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.

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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.

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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.
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Rio Grande Gorge State Park
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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.”

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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!

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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.

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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.

 

Wordless Wednesday – Life Saver

Make the call.

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A Tiny Treasure of a Park

A relatively new state park in the cool mountains New Mexico’s Enchanted Circle

On our recent week-long trip to the Enchanted Circle area of New Mexico, we had the opportunity to visit several places to take our RV on future trips.  One little state park we found was pretty and one we would consider for a night or two on a return trip.

Eagle Nest Lake State Park is not a big park, but it occupies some prime real estate on the west side of Eagle Nest Lake, which is quite beautiful.  It is a relatively new state park, only founded in 2004.

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Main entrance to Eagle Nest Lake State Park
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Visitor’s center area

 

We took the opportunity, after paying our day use fee at the gate drop box, to tour this little park and check out some of the RV sites.

We started our tour at the visitor’s center, but it was locked up on that Wednesday morning.  In fact, we never saw a park employee anywhere in the park during our visit.  It looks like a very nice visitor’s center, and I wish we could have checked it out to see what was offered inside.  There were about six RV campers in the campground, but they obviously could not use any of these facilities, at least on the day we were there.  (I will give some credit here for at least keeping the park open for day visitors and campers, though, unlike the national forests in New Mexico who just seem to pretty much close up shop after Labor Day and completely lock their parks and campgrounds up to everyone.  Ugh.)

For anyone with a boat, there is a boat ramp next to the visitor’s center to give easy access to the lake right in the park.

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Visitor’s center
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Wish we could have seen inside the visitor’s center, but it was locked up. 😦
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A little info on the park

 

There are some nice, tall trees in the day use area, along with beautiful lakeside covered tables.  A picnic here would be a lovely experience, for sure.  We were the only people in this area during our visit, too.

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Unlike the day use area, there are no trees in the RV campground, which is unfortunate.  The draw to camping here for us, though, would be the great lakeside sites with the nice covered tables.  These particular sites are also pull-through sites and looked to be pretty level.  And as if to try to make up for the lack of trees here, the yellow and purple wildflowers were absolutely beautiful!

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There is a small area of private residences just behind the state park, including the campground, so if you want a campground that is away from more developed areas, this one might not be for you.  All of the RV sites are dry camping sites, too.  However, for a small nightly fee, camping by a beautiful lake with mountains behind it, a covered table at the site and cooler summer temps is still a good deal to us!  I think the nightly fee was about $10?

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The tiny town of Eagle Nest sits at the north end of the lake and is easily seen from the visitor’s center area.

 

 

The town of Eagle Nest is nearby, and Angel Fire is only about ten miles away to the south. When planning a visit to this area, it would be worth checking to see what businesses are open and what businesses are closed in each community, especially if visiting in the off-season on a weekday.  The little town of Eagle Nest was pretty much buttoned up on this same day when we went there and hoping to check out some restaurants and shops.  There is a Lowe’s grocery store in Angel Fire, if needed.

This was a fact-finding, or RV park-finding, trip for us, and if/when we return to this area again, I think we might spend a night or two in this pretty little park.  The nightly rate is so cheap, and it would put us a bit closer for day trips to Eagle Nest and Red River, as compared to staying in Angel Fire where we stayed during our trip.  Our only disappointment was finding the park facilities to be locked up with no one on duty, but for just a night or two, we would probably be fine with that.

We also paid a quick visit to two campgrounds at Cimarron Canyon State Park, Ponderosa Campground and Maverick Campground.  I was driving the car and did not take any photos, unfortunately, but we really liked that park.  Just like Eagle Nest Lake State Park, the sites are dry camping, but we would most definitely consider camping there for a few nights.  The draw to that park for us is a true forest camping experience with access to the Cimarron River and some nice hiking trails.  Larger RVs use the Ponderosa Campground in that park, but smaller ones have a few more options in campgrounds.

Since I have no photos to share of this pretty park, here are two helpful links.

Photos of Cimarron Canyon State Park

Campsite Photos – Cimarron Canyon State Park

I have more to share on our trip soon. 😉

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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.

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Driving on Highway 64 between Clayton and Raton, the scenery is vast and beautiful, a truly great drive in the RV!

 

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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.

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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.

 

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View of the mountains just to the west of us at our campsite.

 

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Our nice campsite on a typical late afternoon with rains moving in from the mountains to the west.
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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.

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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.

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

 

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Read the signs on the front of this store! 🙂
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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.

 

 

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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.

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Ugh.

 

 

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