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

 

Leasburg Dam State Park, Chachis, Dos Equis Cerveza

Leaving Van Horn behind in the rain this morning, I headed further down I10 West. I had only a 3.5-hour drive today and gained an hour entering Mountain Time. The rain and fog continued through El Paso and then the skies began to clear as I entered New Mexico. I turned on the I25 and headed north out of Las Cruces toward the Organ Mountains. The landscape is a beautiful desert terrain ringed by majestic mountain ranges. The little settlement of Radium Springs has only a few small houses, trailers, and a Family Dollar Store and a Post Office. The Leasburg Dam State Park, on the other hand, is a diamond in the rough! The park is very well maintained, the campsites are large semi-circular pull-throughs with a concrete pad for the camper and a lovely shelter over a picnic table, water and electric with a fire pit for $14.00 a night!

When I arrived, the camp host asked if I was staying for the program on Saturday night, "Turning Back the Sun". I had only made a reservation through Friday night and did not know about the program at that time. He told me it is quite an event, a celebration of the Winter Solstice with many cultural activities running from noon until 8pm : Pueblo Indian social dances, Buffalo Stew, Hot Coco and Adobe Horno baked Pueblo Bread and Pizza, Traditional Winter and Coyote Stories from Dine', Apache, Pueblo, and Blackfeet Peoples, as well as Stargazing with the Astronomy Society of Las Cruces who will bring their big telescopes. As soon as I had my rig parked in space #21, I got on my smartphone to extend my reservation. Someone else had already reserved my campsite, #21 for Saturday, but I was able to reserve campsite #17 for Saturday night, and it was the only spot left available! Later, I was speaking with the ranger at the Visitors Center and we found that #17 had also been booked for Saturday but the folks had canceled their reservation just an hour before I made mine. What luck I have! I'm so excited that I can stay and enjoy this traditional festival on Saturday. The visitors center had much to offer:

Dexter and I took a short walk after setting up camp. It's still cool, in the upper 40's but the wind has calmed.

I went out for a taste of local Mexican food in the neighboring town of Dona Ana at a quaint place called Chachis. I knew I was in for a treat when the only folks there were local Spanish folks and a couple of Border Patrol agents! The food was delicious but spicy hot! I have forgotten what real traditional Mexican food tastes like... An ice-cold cerveza helped cool my taste buds!

I've seen many rabbits hopping around the campsite. They are normal sized and brownish grey in color,  but have exceptionally large white fluffy tails! I also saw a covey of Gambel's Quail. I hope to get some wildlife photos while I'm here. The birds and wildlife are quite abundant here on the desert floor. I also plan to get out to the White Sands National Monument. Tomorrow is forecast to be chilly and rainy so it may be a crafting day. Friday and Saturday look sunny and clear so I should be able to get out with the camera then. My brother-in-law David from Alaska will be in Hatch, NM on Friday morning as he travels through the area to Santa Fe so we have made a plan to meet for brunch. What a nice surprise that is! It will be great to see him.

I leave you tonight with a video of my campsite at sunset.

https://youtu.be/ok-rEbBhc4Y

 

 

Recipe for Friendship, K9 Sport Sack, Dreaming of Sedona

Recipe for a Fun and Lasting Friendship

Mix two parts fun-loving adventurers from New Hampshire, two parts warm-and-wonderful adventurers from San Antonio, one part wacky Wild Thing from Massachuestts.  Toss them gently together and sprinkle liberally with wine!

I was honored today by a visit from two exceptional couples (and fellow Escape Trailer owners)! I met these terrific folks this past May at the Escape Trailer Appreciation Rally in Osoyoos, BC. We became fast friends during the wine tour portion of the rally and have stayed in touch since. I was fortunate to visit Lucy and Charlie on several occasions at their home in New Hampshire. They live just 2 hours from me in MA! I was also lucky to meet up with Dora and Fred again on one of those trips to NH while they were also visiting Lucy and Charlie. Dora and Fred are full-time RV’ers and they hail from San Antonio, TX. Lucy and Charlie just happened to be visiting Dora and Fred in San Antonio this week, and so they all drove to Kerrville to see me and Dexter today! What fun we had. It’s such an amazing thing to meet people who have the same passion for travel and adventure that you do! We all missed you, Steve!

We enjoyed a  spectacular lunch at a local gem called Grape Juice. Our server, Lanette, was a delight! She's from Ohio and a fellow traveler! Thank you for the excellent service today Lanette, and thank you, Janice, for introducing me to this great restaurant! Everyone loved the brussels sprouts!

I love these people and am so fortunate to have had an opportunity to share a meal with them and to give them the grand tour of Wild Thing. They were all so helpful and supportive of me during the trailer build process, giving me tips on which supplies to bring on the trip, and coaching me on the fine points of handling the rig. Today they provided even more helpful pointers and equipment suggestions. I’ll soon be investing in a new hose, a space heater, and a water filter as soon as I can find a Camping World!   Lucy and Charlie will also be heading for Tucson in a few days and will also be staying at the Catalina State Park over the Christmas Holiday! Jingle Bells!! It will be an Escape Christmas in Tucson! They will then join Dora and Fred for a guided tour down the Baja Peninsula. That trip is on my wishlist, but not feasible for this year! I'll be following their journey closely though and wish them safe travels Maybe they will catch up with Glen in Baja!

Dexter was happy to see everyone, after his initial barking-fit-intruder-alert-moment. He is my protector and showed it today! After he calmed down, we modeled his new backpack for everyone. I purchased this dog backpack just before I left for this trip and am thrilled with the product. It’s a K9 Sport Sack and allows me to carry him comfortably on my back. I will be taking some hikes that will be too long for his little 2” legs to keep up with, so this will give me a way to carry him in a way that’s comfortable for both of us. I tried carrying him in a cross body bag, and a purse-like bag, but both were too hard on my back. This pack sits high up so he can see over my shoulder and it’s very comfortable.  He won’t be in it for more than an hour or two but it will be a lifesaver when I need it!

After my visit with the Escape gang, I lay down with a book and promptly fell asleep! I realized that I have been on-the-go for several days and a bit of downtime was in order. I ’m feeling refreshed tonight and glad I took a little time to recharge

Dexter and I have taken three good walks today, so we are getting plenty of fresh air, exercise, and sunshine. I saw this lovely creature on the path…is it a butterfly or a moth?

.

This evening, I spent a few hours researching places to go after my stay in Las Cruces, NM,  and before Catalina State Park in Tucson. I have 10 days between those two stops and I’m considering a trip to Sedona, AZ. Steve and I loved the area when we visited briefly last fall and I have been itching to get back there.  I found a campground where I can stay 7 nights on the 50% off Passport America rate of $20.00 a night. Not bad at all for the area. I’ll call them tomorrow to see if they have availability.

I’m planning to take a ride to Fredericksburg tomorrow morning and visit the St. Mary’s Cemetery where my parents are buried and depending on how crowded it is, I may poke around the town a bit. Fredericksburg has grown into quite a top-notch tourist destination with shopping, vineyards, and wineries. There were plenty of Holiday shoppers out when I drove through the town on Friday and I’m not too interested in fighting crowds so I’ll play it by ear tomorrow. Maybe I can sneak in early....

Gettin' My Girl On, Family Time, Rosas Cafe with Rose!

I spent this morning shuffling things around in the camper. The more time I spend in her, the more I see how things can be better arranged. I also labeled some of my bins so I know what is stored where!

I had a shopping list to fill, so I set out for Burleson just after lunch. At the top of my list was makeup. I forgot my makeup kit at home and it hadn't bothered me until I got to Texas! A girl can't do without her beauty aids here in the Lone Star State...especially with company coming! The helpful staff at Ulta Beauty helped me "get my girl on"! Thanks especially to Tanner, I'm now ready for anything!

A quick stop at Walmart for bottled water, Dr. Pepper, and a broom rounded out the errands. I didn't think I needed a broom in the camper. It's small enough that I can just clean the floor with a small whisk broom and a cloth, but I realize that I need a broom for the exterior. Often the area around the door of the camper is littered with leaves and branches and an outside broom would make it easy to tidy up the campsite so I don't track stuff inside.

Dexter and I took a nice walk while we waited for our company. This brilliant tree against the clear sky caught my eye...Auburn Leaves and Blue Sky.

My brother John and his wife Tracy arrived just before 5. We had a nice time catching up and they love the Wild Thing! They have a camper of their own and keep it parked in Matagorda, TX on the coast. I will have to visit them there someday!

John drove us to meet their daughter, my niece Robyn, her husband James, and their (adorable!) daughter Rose! We met at a gymnastics facility where Rose was taking her weekly lesson. She is quite a talented soon-to-be-4 year old! It was fun to watch her tumbling around, she is so full of life and joy!

After gymnastics, we met up at Rosa's Cafe and Tortilla Factory for a little Mexican food. I have been craving so good southwestern Mexican food and this was a delicious dinner filled with stories and laughter. It's so good to catch up with family!

 

Two beautiful girls with Auburn Hair and Blue Eyes!

Tomorrow I'll hitch up and head south. I'm meeting my friend Vonessa in Waco for coffee on my way through, then driving on to Kerrville where I'll set up camp at the Kerrville-Shriner State Park. Tomorrow night I'm meeting my friend Janice for dinner. I'm so blessed to have this opportunity to catch up with so many people I care about!

Wild Thing Winter 2017 Trip Itinerary Rev. 2, the Texas Edition!

 

I've spent the afternoon adjusting my travel plans and Texas is now officially on the itinerary! I’m looking forward to seeing family and friends and visiting the resting place of my parents on this leg of the trip.

Here’s my updated itinerary:

Friday, November 24 Leave Dickson, TN and head West on I40 through Memphis and Little Rock. I have two potential Wal Marts picked out for an overnight stop, the first about 340 miles from here and the other one a bit further along at 390 miles from my current location. If the winds and traffic are with me I will push on to the latter one which will put me in closer proximity to Sequoyah State Park in Hulbert, OK. I have a reservation there for Saturday, November 25 – Tuesday, November 28 and I’m looking forward to spending a few days visiting with the Jones Family (my DH’s sister Jane, her husband Richard, and their 5 children). Maybe it will be warm enough for me to finally get this camper de-winterized!

Tuesday, November 28 I’ll drive to the North Texas Jellystone Park in Burleson, TX, just south of Fort Worth. I’ll hang out there Wed and Thursday so I can catch my brother John and his wife Tracy when they arrive Thursday evening to visit their daughter Robyn and her family. We will have a chance to share a meal and catch up a bit.

I’ll be back on the road Friday, December 1 heading for Kerrville, Texas. I have a nice spot reserved at the Kerrville-Shriner Park until Tuesday, December 5.  This stop will give me a chance to visit my parents' graves in Fredericksburg, Texas, visit a high school friend Janice, and hopefully share a bit of time with my nephew Paul and his family. I'm also hoping to catch up with my friends Sandy and Don who live in the area.

Tuesday, December 5, I’ll hitch my wagon back up and head north. I should make it as far as Fort Stockton for a dry camping overnight in a WalMart parking lot before continuing on to Leasburg Dam State Park in Radium Springs, NM on December 6. I’ll spend the next few days touring the White Sands National Park and the area surrounding Las Cruces, NM.

Tucson is just a day drive from Las Cruces so I’ll head out on Saturday, December 9 unless something else catches my eye!