Hot Stuff, White Sands, Amazon Goodies, Turning Back the Sun

What a busy and exciting time the past few days have been! After dealing with the furnace issue yesterday morning, I drove to the town of Hatch, just a few miles up the road, to meet my brother-in-law David for breakfast. He lives in Alaska and is visiting friends in the area, so it was a real treat to meet up with him. David and I  had breakfast at a quaint little place called “Hot Stuff” that offered Mexican curios and food. David and I had a lovely visit then he headed north to Santa Fe to meet his friends. Thank you for breakfast David!

Hatch is renowned for its locally grown chile peppers! I poked around the town a bit and visited a few of the chile markets. At Grajeda Farms I met Sergio and purchased a Listra, a string of chiles. The chiles are strung this way so they will dry naturally and last for a very long time. My mother had one that she used for years, occasionally plucking peppers off and tossing them in a pot of beans!  Listra take the shape of a traditional long rope, circles similar to a wreath, or are sometimes fashioned into crosses. I enjoy seeing all the bright peppers hanging together!

I'm fairly close to the Mexican Border here so there are US Customs Checkpoints scattered around the landscape. I have passed through these checkpoints several times in recent days. There are cameras set up and as you approach, these cameras take photos of your license plate so the agents know all about you before you even get to the stop! At one stop, they asked if I was a US Citizen and then waved me on. At another, they just waved me without any questions. My Dad was a US Customs officer and two of my brothers as well. Thank you for your service!

 

Dexter was waiting for me back at Wild Thing and after packing a snack and water we headed down the road to see the White Sands National Monument. It was about an hour drive from the campground, up and over the mountains with breathtaking scenery. Once over the mountains, a vast expanse of the desert floor made it easy to see why missiles are tested here. We drove by the White Sands Missile Range and Museum but didn’t have time to stop on this trip. I’ll save that for when DH is with me!

The White Sands National Monument is a spectacular sight,. As we approached the area I could see white sand dunes with low vegetation very similar to the dunes I’d seen at Cape Cod, but there was no water in sight, this is the middle of the desert! In the Visitors Center I watched a short film and toured the exhibits before heading out to the dunes. A $5.00 fee bought me the 8-mile drive into the dunes area and the ticket is good for 6 days making it quite a bargain.  As we drove, the vegetation became more and more sparse and the dunes became larger and larger. Before long I felt like I had been transported to the Sahara! Dexter absolutely loved this place. He has always enjoyed the sand at the beach but was not thrilled with water, so this place was absolute heaven for him! He also seemed to just love the feel of the sand under his paws…and on his nose! I too thoroughly enjoyed this tour and hope to return again in the future.

On our drive back to the campground, I stopped in Las Cruces to pick up a package of trailer stuff I ordered from Amazon. My Escape Trailer Friends Charlie and Lucy gave me some great advice when I saw them last week. They recommended an electric heater that they use instead of the furnace when they have access to electric power, as a way to save propane. Charlie also told me about a wireless thermostat that makes regulating this little heater very accurate. I placed an order for these items as well as a new water hose and water filter that my friends and fellow Escape owners Fred and Dora recommended. The hose I’ve been using has been a real struggle to wind up if it’s at all cold, so I’m anxious to try this cloth hose. The water filter will help keep my fresh water holding tank clean. I also ordered a 30 amp power extension cord. I don’t want to get caught short again and have to re-hitch to reach the power source.  I placed the order on Amazon with a shipping address of a local UPS Store. The package arrived in just two days and the UPS store didn’t even charge me for the service. Nice!

Lasko 754200 Ceramic Heater with Adjustable Thermostat

Nashone Wireless Thermostat for Heater

Zero-G 5/8" Water Hose

Camco TastPure Water Filter

Camco 30 Amp Electric Extension Cord

This morning I tidied the camper and truck, then hitched up and moved to site 17…two sites down from where I was. It was worth it to be able to spend an additional night and enjoy the winter solstice program.  I'm going to stay hitched up tonight since I'm leaving tomorrow. This afternoon I enjoyed the “Turning Back the Sun” program sponsored by this state park. I ate buffalo stew (very yummy and spicy!) and pizza and bread baked in a Horno, a traditional adobe oven of the Pueblo People. I watched a presentation by Dr. Jawor about how animals adapt to the changing seasons and light and the Native Dances of the Pueblo People. I attended a presentation about the petroglyphs and the solstice, enjoyed traditional Navajo storytelling around the campfire, then gazed at the stars through powerful telescopes. It was a rich and rewarding day. I hope you enjoy the pictures and videos.  Tomorrow I will move on…somewhere down the road yet to be decided….

https://youtu.be/tjpgDuLgN98

https://youtu.be/putlXP27NNs

https://youtu.be/LV9zGvZxd5c

 

Walks on the Lake, Breakfast at the Lodge, Cookout with the Jones Family, and Colored Flames

What a spectacular day here in Hulbert OK! Dexter and I slept in a little, then took a nice walk along the shores of Fort Gibson Lake. I find the cypress trees so beautiful. They put their roots down in the shallows and look so stately and strong. The sun quickly burned off  the morning chill from the air and the sky was a brilliant blue.

After our walk, Dexter was ready to nap in the camper, so I I decided to eat breakfast at the Lodge Restaurant here in the Sequoyah State Park. I enjoyed an omelet with toast and hash browns for $8 and a pot of coffee for $2. What a bargain compared to the prices we see around Boston and Jimmy was an excellent waiter!

I have received terrific service her at the Sequoyah. Tabby helped me out when I first arrived, calling ahead to be sure my campsite would be ready and offering directions and helpful suggestions. Service with a smile!

After breakfast, I walked along the lake shore and down to the point. The rocky coast was quite beautiful and I saw fossils in the rocks along the path. The fish were jumping, there were hawks out feeding, and seagulls diving for fish. I've seen a heard of deer crossing the road twice while I've been here but haven't had an opportunity for a photo of them.

After my walk, I drove into town to fill my propane tank. I've been burning through propane at a fast pace since I've been running the furnace most nights. I also stopped at the Auto Zone where Jason helped me with the taillight of my truck. I had received a message on the trucks display that the passenger side taillight was burned out. Jason checked it for me and found it was working fine. He pulled the light assembly out for me to double check but everything seemed to be in order. Jason told me that the entire taillight assembly will need to be replaced if it does go out so I'm going to wait.  I'll have to figure out how to reset the error message but I'm happy the light is working. Thank you, Jason, for taking the time to help me today! What terrific service!

Back at the campsite, I got things ready for the cookout. I set up the Clam House, brought out the Weber Grill for the first time, set the table, hung my wind chime and Camper Sign (from my DH!!), and opened the awning! My next door neighbor here at the campground had some wood left over and offered it to me for a fire. I gratefully accepted!

 

Jane and the kids, Roman, Vinny, Laurel, Nicholas, and Colin, and their Newfoundland, Chewy (short for Chewbacca!) arrived full of fun and laughter. Dexter was a little unsure of Chewy at first, but calmed down quickly and they did well together. Dexter is fast becoming used to all the new stimuli of campsite living!

We had a great time touring the camper and getting the bar-be-que going. The new Weber grill connected to the camper propane with the quick connect adaptor I had installed and performed like a champ! Richard arrived just in time to eat... hamburgers and hotdogs for everyone!

 

With our bellies happy, we headed to the lake so Chewy could take a swim. Being a water dog by nature, she enjoys any opportunity for a dip! The light was just amazing as the sun started to go down on this beautiful day.

We ended the evening with a campfire, augmented with a colored flame stick! What a fantastic day!

 

Mind the Gap, Central Time, Interstate Convergence

When I awoke this morning I was surrounded by campers in the Walmart parking lot, most of whom had arrived after I went to bed.  This turned out to be quite a popular stop and there must have been 12 trailers as well as assorted vans and cars parked for an overnight stop. Dexter slept until 6 this morning, then burrowed under my blankets for another hour and a half. We were ready to go by 8:15 and had just over 200 miles to go. As I anticipated, traffic was heavy but we had plenty of time. It was still cool, 38F but sunny. Traveling on Interstate 40 West today across Tennessee, the route was hilly and we encountered several gaps along the way, the most notable being Crab Orchard Gap in the Crab Orchard Mountains. It was clear on the road but fog lay on the mountains and traffic was too heavy for me to get any photos, even with voice commands. There were electronic signs posted as I neared Nashville stating that there would be troopers every 20 miles and there were several folks pulled over for speeding. I am staying well within the speed limit with my rig! Nashville was quite a challenge to navigate. It is one of only 4 cities in the US where six interstate legs converge within the city's boundaries, I40, I65, and I24.  Five lanes of bumper to bumper traffic made navigation a challenge when the route demanded that I move from the far right lane to the far left lane and back several times. Most of the drivers here are courteous and I simply put my blinker on and waited for someone to let me in. I was happy to come through that gauntlet unscathed and look forward to the open road awaiting me in the southwest.

We arrived at our campsite around lunchtime having gained an hour when we passed into the central time zone. This campground is pretty basic, old and tired, but serviceable and safe. It's forecast to be 28 tonight so I will not be flushing out the antifreeze just yet. I'm hooked into electric power and that is enough for now. Dexter and I spent several hours outside this afternoon just romping around the park. He found a horse in a pasture that he was itching to wrangle, but the mare was having none of it.

I had a hot shower, washed up my dishes from last night, and spent some time reorganizing cupboards. That will be an ongoing project. As I settle more and more into the camper, I will re-arrange things into a more logical order. I'm looking forward to a quiet day off the road tomorrow. We'll hang out here in the Tanbark Campground for the holiday.  I have so much to be thankful for that it will be good to have a day to reflect on that.

 

Candy Hill, Herding Cattle, and Knoxville TN

I left you yesterday morning in snowy PA and join you now from just west of Knoxville, TN where it's 6:30 pm and 61F! What a difference a day makes. Yesterday I drove a short 220 miles through a corner of Deleware, and a bit of West Virginia, then into Virginia where I stopped at the Candy Hill Campground in Winchester, VA.

I arrived about 2:30 pm and had time to take care of some maintenance. I had planned this stop to de-winterize the camper by flushing the antifreeze from the water lines and refilling my fresh water tank. The campground is open all year but I learned when I arrived that they limit water access during the winter months. Water hook-ups are only available from 8 AM to 8 PM provided the temps stay above 36F. It was forecast to dip well below that temp overnight so I chose not to hook up the water just yet. I'm managing just fine on bottled water.

The campground had a bathhouse and a well-stocked camp store where I was able to fill my empty propane tank. The furnace has been running quite a bit in these freezing temperatures and I found one tank empty when I did my checks.   I have two 20# (4-gallon) tanks and the system automatically switches to the other tank when one runs out. It cost me all of $10.00 to fill the tank here!

Candy Hill Campground has a large fenced off-leash dog park so Dexter and I spent quite some time running around in the grass. He has been doing very well riding in the truck but he was ready for some playtime after two days of travel!

I checked the pressure in the truck and camper tires, unplugged from the truck and hooked up the camper electric connection, chocked the wheels, and dropped the rear stabilizers. I did not unhitch since I would be there just one night. I did have to use my Anderson Levelers to get the camper level but otherwise, it was a pretty simple set up. With my chores done,  I enjoyed a nice long hot shower at the bathhouse and brought some hot water back to the camper to wash my dishes.

I wasn't very hungry so I had a bowl of cereal for supper then Dexter and I went for a long walk. It was peaceful and quiet and there was just a small sliver of moon out to light our path.

Dexter went to sleep early and I stayed up until 11 reading. I was awakened at 4:30 AM by Dexter who was complaining that it was just too lonely in his crate, so I brought him in bed with me where he curled up and we both slept until 7.

I was on the road at 7:45 and found traffic today to be much heavier than usual. There was the expected number of commercial trucks on the interstate, but many more cars than normal. It was a clear day and I was on I81 South until it ended and I picked up I40 just outside of Knoxville, TN.

Dexter rounded up some cattle at a rest stop in Tennesee.

I was making good time and decided to push a bit further than my original plan today, thinking that traffic is only going to be worse tomorrow. It was smooth sailing until 10 miles from my destination where I ran into a messy traffic snarl. Once I made it past this Knoxville rush hour traffic jam, it was easy to find the WalMart SuperCenter just off the highway. There are several other campers here tonight and it seems quiet. I made a simple supper on the gas stove of grilled cheese and Panera Cream of Tomato Soup. I found several prepared soups at my local Shaw's grocery store near the rotisserie chickens the day before I left. I chose Panera Bread Cream of Tomato and Panera Bread Black Bean soup as well as Legal Seafood Clam Chowder. They are the perfect easy stovetop meal and very tasty! They need to be stored in the refrigerator but have about a 6-week expiration date.

It's been a long day, but now tomorrow will be a much shorter drive. I have only 216 miles to the Tanbark Campground in Dickinson, TN (west of Nashville) where I have a reservation for two nights.