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

 

"Always Sadde Your Own Horse"

"Always Saddle Your Own Horse" is a quote made famous by an original Texas Cowgirl, Connie Reeves, who was still riding her horse every day at age 101! You can read about her life in the NY Times tribute published shortly after her passing in 2003. Connie was just one of the over 200 strong, independent women inducted into the Cowgirl Hall of Fame at the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame in Fort Worth, Texas where I spent several happy hours today! After being greeted by Ingrid Reynolds at the door, I wandered the exhibit halls spread out over two floors of this beautiful museum. Currently on display is a stunning photographic exhibit by Constance Jaeggi entitled "Aspects of Power, Light, and Motion".  This dynamic body of work captures the beauty and artistry of horses. My snapshots of her photos do not do them justice but will provide you a tiny peek into the exceptional beauty of her photographs. Please visit her website to view quality images of her work. I took some photos of the costumes, displays, and artifacts in this gorgeous museum to share with you. If you are ever in the area, I would highly recommend a visit!

Ingrid shared with me that there was a horse competition in progress in the arena across the street, the National Cutting Horse Association 2017 World Championships, that was open to the public. I wandered over and was able to capture a few photos and a video to share with you. It was so interesting watching these horses and riders work the cattle to "cut" specific ones from the herd and move the cattle with precision.

There was also a building with vendors to augment the show offering tack, boots, clothing, tractors, hats, blankets, trailers you name it! Anything horse related was there. There was a gigantic trailer to house people and their 3 horses while traveling on the road, complete with a tack room! Wild Thing would have fit in this trailer at least 4 times. You know you are a real Texan when you live with your livestock and your toilet matches your couch...I'll let the photos speak for themselves!

Dexter was happy to see me when I arrived back at the camper and we took a long walk before I settled in to process the photos. I hope you enjoy this glimpse into the wonders of the west!

National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame, Fort Worth Texas:

(hint: click on photos to start slide show)

Constance Jaeggi Exhibit at the Cowgirl Museum:

NCHA 2017 Competition Fort Worth, Texas:

 

https://youtu.be/eRyEZOhSJK4

Vendor Wares at the National Cutting Horse Association Competition, Fort Worth Texas

 

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.

 

Day 1, 334 Miles, Dexter Riding Shotgun

The sun has set on the first day of our grand adventure and we are cozied into the WalMart Super Center parking lot in Wilkes Barre, PA.  It was a balmy 55F and raining at 7 AM this morning as I hitched up the camper in Ashland, MA. The experience I gained on the trip home from Chilliwack has all finally meshed and I'm feeling at ease and confident with the procedures. Things went so smoothly in fact, that I had to triple check using my checklists. I thought I must be missing something because it was all just too easy! Dexter was eager to get started and felt right at home in his jump seat in the truck. He has traveled by car to Florida with me twice so he's an old hand at road trips.

We left at 7:45 AM and headed to the Mass Pike (I90). It was still pouring rain but traffic was light.

I stopped at the first rest stop on the highway just to check inside the trailer to be sure all the cupboards had remained closed and all items were secure. I have never had an issue with this trailer, but I remember my Dad doing this in his trailer whenever he repacked.  I like the peace of mind knowing there isn't some object flinging itself around inside the trailer as I drive!

The truck is riding a bit lower than before, which is not surprising since I now have all my craft supplies with me! It's kind of poetic that I parked next to this rig at a rest stop.

I stopped at the Lee, MA rest stop to gas up and it was frigid! The temp had dropped to 34F and there were flurries mixed in with the rain. Granted this was in the Berkshire Mountains, but yikes, I think I'm getting out just in time.

Dexter was very comfortable riding shotgun today. He stayed in his front jump seat for most of the journey today down I90 to I87, then I84 to I81. The temps rose to 45F and the rain stopped an hour before we arrived here in Wilkes Barre, PA. Along I87, I saw two jet black chickens scratching and pecking along the highway embankment. What a crazy sight! There were no houses in sight, so maybe they have escaped captivity and are now free range chickens, or perhaps they just...crossed the road...

A message popped up on the truck today telling me that a brake light has gone out. I'll need to get that fixed when I unhitch the trailer. It's nice that the system in the truck can let you know when there are things that need attention! The brake lights are working fine on the camper so I'm still in good shape.

I met a lovely couple as soon as we arrive here for the night. Matt and Adrianne M. took the grand tour of Wild Thing. They are dreaming of a camper of their own and were impressed with the Escape. She is pretty fine and I do love it when folks show an interest. I love meeting new people!

It's going to be a cold night, down in the low 30's, but we will keep driving south and soon the temps will rise. Dexter and I are comfortable and warm in our cozy little house on wheels.   I have the lounge area set up so he can snuggle while I work on the post!

I'm  tired tonight after all the excitement of the last few days but so happy to be on the road. I'll get a good rest tonight and be ready for what awaits tomorrow!

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'!