  While we all approach our loading process in much the same way, we all vary our loading processes just a bit, too. Below, I’ve shared information on our own approach that works quite well for us.

We just vacation in our RV at this point in our lives, and our loading process for each trip varies, depending on our destination and the weather forecast.  We must do most of our loading while the RV is in covered storage, as we cannot park it at our house except for very short periods of time, due to restrictions in our area.  We are actually fine with this process, as we’ve learned to load the RV in storage pretty efficiently over time.  We’ve also found that we are able to get away faster on our trips by simply departing from the storage facility, rather than leaving from our house and fighting more traffic.

Preparing the RV and loading prior to a trip basically looks something like this for us.  Checklists definitely help expedite the process, and this list is not necessarily everything we do… just the main things.

Immediately after returning from a trip:

  • Wash all RV linens and return them to the RV right after we return from a trip.
  • Make the bed so we are ready to go if we want to make a trip with short notice.
2016-05-17-13.17.26smfs
Our custom-built mattress is so comfy and makes traveling in the RV all the more enjoyable because “good campers need good sleep!”

Weekend prior to departure:

  • Get gasoline and/or propane for the RV and check all fluid levels. (We filled up for only $1.83 per gallon!)
  • Wash the RV, and/or clean the windshield and other windows, as needed.  (We power wash the windshield and hand wash the front of the RV when we arrive at storage at the end of a trip in the non-winter months to get the bugs off, but it still gets pretty dirty in storage at times, even though it sits in covered storage.)
2016-06-04-12.19.54fivefs
While Hubby hooks up our utilities when we first arrive at our campsite, I grab the tall step ladder and clean the front windshield.  Not only does that get the bugs off from our drive, it allows us to see better when using our sunscreens over the windshield while parked, rather than keeping the front curtains closed most of the time.

During the week prior to our trip:

  • Unload any items that we will not need for our upcoming trip from inside the RV and from the basements.  (RV weight management)
  • Load any items that we need for our trip that we’ve stored at home, except food items, including refreshing first aid items.
  • Load a few jugs of water inside for the drive because we never carry water in the RV holding tank while driving to minimize that weight.
  • Load clothes and shoes… and coats!  (We adore camping in cooler weather, especially after a hot summer.)
  • Load non-refrigerated foods and prescription meds. (We load our meds at least a day early so that we lessen the risk of forgetting them.)
  • Plug in the RV to charge the house batteries.  If storms with lightning are in the forecast, we sometimes opt to not plug in until the risk is lessened, even though we have a good surge protector on the RV.
  • Turn on the refrigerator when plugged in, giving it at least 24 hours to reach proper temps.
  • Clean kitchen and bathroom and other areas, as needed.
2016-05-27-10.35.20smfs
The kitchen in our new-to-us RV and the custom rug I had made for the wood floor.  The rug has a padded backing to keep it from scratching the floor.

Day prior to departure:

  • Check air in the tires and add air, as needed.
  • Verify that the fridge and freezer are at proper temperatures and adjust the thermostat, as needed.  (We keep a thermometer in each section.)
  • Buy fresh produce, preferably at one of the farmer’s markets seasonally, if possible.
  • Load food and supplies for the dogs.  (We carry their food in sealed containers.)
2016-08-29-14.09.11asmfs
A few fresh veggies for our trip from a local farmer’s market. That fully ripe cantaloupe smells so good, and I can’t wait to feast on those fresh black-eyed peas with a little Tabasco sauce!  Those are yellow zucchinis, not regular yellow squash, and they are quite sweet.  I can only find them from one grower at the farmer’s market.

Day of departure:

  • Load refrigerated and freezer foods.  (I stage these items on a shelf by themselves in the fridge and freezer at home because it’s definitely not good to go off and leave food behind that I missed, especially on trips where we don’t bring the car along and/or when we are camped in very remote locations.  Been there, done that.)
  • Load small electronics and camera bag.  (We keep extra chargers in the RV.)
  • Attach the trailer to the RV, if we are taking it.
  • Leave car(s) in our covered storage as we depart in the RV.

The longer the trip, the earlier we generally start the loading process.  For our ten day trip coming up, we have actually completed most everything up to the items we take care of on the day before or day of departure, with the exception of our food.  This gives me more time this week to work planning our menu and cooking in advance for our trip, as well as writing a blog post about it all!

We no longer load any items in the RV fridge or freezer until shortly before we leave.  We have a RV neighbor who shares our set of plugs in storage that routinely does something to throw the breaker on our set of plugs, even though we’ve reported this many times to management.  Also, we just feel better loading all those items closer to departure because we take food safety seriously, especially on our RV trips.  And even though we don’t have any issues with squirrels or other animals at our storage facility, we never keep food in the RV that might attract them if we can help it.  We’ve heard horror stories about chewed wiring, etc., especially from squirrels, and that’s yet another good reason for us to load in storage.  We have many squirrels in our neighborhood and in our own tree in front.

Fortunately, we do not have a long drive from our house to the RV storage facility, so loading while in storage is a viable option for us.  If we lived further away, though, loading in storage would be more problematic and time-consuming.  We also have several good shopping options near the storage facility, if we need to pick up any items and carry them straight to the RV in storage instead of bringing them home first.

On another RV related subject, we have already made our camping reservations for….

Thanksgiving!

Yes, this is still August.

I am amazed at just how early people are now reserving their RV sites for both Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday weeks, and we were fortunate to think of making our reservation for that week before we totally missed out in securing a site reservation.  When we started traveling by RV five years ago, we had no trouble getting a site for Thanksgiving, but that’s definitely no longer the case.

Autumn is now our Summer in so many ways.  It is the time we tend to take our RV out as often as we can find a way to do so because it is the very best time of the entire year weather wise.  The weather is already cooling off and some seasonal monsoon rains are showing up once again.  Such is the case now and for the past two weeks, and we definitely have RV travel “fever” once again.

2016-08-30-16.42.57smfs
As I’m writing this, it’s only 75 degrees in the late afternoon, and it’s been raining gently on and off for the past three days.  Everything is greening up once again after two very hot months this summer with little rain, and we are ready to take advantage of this great weather in our RV!

I’ll be away from the blog for awhile during our trip, but I hope to return with some good photos of a truly beautiful area and maybe even some helpful RV tips on traveling there.

 

Fun and Frustration – Our 4th of July Trip

We enjoyed a great holiday trip but had a challenging drive home to due weather once again.

We enjoyed a fun holiday trip over the 4th of July long weekend, meeting our son and some friends to go RV camping in northern New Mexico.  The weather was cool and beautiful and was such a welcome relief from our July heat at home.

We had a total of four RVs in our group, and this was our first trip to camp with that many couples and a few grown kids in the mix.  We shared lots of good food and laughs over the course of three days, and I think a good time was had by all.  Of course, we always miss our “Lil’ Firecracker” daughter on this holiday, since it is also her birthday.

2016-07-01-14.49.20smfs
Driving on Highway 64 between Clayton and Raton, the scenery is vast and beautiful, a truly great drive in the RV!

 

2016-07-01-14.41.23smfs
Driving past Capulin Volcano National Monument on Highway 64

 

One of the couples in our group is still pretty new to camping in their trailer, and they quickly discovered that their sewer hose wasn’t long enough.  Fortunately, we were carrying a new hose extension, so we just gave it to them.  I was happy that we were able to help them out because there wasn’t a store anywhere nearby where they could buy one.

Northern New Mexico provided us with cool nights, warm days and a daily afternoon shower or two.  On one day, though, the afternoon showers actually became afternoon storms with some pea-sized hail in the mix.  Fortunately, everyone managed to get their awnings put away before it hit, and no damage was done to any cars or RVs.

2016-07-01-18.59.02smfs
The view from the front window of our RV at our pretty campsite during one of the afternoon rain storms.  When it wasn’t raining, this view stretched for a very long distance to the south.

 

2016-07-01-19.38.37smfs
View of the mountains just to the west of us at our campsite.

 

2016-07-04-18.20.57smfs
Our nice campsite on a typical late afternoon with rains moving in from the mountains to the west.
2016-07-04-18.20.18smfs
An afternoon rain wasn’t quite making it all the way to the ground at camp.

We certainly enjoyed this trip in our new-to-us RV, as it is much roomier than our previous RV inside.  It was especially nice to have the extra room while our son stayed with us, as well as more privacy between the living room area and our bedroom.

2016-07-04-06.35.47smfs
Girly Girl enjoyed jumping on our bed in the mornings to wake us up and look out our window, the one we left open overnight.  It wasn’t unusual for her to spot a rabbit or a deer walking by in the mornings, too.

 

For the second time, we attended the amazing fireworks show in Raton, having attended it for the first time in 2014.  We were happy to return and take more friends with us this time, but, unfortunately, our son had to drive home on the afternoon of the 4th and had to miss it.  We secured a fabulous spot early to watch the show, right in front of the historic train station where Amtrak stops in town.  This is such a neat area of this town, too.

2016-07-04-20.20.07smfs
Our spot where we watched the great fireworks show near the train station at right.  This is such a neat part of town, too.

 

2016-07-04-20.19.48smfs
Read the signs on the front of this store! 🙂
2016-07-04-20.57.44smfs
Just before the fireworks show.

I opted to leave my good camera behind at the RV, and I’m kicking myself now that I chose to do that.  We were so close to the action, and at it seemed that the fireworks might literally land in our lap at times.  Next time, I will not make that mistake, if we are fortunate enough to attend the show again in the future.  I challenged myself to do the best job I could do with my phone camera, and I managed to get a few decent shots, even though they hardly compare with what I could have captured with my good camera, tripod and cable release.  Still… I’m fairly impressed with what my little phone camera was able to do, too.

 

 

2016-07-04-21.26.37smfs2016-07-04-21.28.43smfs2016-07-04-21.11.41smfs2016-07-04-21.14.45smfs2016-07-04-21.19.37smfs2016-07-04-21.21.31smfs2016-07-04-21.23.29-1smfs

After we returned to camp for the night, the stars were out so nicely on a dark sky night, and I captured some neat long exposure photos that I will share in my next post.  This was the first time that I photographed the Milky Way, so it turned out to be a “bucket list” photography experience for me.  I posted one of these photos in my previous Wordless Wednesday post, too.

The most interesting part of our trip was definitely our drive home.

Traveling by RV is just not the same as traveling by car, and the longer we travel in our RV, the more we realize just how different it can be and how we must be willing to adapt, when necessary.

Once again, Mother Nature stepped in to play havoc with our drive home on Tuesday, the 5th.  While the weather was pretty great over the holiday weekend in New Mexico, the very next day, a terrible heat wave quickly hit along our drive home and caught us a bit unprepared, along with other travelers.  As we approached Amarillo shortly after lunch, the temperature was already over 100 degrees and only looked to get hotter, possibly much hotter.  The RV air conditioners did their best to keep up, but when the outside temp on our RV house thermometer showed 107, we threw in the towel and decided to pull off at an RV park where we had previously stayed.  (It’s a great park with top notch facilities.)  We could also see storms building quickly closer to home.

The weather only got worse as the day progressed, and we are so glad that we opted to pull off for the rest of the day and just wait it all out.  Storms closer to home became quite intense with rain, hail and very high winds.  By dinner time where we were stopped, the winds from the back of those storms gusted up to 60 mph at times.  It was also the first time that Hubby actually had to help me shut the door to the RV, as the wind from the south was catching it just right and made it very hard to close.  Closer to home, two trucks were actually blown over by those high winds, too.

It was definitely not a day to be driving a high profile vehicle, and when the winds became so rough, we finally decided to just keep our great site for the night, get a good night’s sleep and head home early the next morning in time for Hubby to go on in to work.  It was a pleasant drive the next morning, and Hubby was at work shortly before 9 am.  I was done with laundry by noon, so it worked out just fine, was definitely less stressful and was much easier on our rig, for sure.

When traveling by RV, sometimes you just do what you have to do, and this was surely one of those times.  While we have pulled off on a few other trips for a few hours, this was the first time that we were actually delayed overnight.  Fortunately, we had a good option to take, and we took it.  We were definitely not the only RV travelers that took that option to pull off, judging by how many others were pulling in right behind us.

We’ve pretty much decided now that if we are going to travel in our RV in the hot summer months, we need to only drive before noon… or even earlier depending on where we are driving.  The weather was not forecasted to be *this* hot, so we cannot depend on the forecasts.

More and more, I just don’t see us ever taking to the road as full-time RVers.  While we could likely be quite content to go on some extended road trips or possibly full season trips, I think we are both discovering that we are “fair weather” campers, especially where heat is concerned.  I just want no part of it, to be honest.

Of course, I’m writing this on the heels of this one driving day, which turned out to be the hottest day in two years in the Amarillo area.  Give me a few days/weeks, and I will probably just laugh about it.  I’m not there yet, though, because as I’m writing this, it is still 113 degrees outside at our house.

2016-07-07-15.53.39smfs
Ugh.

 

 

Random Thoughts

Second day of summer random thoughts

Today’s post is a little exercise in just writing some “random thoughts” that come to mind, so let’s see what comes to the forefront, shall we?

Summer is officially here as of yesterday, but summer actually showed up in a big way here last week with some pretty brutal temperatures and heat indexes with higher humidity levels.  While others downstate often suffer from high humidity this time of year, it is not such a common occurrence where we live.  Let me just say how glad I am for that fact, too!  Whew, it is pretty much torture to combine heat and humidity, and for us, that is pretty much anything higher than 30%!

 

2016-06-18-11.00.25sm
The dog days of summer are definitely upon us!

 

We had a nice Father’s Day, and I hope you all did, too.  Son joined us for a nice lunch out, which was actually a combined celebration for us for Father’s Day and our 37th anniversary last week.  We splurged and went to a restaurant that we only visit for special occasions, and it was such a treat!  I tried Tres Leches cake for the first time because our meal came with a free dessert for Father’s Day, and I am now on a serious hunt for a similar recipe.  No, it’s not on my diet at all, but it was so, so good!  I know it had plenty of calories, but I didn’t feel stuffed after I ate it.

I’m feeling a little melancholy right now.  A dear friend informed me that she is going to be moving out-of-state, and I’m sad to hear this.  She is really my best friend at this stage of life, and I’m going to miss her terribly.  It won’t happen for awhile, as she has many things to take care of, including moving her mother and selling their home here.  On the upside, they are moving to a beautiful area in Utah, and it will be a nice place to visit as we are able to do so.

I’m also melancholy about the general state of things in our country and in our world right now.  There is so much hate… so much hate.  I honestly can’t believe some of the things I’m hearing people say these days.  Social media can be such a good tool to stay in touch with people and share some “light,” but these days, I think it is more a tool for the hatemongers.  Twitter is just a cesspool of hate and vile, and I’ve pretty much given up on it completely, except to follow a few accounts individually that are inspirational to me.

Speaking of inspiration, I’ve been studying the book of Daniel for a few weeks, following along via Max Lucado’s teachings via the Oak Hills Church video podcast on iTunes.  It has been great so far, and I’m looking forward to finishing it up soon as it nears its conclusion.  I highly recommend it to anyone desiring a little supplemental study this summer, and it is quite timely as well.

Some fellow RV friends have shared that by this time next year, they may be on the road full-time in their RV.  They are ten years younger than we are, and they are ready to see if they can make it happen.  This took us by surprise, for sure, as their youngest child will leaving the “nest” by this time next year.  They don’t have a firm plan yet on how to do it financially, but it has got us to discussing this option again ourselves.  We still think that we will need to do it in retirement, if we do it at all, so that it won’t stress us financially.  But, it will be quite interesting to see if they go for it or not next year.  I’ve learned so much, and continue to learn, from some of you full-time RVers that I follow here, and based on the large number of people doing it now, I really don’t consider it to be an alternative living option anymore.

Speaking of full-timers, I started following “Driving Miss Norma” on Facebook, and what a joy and inspiration that has been for me.  If you’re on Facebook, be sure to check it out.  Miss Norma is my hero, as well as her family and their standard poodle that travels with them.  Just search for “Driving Miss Norma,” and be sure to read her story.  It has brought tears to my eyes more than once as I’ve been following their journey.

We are looking forward to hitting the road in our RV late next week… finally!  We are meeting three other couples, and it should be a really fun time.  Our Houston-area friends are actually renting an RV for the first time, so this should be “very interesting!”  Hopefully the heat won’t be too terrible.

2016-06-04-12.15.55-1fivefs
Even though you can’t see it in this photo, there is a big air horn on top of the RV on the passenger’s side, and my goodness, it is loud! 😀

 

Hubby’s best Father’s Day gift was finally fixing the big air horn on our new-to-us RV, and wow, that thing is loud!  It only needed a new ground wire.  I’m not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing!  Ha.

As we are ready to resume RV travels, I’ve been trying to map out our remaining vacation days through the end of February.  We’re considering a possible trip to Big Bend at some point, visiting both the national and state parks there, as well as visiting another new-to-us state park, which is also a goal of ours each year.  I invite any helpful suggestions from anyone as far as making this trip in our RV, too.

Planning vacation days just seems to get more difficult every year, due to Hubby’s work travel requirements, but we will get them in somehow.  At least RV travel allows us a little more flexibility when needed.  It is a real blessing to have four weeks of paid vacation each year, but it is a challenge to actually take all those days, too.

Well, that’s pretty much it for today’s random thoughts.  Thanks for stopping by and reading along!