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

 

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....

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.

Sorting, Stacking, and Packing

Today was cold and windy, a good day to stay inside and pack! I have been sorting and stacking, auditioning things to take with me. It's looking like I may be on the road until late next summer so that is influencing what I'm packing. Clothes are easy: Casual T-Shirts, a few flannel and chambray shirts, sweaters, jackets, knit pants, jeans, and a few shorts.  I'm bringing just a few dressy things for when my DH visits. I'm packing my clothes in the soft-sided cubes used in organizing clothing for suitcases. They are a great help with organization and because they are soft-sided, they will fit nicely in the overhead bins in the bedroom area and make good use of the space.

My dishes arrived from Corelle and I'm very happy with this set. They should wear well and are microwave safe. I opted for a set of 4 and added the medium sized lunch plates, the large soup bowls, and lids for the bowls so they can now double as storage containers! I now have everything I should need for the kitchen.

I am also all set with items for the pantry, bathroom, and bedroom. My trip home in Wild Thing helped me sort out the details of what I needed for those areas.

I have found two things to help me secure items in the bed of the truck. The first is a Covercraft Cargo Bar. This tension bar stretches across the bed of the truck and will help hold my cooler, the clam house, and Dexter's exercise pen in place and keep them from rolling around.  I also ordered a Core Cargo Sports Bag cargo net that can hold small items in the truck bed. Hopefully, they will arrive before I leave!

Now I'm left with deciding what to bring for art and craft supplies and books. Books are one of my biggest joys in life. My house is filled with them and my camper will most likely be too! I do read some on Kindle and love to listen to novels on Audible, but I'm still happiest when surrounded by paper books. Most of the books I'm bringing are resources on knitting, painting, and writing, field guides, and travel guides.

My process for deciding which books to bring works like this: First I make a pile of all the books I wish I could bring and realize it's at least twice as large as what will fit in the camper. Next, visit the pile over the course of several days slowly whittling it down to a manageable size. I will place the books I've removed from my original pile in a box that my DH can ship if I get desperate!

This process will be repeated for my knitting supplies, quilting supplies, and art supplies. I'm leaving in 8 days so I better get going'!

 

 

Hose Handling, Reset Buttons, Retrofit Weber Q

I'm beginning to reorganize Wild Thing for the next trip, removing items I don't need and adding some new gadgets. One thing that didn't make the cut were the cute plastic tableware that I purchased without realizing they were not microwave-safe. I just need one set of dishes in the camper and don't want to worry about what I can and can't put in the microwave so they're going to have to stay home.

My biggest storage struggle in the trailer was with the water hoses. I have a 10-foot hose that worked most of the time and a 25-foot hose I used when the shorter one did not reach the water supply. Both were unwieldy, especially when they were cold, and were difficult to store. I tried wrapping them in velcro strips and storing them in tote bags but I wasn't satisfied with that arrangement.

After doing a bit of online research I found the StorAHose bag from Stone Wolves and it looked like a good solution. The bags I ordered arrived while Wild Thing was in for service, so today was the first opportunity I've had to test them. I found them very easy to use and extremely effective.  I used one for my 25-foot water hose and it worked like a charm. I tried the other on my Rhino Sewer Extension Hose. The bag was a little too large for the sewer extension hose so I'll wash it with bleach to be sure it's disinfected then use it for my 10' water hose.  The StorAHose bag is shaped like a donut with a hole on only one side. To use, you simply feed the hose it through the hole and it curls around itself nicely, pressing up against the outside edges of the bag and making a neat coil. I will try sewing a bag more appropriately sized for my sewer extension hose using a waterproof oilcloth fabric.

My Rand McNally RVND7730 RV Navigation GPS stopped working on my way home from picking up Wild Thing from the repair shop. I love this little device and found it a valuable tool for navigating in my camper, so I was less than pleased with the prospect of being without it. The unit simply went dead and the screen would not turn on. I called Rand McNally customer service and the walked me through resetting it by pressing the small button located on the back of the unit with a paperclip. The unit rebooted and is now fully operational again! I love easy fixes. Like many electronic devices, the circuits in this device can get confused and a reset often resolves the issue.

Next on today's list was to assemble my Weber Q1200 Grill and retrofit it to use the propane quick connect built into Wild Thing. I have two 20# propane tanks in the camper and a built-in quick-connect port that allows external devices, like my new Weber Q1200 Grill, to connect directly and use this propane. The propane is regulated at the tank on the camper so the regulator that was built into the grill needed to be removed and replaced with a quick connect hose.

I purchased the Torjik ConvertaQ Kit that contained all the items I needed for the retrofit and followed this YouTube Video to accomplish the task. YouTube has been a wonderful resource for me. I feel like I have a team of tutors helping me learn how to become handy. Another successful project completed!