Monday, March 20, 2017

*END* of Arizona trip, March 2017

After a pretty uneventful trip for the last day, we pulled in to our driveway about 4:45 (pm!). The sun came fully out just as we pulled in to Flesherton.

For the second time this trip, we had a super easy border crossing. There were 3 lanes open, 2 with cars in them, so we pulled right in to the third lane. Passport check, "how long were you away?", "where did you come from?". 

I had to think about that last question, but I guess "Arizona" was a good answer, cause he waved us on through. 

There's still some snow around at home, but mostly bare, and bare roads all the way home.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Hannibal to Auburn IN

After a fairly noisy night at the Hannibal Walmart, we set out about 7:30 on I72 with next to no traffic. About 10:15 we stopped at a rest area near Decatur IL for a late breakfast in the van.

Otherwise it was just a trek across I72 / I74 / US24 to Auburn today. We expected to stay at a commercial ex-Koa campground just south of Auburn. They were fully booked apparently, even though there were lots of empty sites, so here we are roughing it in the Auburn Holiday Inn Express, with supper at the nearby Cracker Barrel.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

El Dorado to Hannibal MO

El Dorado is a pretty college town. After fueling up and cleaning the buggy windshield we hit the road again, heading east. 8C at 8:45 am.

Motoring across US54 through Kansas, the western prairie gave way to more fertile-looking ranchland, then to farm country. Clearly there is more water available towards the eastern side of Kansas. What we saw of Kansas looks pretty prosperous, and US54 was excellent.

It was a very pretty drive this morning, through rolling hills, ponds and creeks, with blooming daffodils, forsythia, red buds and blossom trees out. A lot of the fields were purple with what seemed to be a planted ground cover:

The rest of the day was spent drifting northwest through Missouri. Another very pretty drive, a lot of it through part of the Ozarks. What a roller-coaster ride that was, up hills and down for many miles. Our van handled the hills with no problem, but we didn't see many big rig RVs through there, scenic as it is. Very little truck traffic too, maybe partly because it's Saturday? We waved to my cousin Steven as we passed by Joplin MO, only 60 miles to the south of us at one point. 

We're camped tonight in another scenic spot, the Hannibal Walmart. No, not really scenic, but convenient.

We think we have two pretty full (for us) driving days left before we're home. No marathon drives this trip I hope.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Logan to El Dorado KS

We left Logan in the pre-dawn darkness, hoping to cover some miles before the sun was up and in our face. Turns out we didn't face the sun directly, so it wasn’t an issue. It was a warm morning, up to 10C by 6:30 am.

About 20 minutes later we were in Texas, and had lost an hour to Central Time.

#287 between Stratford and Boise City OK was very rough. Another time – take #412 from Boise City OK to #171 North to Keyes. Avoid #156 too.

We saw the difference today between scenery driving across Oklahoma:

Versus Kansas:

We stopped into Dodge City KA along the way today. It sure is a cowtown, even today. There are huge feedlots around the area, and a pervasive smell of cow. Nice tourist-friendly town with lots of huge windmills in the nearby countryside.

We mainly followed hwy 56, rather than the more major road 54, mostly because 56 is marked as scenic in our road atlas, and 54 isn't. Also, 56 led us to what looked like an easier navigation of Wichita, and that was pretty easy. I'd likely try #54 next time, but we enjoyed our Dodge City stop today.

There was lots of tree damage visible as we drove through Kansas, likely from tornados.

We made it to El Dorado, a few miles east of Wichita, about 6pm. Tired after a long day we just wanted a parking spot, and the El Dorado Walmart was happy to oblige. 

This is our first overnight stop at a Walmart, but likely won't be our last. It feels better than the real basic RV spot we stayed at (and payed $10 for) last night in Logan. The washrooms even worked here!

We had a good walk around Walmart and got a couple of subs for our supper. A good, quiet night at Walmart.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Elephant Butte NM to Logan

We headed out from Elephant Butte today, and are pretty much heading home now. After fueling up and getting some cold medication for Cath, we headed north from our campsite via I25, and east/north on roads we hadn't been on before. 

Along the way we stopped at Abo Pueblo Ruins, a National Monument mission location from the 1700's. Free admission.

It was interesting to see some well-preserved adobe ruins (maybe a bit of restoration in places), and imagine a small town there so long ago. It was on a trade route in a pass through the mountains, and connected with the Camino Real, which went right down to Mexico. Year-round water made the site livable. Apparently a lot of the trade was salt collected in nearby salt flats, and shipped (by burro) to Mexico.

We saw MANY long trains today, likely 100+ cars long, usually pulled by 4 locomotives. A lot of the area is a large mesa top, flat but high, reaching about 6,500 ft elevation. The approaches on both sides were down around 4,000 ft. The climbs were pretty gentle though, the van didn't complain at all, and the road surface was good pavement.
This picture is across the new-looking double rail track, across a salt flat, with power-generating windmills in the background:

We continued on, stopping at Tucumcari NM for fuel and ice-cream bars, and proceeded north on #54 to Logan. We expected to stay in a state park called Ute Lake, but it didn’t appeal. 
Should have stayed there anyway, as we ended up in Arrowhead RV park at the north end of town. What a dump, no working washrooms or water, $10 for a parking spot. Still 28C at 5:30, a mild night.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Still camped at Elephant Butte

Cath is down with a miserable cold today. Luckily it was a mild night and we both slept well. I went into town for some WD40, then stopped in at Blaine’s site help him install the new breaker.

In the afternoon Cath was feeling somewhat better so we headed in for another soak at the Hot Springs.

Potluck supper at our new friends turned into a thank-you from them for helping with the van problem, although we’re not sure Mary-Lyn knew about the change until we got there. She whipped up a tasty meal though.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Day trip to Chloride

We enjoyed sitting out with our morning coffee, partly under the adobe shelter:

It’s so nice here we signed up for another two nights.

Today we set out on a day trip to Chloride, a little historic village we visited on an earlier trip to the area. Several more buildings have been restored and/or updated since we were last there. 

On the way back into town we bought a $5 pizza at Walmart, pretty good.

Blaine and Mary-Lyn stopped in for another visit and invited us to their place for a potluck supper tomorrow. Blaine mentioned his coach battery problem, and after some diagnosis and a call to the factory, we decided it was a blown circuit breaker.

Monday, March 13, 2017

City of Rocks to Elephant Butte State Park

My mom would have both loved and hated the drive across to Caballo today; very scenic, but lots of heights with twists, turns and dropoffs. 

We left City of Rocks this morning and went in to Silver city for a walking tour of their historic downtown. Well, wouldn't you know, most of the stores in their historic downtown are closed on Mondays.

After an abbreviated tour we headed east (more or less) on hwy 152 towards I25, and on up to Elephant Butte. We had driven across #152 the other direction when we were staying in Elephant Butte 10 years ago. The drive then was pretty exciting to us, and while still scenic and interesting, was not nearly as tough as some of our other recent drives.

We went to have a look at the State Park at Elephant Butte, with low expectations from memories of 10 years ago. Well, we'd hardly
recognize the place, or the whole area for that matter. It all looks much more prosperous than 10 years ago, and the state park camping is quite nice, what we've come to expect of NM state parks. 

After setting up we drove into nearby Truth or Consequences (TorC) and tracked down the Hot Springs spa we had soaked at 10 years ago. The name had changed but we found it and had a great
1/2 hour soak. The spa is watered by natural flowing hot spring waters, constantly running through the deliberately sunken spa building, so the water is always being refreshed. 10 years ago it was $6 per person for a 1/2 hr soak, up to only $7 now. This was a nice surprise, as TorC has been much gentrified since we were here last.

There's even a big Walmart, again with with huge sunshade panels in the parking area. These shades are paved with solar panels, so dual purpose.

While we were eating supper back at camp, a couple passing by on their bikes stopped in for a visit. Blaine and his wife Mary-Lyn were from London Ont, and have a Pleasureway van over in the electric section of the park.

We also had a visit with a fellow on his own that set up at the cabana next to us. He and his dog are from Colorado, full-time camping in his utility-type RV-trailer towed by an older Jeep Wrangler. He moves around to avoid winter as much as possible.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Alpine AZ to City of Rocks State Park NM

We had a pretty good night in our Alpine campsite. It got down to -4C overnight, and at 2am I started up the Buddy heater and left it on for the rest of the night. We don't usually do that, but we need more blankets I think.

Lots of elk around Alpine. It must be good habitat for them.

A much easier driving day today, down through Silver City NM and to the City of Rocks State Park. 

This Park has some nifty-shaped rocks, volcanic origin. We got one of the few sites available (unserviced of course, electric sites have been long since reserved). March break has affected even fairly remote parks like this.

NM state parks are a bargain. $10 for unserviced sites, $14 for water/electric, $18 for full. Not all parks have the serviced sites.

Our growing preference for unserviced sites (and even boondocking) has been really helped by the addition of the solar panels. They allow us to stay put sometimes, when we'd have to at least be out driving to recharge our batteries.

I guess geologists enjoy the makeup of the rocks in the park. I'm happy to find some faces amongst them. :))

St Bernard? 

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Whitewater Draw to Alpine

Apparently we just made it in time to see the massed cranes yesterday. Today just before daybreak, we were getting ready to head to the viewing area (we're camped a 5 minute walk away), when we heard a great croaking uproar. 

Too dark to really see then, but 10 minutes later when we got there, there was one lone crane croaking away, heading after the rest. They were all gone, except for a few stragglers later on! 

We found out later on that some of the birds may have just been going out for the day to feed in the surrounding area. Those birds straggle back in later in the day.

We headed north from the crane site today, heading for Silver City NM. But rather than trundle across Interstates, we decided to take this nice twisty-looking road 191 north from I10. Boy is it a trek!

Before getting up to I10 though, we dropped in to the Chiricahua NM park (the Western side from where we were at Cave Creek), to see what it's like. Very nice, all the camping was full though, and no boondocking. 

Then we worked our way up to Willcox for lunch at a BBQ place. Not something we often do, but we had a really good burger and a pulled pork sandwich. Lucky we had a big lunch today! In hindsight it would have been a good idea to camp near Willcox for the rest of the day.

 Cathie trying to avoid the bees in the tree:

After a short jaunt on I10 eastbound from there, we turned up north again to get to #191. The first surprise was the Springfield mine, at Clifton. For lots more info: Springfield Mine 

Apparently one of the largest mines of its type, it's mind-blowingly huge. A fellow visitor told us it runs 24/7, never shuts down.

The "little" truck you see in the center below is really one of those Monster trucks used in open-pit mining:

The road through the mine was interesting enough, then past the mine it got scenic and even twistier. It's a long slow drive, reaching over 9,000 ft elevation in places, and lots of snow at the higher elevations. Interesting though. when we were surrounded by the most snow, the air temp was up over 10C.
The pink line on the GPS was our road:

We decided to not stop for a picnic:
 An elk herd in a roadside field:

We finally got to the little town of Alpine and made camp after dark just outside town at a campground not yet open.  Another free boondock but nfree services this time. Electric would have been nice, as it got down to -4C in the wee hours. We got to use our little propane heater again.