Museum, Enchilada Fries and We Go Solar

We’re down to our last few days here in New Mexico and we’re trying to make the most of them before we pull up stakes and head to Arizona for the winter.

Another beautiful sunrise at Pancho Villa State Park

On Wednesday morning we visited the Columbus Depot Museum which is housed in the old train depot and operated by the Columbus Historical Society. The building itself is worth seeing with the old original floors and windows. They have one room dedicated to the Pancho Villa raid from March 9, 1916, including a diorama that shows how the town was laid out at the time, as well as one of Pancho’s sombreros, the door of the bank vault with a bullet hole in it, and lots of other memorabilia.

A second room is dedicated to railroad memorabilia, as Columbus was originally a railroad town where trains would move soldiers to/from Camp Furlong, ore from the mines in Arizona, and passengers headed west from El Paso. The third room contains a lot of antique household and business items from the early 1900’s.

Inside the Train Room in the Columbus Depot Museum

There’s a small gift shop just inside the entrance that sells trinkets and books. Outside the building there is an old fire engine, some more old farm equipment, and a gazebo that is a recreation of the reviewing stand where General Pershing stood to review the troops as they marched back into the US after chasing Villa’s army through northern Mexico after the raid.

The gentleman who was working in the museum that morning was quite a crusty character. He’s a volunteer, so he gets a free RV spot behind the museum (there’s a second volunteer and they trade shifts). He had his dog with him at his desk, and seeing as how we were the only ones that visited the museum that morning, he was ready to talk…and talk….and talk. He was pretty entertaining, especially later when we could overhear his phone conversation with someone regarding current events….let’s just say he was colorful. 🙂

After touring the museum, we walked across the street and had lunch at the Borderland Cafe so we could contribute to the local economy. This is a popular spot with the locals, as evidenced by the number of people that stopped in for lunch wearing construction vests or cowboy hats and boots. They offered a few veggie options–I got the veg-wich which was a sandwich made with hummus and veggies. Andy got the veggie pizza which was very good. One of their specialties is their enchilada fries–french fries covered with green Hatch chile sauce and Menonite cheese. We split an order of those.

Enchilada fries at the Borderland Cafe in Columbus NM

Yesterday (Thursday) we had to say “See you down the road!” to our new friend, fellow nomad and guitarist-extraordinaire Gary Piazza, who had reached the 14-day stay limit here in the park. He’s moving to nearby Rockhound State Park for a few days before heading to Payson, Arizona where he has a gig waiting. Safe travels, Gary!!

We spent yesterday afternoon hanging out at the local library/computer center, using their speedy wi-fi to do some research on boondocking spots in Arizona and planning our travels for the next week or so.

And speaking of boondocking….

We are about to embark on a whole new chapter in our RV living experience. To date, we have only boondocked twice that I remember. The first time was in a Walmart parking lot in Chattanooga, TN in September 2017 when we were on our way to our first RV rally in Sevierville, TN. The second time was the first night after we hit the road back in August, when we stayed at a Harvest Host location, Landry Vineyards in Monroe, LA.

In each of those cases we didn’t have to be too concerned about how much water, tank capacity or battery power we used because we were only off-grid for one night before getting back to hook-ups. But our plans for the next few months are to spend quite a bit of time off-grid, camping for free on BLM land primarily, so we’ll need to learn to camp differently and more conservatively.

For electric power, we do have a generator that uses gas from the fuel tank on the RV. The generator can charge the house batteries as well as provide power for energy hogs like the microwave and the air conditioner. But we would like to limit the use of the generator as much as possible to conserve gasoline and lower our fuel costs.

And since we are going to be spending a large portion of our time in the Southwest where the sun shines almost every day, it just made sense to invest in a solar system.

Kodiak portable solar generator and panels

After doing a lot of research over the past year, we settled on a solar kit that includes the Kodiak portable solar generator, three 100-watt solar panels, cables, and three outdoor lights. We ordered it yesterday from Earthtech Products and made arrangements to have it shipped to a friend’s house in Phoenix where we’ll pick it up when it arrives in a few weeks (thanks, Nicki and Avery!!).

The Kodiak is a 90 amp-hour lithium battery. The unit has multiple plugs which can be used to keep all our devices charged. In fact, there’s even a 30-amp plug where we could plug the RV directly into the unit to run small things like lights and fans if our house batteries should fail.

If you’re interested in the system, here’s a link Earthtech’s website where you can get the specs.

The cost? Total was $2215, including a car charger which will charge the Kodiak from the alternator while we’re driving the RV.

So yes, this is an investment, not just an expense. The solar panels will allow us to keep our house batteries charged so we can stay off-grid longer, and the Kodiak will provide a secondary power source when we need extra charging power for phones, laptop, Kindles, walkie-talkies, cameras…all that electronic gear.

We do have a couple of maintenance items in the RV that need to be addressed. The light fixture over the kitchen sink appears to have a faulty switch…it keeps dimming and brightening intermittently. Also we have some weather stripping on the passenger-side over-cab area that has come loose and needs to be replaced. Handy Andy will be taking care of these items soon.

Today we’re going to make one last trip across the border to have lunch in Palomas and, yes, visit the bakery again. Tomorrow we’ll drive to Deming to pick up our latest mail packet from our mail service in Livingston, TX, get some groceries, do a little sight-seeing and visit a local coffee shop that looks interesting.

And then on Sunday, we break camp and head west.

Life is good in the Borderlands!

We hope you’re enjoying the blog! Be sure to subscribe to get notifications of new posts when they are published. You can also follow us on Instagram at Instagram.com/JustCallUsNomads to see what we’re doing between blog posts.

Stay safe, follow your dreams, and live every day as if it’s your last!!

Quick Notes from Pancho Villa SP in New Mexico

We’re still happily parked at Pancho Villa State Park in Columbus, New Mexico, just three miles north of the US/Mexico border and the Mexican town of Palomas. We haven’t done anything super-exciting, so I thought I’d just give you some quick notes from the past few days–this is real life for us.

Last Saturday was a day for chores. I cleaned up the inside of the rig, then we drove to Deming (about 40 minutes north) for laundry and grocery shopping. But before we started chores we treated ourselves to lunch at Marie’s Italian Grill. The restaurant is located in the old Deming National Bank building so it has some character to it. Business was slow, but the service was excellent and the food was pretty good, especially for a small town. I had the eggplant parmesan and Andy had spaghetti with marinara. We split some fried mushrooms, and for dessert we had spumoni ice cream, which we haven’t had since we last ate at Fred’s in Houston, Texas sometime in the 90’s.  We really liked Marie’s, and would definitely eat there again.

Interior of Marie’s Italian Grill still has the original tile flooring.

Exterior of Marie’s Italian Grill in the old Deming National Bank building

After a good lunch, it was time for chores, starting with laundry. On the road, we do laundry about once every two to three weeks, so there’s a lot to do, especially with towels and bed sheets. The large commercial machines make it quick and easy to get it all done.

We used the Pine Street Laundromat based on their Yelp reviews, and it wasn’t a bad experience. The place was clean, there was an attendant on-site, and most of the machines appeared to be in working order. We did three large loads of laundry for $8.75.

Laundry day in Deming NM

After the laundry was done, we headed to the local Walmart Supercenter to get groceries and water. Yes, we are hooked up to water at the campground, but we use filtered water for drinking, refilling our own containers from the Primo dispensers in Walmart for $.29/gallon. The Walmart in Deming is pretty nice as far as Walmarts go–their produce was fresh, and that’s what is most important to us when grocery shopping.

On Sunday we did a little exploring around the little town of Columbus. When Pancho Villa’s men raided the town in 1916, they burned four adjoining buildings including a hotel, a mercantile store and two residences. The foundations of those buildings are still visible in a vacant lot that’s pretty overgrown. There’s a small plaque nearby that has a picture of the hotel as it existed, and a picture of the owner who was killed in the raid along with some of the guests. Kind of spooky to be standing in a spot where so much violence occurred just over 100 years ago.

We drove up and down the streets of Columbus, many of which are not paved. We found the local elementary school on the outskirts of town, and it actually looks very modern, well-equipped and maintained.

Not far from the school, we found the local cemetery where we got out of the truck and strolled around (Andy has a real interest in cemeteries since he worked in the business when we lived in Phoenix).  This one was very interesting in that there is an obvious Hispanic area where the graves are colorfully decorated, some with elaborate structures built around them, and names like Gomez and Hernandez on the markers. Another section is obviously Anglo with simple, unadorned grave markers with Anglo names. There is also a separate section specifically for veterans with a US flag flying overhead. The cemetery appears to be undergoing an expansion with lots of new trees being planted and irrigation systems being installed.

Columbus has a few small restaurants but we haven’t tried any of them. They also have a small library/computer center that has kick-butt fast wi-fi, but you have to be seated in the right place to get a good signal. The library appears to function as the local hangout for a lot of folks in town, as we found on our last visit. In addition to supplying a few books and some wi-fi, they also have a lot of wired computer terminals that anyone can come in and use. Great service for this small, relatively poor community.

Front room of the local library / computer center.

On Monday Andy and I walked back across the border into Palomas to re-visit the bakery. This time we did a little more exploring on the main drag, checking out some of the local shops where they sell mostly shoes, belts and clothing items. We visited a local grocery store where we saw a lot of American items labeled in Spanish. There was a meat counter that was very busy, but only a small produce section.

We picked up a big bag of freshly-baked pastries for only $3.80. Next we stopped at a Del Rio convenience store and picked up a bottle of Cabernet from Chile for $5.50 (it was actually very good!).

Our latest pastry haul

Yesterday (Tuesday) I cooked a pot of spaghetti in the Instant Pot and we invited Gary (our next-door neighbor) to come over for dinner. He brought a cucumber salad along with his guitar, so after dinner we spent a fun couple of hours doing a sing-along. It was so much fun that Molly even came out of hiding to sit on the bed and listen.

Here are some other interesting things we’ve seen here in the campground and in Columbus:

  • There’s a family that appears to be living in an old school bus in the desert outside the campground. Every few days one of them brings some empty jugs, climbs over the fence, and gets water from a spigot in the campground. He’s always accompanied by his dog which has a limp. Sometimes the whole family comes with him to use the showers. Pretty sure the park rangers know about it since it’s a regular occurrence. The guy is nice, always says hello. Hope they’re staying warm out there.
  • A couple of nights ago around midnight, we saw the rangers come through the campground with bright flashlights, obviously looking for something. The next day they stopped by the RV to check on us, and said that someone’s First Alert alarm had been activated during the night and they were trying to find out who it was. They never found them during the night.
  • There is a small intentional-living community called City of the Sun on the outskirts of Columbus. It’s a private community with a population of 31 at the last census. Here’s a link to information about them.
  • Someone built a shrine to the Perfect Man some years ago. It’s been abandoned for years. I’m sure there’s a lesson here.

Shrine to the Perfect Man in Columbus NM

We still have four nights left here in this park before we leave on Sunday, so we’re going to try to see a few more things in the area, including one more trip to the Pink Store in Palomas for lunch and a visit to another local museum.

If all goes according to plan, we will be boondocking a lot more in the next few months. We’re discussing the possibility of getting a couple of solar panels and a Kodiak portable charger–we’ll see how that goes. We do have a generator onboard that can power our air conditioner and microwave, but it would be nice to have a quieter source of power when all we need to do is charge our electronic devices.

So, everything is well with us. We’re getting plenty of sunshine and exercise, eating healthy food (well, except for those pastries!), drinking plenty of filtered water, reading, singing, enjoying time with new friends, sleeping well, exploring, taking care of chores…..

Just living and loving life!

If you enjoy reading these updates, please let me know in the comments, and feel free to subscribe to see what we’re up to next. You can also follow us on Instagram at Instagram.com/JustCallUsNomads for updates between the blog posts.

Hope you’re following your dreams and living the life you always wanted! If not, what are you waiting for??

 

Thanksgiving With Gary and His Guitars

We hope all of you had a happy and healthy Thanksgiving Day, wherever you are!

We spent our Thanksgiving parked at Pancho Villa State Park in Columbus, New Mexico, where we’ve been since this past Sunday. It was a cool, overcast day outside, but we managed to have a blast anyway!

For breakfast, we had some of the pastries that we picked up in the Mexican bakery on Monday. They were thick slices of their homemade bread, slathered in butter and sprinkled with sugar. I toasted them in the oven and they were amazing! I told Andy about how my brothers and I used to eat butter and sugar sandwiches when we were little kids–this reminded me of those days!

We invited our next-door neighbor here in the park, Gary Piazza, to have Thanksgiving dinner with us. Gary is a fellow nomad and has only been on the road for about six weeks, having traveled from Florida. He is a professional musician and plays several stringed instruments including the lute and guitar. We hit it off when we heard him practicing on his lute outside his RV when we first arrived–he plays beautifully, and also sings very well.

And as it turns out, he also doesn’t eat meat, so we invited him to share our Thanksgiving dinner of seitan pot roast with potatoes and carrots, along with green pean. Gary brought his homemade stewed cinnamon apples, as well as a Patti Labelle sweet potato pie. We shared a bottle of Apothic Inferno wine with dinner, around two o’clock in the afternoon.

Gary also brought over his lute and two different guitars, and then entertained us for several hours playing everything from renaissance classical music on the lute to Delta blues on the dobro guitar. He was kind enough to let me record a couple of his songs, so here’s the video that I put together for you:

This was truly a memorable Thanksgiving, not only because it’s our first holiday on the road, but because we made a new friend who shared his holiday with us in such a unique and inspiring way.

Andy and I both contacted our families by phone during the day. It was somewhat bittersweet to not be able to spend Thanksgiving with my parents for our yearly feast at the Summit Thanksgiving buffet in Tupelo–we certainly did miss that bread pudding that we look forward to every year, and we missed being with family. Chasing a dream means making compromises and sacrifices, especially when you first start out on the road. But I’m hoping that we’ll get to spend some time back in North Mississippi next year when the holidays roll around.

Today is Black Friday, and we haven’t shopped anywhere, we haven’t spent any money, and we’ve enjoyed the quiet and peacefulness of an almost-empty campground. Tomorrow we have to get groceries, do laundry, and take care of the little ordinary chores that all of us have to do. We’re already planning another trip back across the border–Andy really wants to return to that bakery for some more treats, and we’ll probably have lunch over there again. Better than eating the romaine here in the US, right?? 🙂

Be sure to follow us on Instagram at Instagram.com/JustCallUsNomads to stay up to date on our comings and goings between blog posts.

Happy Holidays, everyone!!

Lunch in Mexico and Learning About Pancho Villa

We’ve spent three nights here in Pancho Villa State Park so far, and it’s already moved to the top of our list of favorite places to hang out. There is just so much history, culture and character here, and it’s going to take us awhile to fully experience it.

We got settled into our campsite on Sunday, and then on Monday morning we walked over to the office/museum to talk to the ranger or camp host about finding a local source for propane. We met Terri, one of the camp hosts, and she was a wealth of information, pointing us to Columbus Gas for propane and also answering our questions about crossing the border to Mexico. Then, to top it off, she gave us a card good for a free round of drinks at the Pink Store in Palomas. Score!!

So we unhooked Lizzy and Andy drove her to Columbus Gas to get propane–the tank was almost empty so she took 12 gallons, just over $31. This is the first propane we’ve had to buy since we’ve been on the road, but we’re using more now since we’re running the furnace a little bit each day with the colder temperatures.

After getting Lizzy hooked back up we decided to cross the border into Palomas for lunch at the Pink Store. The border crossing is just three miles from the campground, and it’s currently a big construction zone as both the US and the Mexican facilities are being upgraded. We found the parking lot in front of the Duty Free store, and from there it was a short walk right through the middle of the construction zone to cross the border into Mexico, and then a couple blocks further to get to the Pink Store.

Border crossing into Mexico at Palomas

The Pink Store is actually a restaurant and a series of shops that sell all sorts of things from souvenirs and trinkets to furniture and artwork. The name of the restaurant is Tacos Hacienda Palomas, but everyone just refers to it as the Pink Store.

Andy outside one of the shops at the Pink Store

The restaurant was very colorful and lively, with a three-piece mariachi band that took requests (and tips). The bass player also performed some solo songs on the keyboard. They had some beautiful harmonies and were accomplished instrumentalists as well. Here’s a short clip of the song they sang at our table:

We each ordered margaritas, and we had a cheese quesadilla for an appetizer. For entrees, Andy had the cheese enchiladas, and I had the chicken tacos (first time I’ve had chicken in over five years, and it will probably be at least that long before I have it again.) For dessert, we split a slice of flan. All the food was very good–not the best we’ve ever had but the unique experience of being so close to the border made it memorable. And of course, there were a lot of other gringos from the USA doing the same thing we were doing.

After finishing lunch we then walked a couple of blocks west to  Panaderia La Favorita, a local bakery. We were blown away by the variety of freshly baked pastries and breads they had for sale, and enjoyed talking to the owner about his recipes. We walked away with five large pastries for the grand sum of $1.80.

Just a few of the pastries available for sale

Monday night we spent several hours hanging out at our next-door neighbor’s campfire. We met Gary when we first arrived in camp when we heard him playing his lute (similar to a guitar) and singing. Turns out he’s a retired dean of music from Florida School of the Arts, and he’s a very accomplished musician. After having a heart attack, he decided not to waste any more time waiting to “retire”, so he bought a cargo trailer and built it out as a camper/toy hauler. He pulls it behind his pickup truck, and it contains his living space as well as his motorcycle. We had some wonderful conversation around the campfire, and he’s going to join us for Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday since he’s also a vegetarian!

Yesterday (Tuesday) we both took long walks to get some exercise, then Andy prepared one of his famous gigantic chopped salads. Of course, we didn’t find out about the big e coli scare with romaine until after we had already eaten lunch. So if we wind up at the local urgent care facility in the next few days, we’ll know why.

After lunch we spent a couple of hours touring the museum here in the state park. Of course, we had heard of Pancho Villa and knew that the US military had tried to track him down, but we didn’t know the details. We learned that on March 9, 1916 Villa’s forces launched an early morning raid into the town of Columbus and the adjoining Camp Furlong (where the park is currently located). Several townspeople and soldiers were killed, along with some of Villa’s men, and part of the town was burned.

Vehicle with bullet holes, driven by family trying to escape from Villa’s raid

The result of the raid was that General Pershing put together a punitive response force to track down Villa. About 10,000 troops were brought into the area and went south into Mexico in an unsuccessful attempt to bring Villa to justice. Interestingly, this was the first time that motorized vehicles were used to replace horses for the military, and the first military airfield was established here to launch reconnaissance flights over Mexico.

One reason I’m so interested in this story comes from my childhood. We grew up living next door to Mr. Clyde and Mrs. Lela Green on Dry Creek in north Mississippi. Mr. Clyde was quite a character and had a lot of tales to tell, but he always talked about how he had ridden into Mexico to chase Pancho Villa as a young man. One of the park museum exhibits is a collection of different state medals from the men who served here, and there is a Mississippi Magnolia medal in the collection. There is another museum here in town that we are told has rosters with names of some of the soldiers who were stationed here for the expedition, and we’re going to see if we can find Mr. Clyde’s name on any of the lists. Wouldn’t that be cool if we could!

Last night the sunset was especially beautiful, so I got my “real” camera out of the bag, set it up on the tripod, and shot a bunch of bracketed photos to put together into HDR images. Hadn’t done that in awhile, so it was fun to sharpen up some rusty skills.

HDR image from last night’s sunset. No photo can do it justice.

Today we are hanging out in the Columbus Village Library, using the wi-fi and getting our devices updated. A couple of the locals stopped by our table to greet us, offer us coffee and tea, and give us the scoop on the local area. Everyone here is so friendly and knowledgeable, we can’t help but be drawn in to the folklore and tradition that just oozes from this place.

Tomorrow, of course, is Thanksgiving, and I’ll be preparing my “beefy” seitan pot roast with potatoes, carrots and onions, which we’ll be sharing with Gary. And if for some reason, the meal doesn’t work out, a local cafe is having a Thanksgiving buffet for $12 and it sounds like most of the people in the campground are probably planning to eat there, from the conversation we’ve overheard here in the library.

So that’s what’s going on with us at the moment. We’re still loving New Mexico, and the weather is still moderate enough that we don’t feel any great impulse to move to Arizona yet. That time will come, but for now we’re very happy where we are.

We hope you all have a happy, healthy Thanksgiving and holiday season!

Be sure to follow us on Instagram at Instagram.com/JustCallUsNomads as well to keep up with us between blog posts.

 

 

Moving Day – Change of Plans

As we told you in our last post, yesterday (Sunday) was moving day because we had hit our 14-day limit at Leasburg Dam State Park in Radium Springs, NM. We had prepped the RV for boondocking, with plans to start heading west toward Arizona.

Well, the great thing about this lifestyle is that you can change plans on a dime, and do something completely different. The weather forecast here in New Mexico was calling for warmer temperatures over the next week or two, and it seemed a shame to leave just when the weather was going to be so perfect. And we also want to get as much value out of our annual camping pass as we possibly can.

We checked the website for New Mexico State Parks, looking for one with good weather that was between us and Arizona, and we found Pancho Villa State Park, right on the US/Mexico border in Columbus, NM. I checked the reservation website and there were no campsites available to reserve, but NM State Parks always set aside at least half their campsites as first come first serve, so we decided to take a chance on it. Since it was Sunday, we knew a lot of weekend campers would be pulling out, but the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday was a wildcard that could bring more vacationers into the campgrounds.

We left Leasburg Dam SP about 12:30 PM after dumping the tanks. Our propane meter was showing that we were down to about 1/3 full, so we planned to drive north first to go through Hatch to get propane. Unfortunately, since it was Sunday, the propane place was closed. We thought we might find another place to fill up on the way, but we never did.

NOTE TO SELF: Fill up the propane tanks on a weekday.

Anyway, we drove south through Deming, NM, down to Columbus to the Pancho Villa State Park, arriving about 2:45 PM and found plenty of campsites available. We picked site #39 that’s on the south side of the campground on the outermost loop, so there’s no one on the back side of our campsite. Our dinette window faces west so we can watch the sunset over the desert mountains. The site has water and electricity (no sewer), and with our annual pass it’s $4/night. There is a dump station nearby in the park that we can use every 4-5 days as needed. Their bathroom and shower facilities are very nice and clean, and the park looks well-maintained. We have decent Verizon service, fluctuating between 2 and 3 bars of LTE.

Our new home – Site #39 at Pancho Villa State Park

After getting set up, we walked around the campground to get familiar with our surroundings. This park is located on the site of Camp Furlong, an old army site used during the pursuit of Pancho Villa in the early 1900’s. There’s a museum here in the park that we will explore while we’re here.

Brief overview of the park’s history

Also, the park is located about 3 miles from the US/Mexico border, and there’s a border crossing where you can walk across into the Mexican town of Puerto Palomas. We’ll definitely be crossing the border while we’re here to enjoy lunch and margaritas at the Pink Store!

I just can’t describe how happy we both are with this lifestyle so far. It’s so freeing to be able to just unhook your electric plug and your water hose and then drive a few miles to a new place to live for awhile. Every time we change locations, there’s something new to see and new people to meet (Hi, Richard!!). We’re able to dive into the history of our country, and challenge our preconceptions and prejudices by actually exploring places for ourselves. Additionally, I’m learning to be less attached to plans and schedules, and more relaxed about living in the moment.

Standing at the top of Cootes Hill in Pancho Villa SP

We just completed our 12th week living fulltime in Lizzy, after selling our house and almost everything we owned.

Regrets?

None!

So, we paid for two nights when we got here yesterday, just to give ourselves time to make sure this is where we wanted to stay for awhile. But as of this morning, it looks like we’ll be here for the full 14 days before we move on. There’s so much to explore in this area, so we have no chance of being bored.

We love New Mexico!!

Safe travels, everyone! And remember, if you have questions about our fulltime lifestyle or places we’re visiting, be sure to put them in the comments, and we’ll answer them in a future blog post!

BONUS

We’ve gotten questions from some readers, asking what we eat on the road. I’ve added a new page to the blog called “What We Eat“. It talks about our plant-based diet and gives you an idea of how we handle food prep and eating healthy on the road. You can find the link in the blog menu, and I’ll be updating that page as we find new recipes or food ideas on the road. Enjoy!

Exploring Las Cruces & Moving On

Our time in New Mexico is rapidly drawing to a close, and as much as I love Arizona, I have to say that New Mexico has stolen my heart. We will definitely be back when the weather warms up, especially since we have the annual pass to the state parks. But for now, it’s time to move on to lower elevations and warmer nights. We will spend one more night here in Leasburg Dam State Park before pulling out tomorrow, probably just after noon. We’ve met some wonderful people here, and we will be sad to leave!

We did some exploring in the Las Cruces area on Wednesday. Instead of taking I-25 from the park, we decided to travel the back roads, driving south on Doña Ana road which runs parallel to the interstate. This road took us by the cotton fields and pecan orchards which are so prevalent along the Rio Grande river in this area, and gave us a much closer view of everyday rural life in this area.

Cotton ready for harvest

St. Mary’s at Hill Anglican Church, founded in 1920

When we got into Las Cruces we first went to the local art-and-farmers market, which is held every Wednesday and Saturday on the Plaza. According to TripAdvisor.com, there are more than 300 vendors at the market. However, when we got there we found out that the really big crowds are there on Saturdays, and only a select few vendors come in on Wednesdays. We still enjoyed browsing the booths, talking to the vendors, and snacking on some delicious street tacos featuring those world-famous Hatch chilies.

Vendors on the plaza at the Wednesday market

Beautiful design of inlaid stone, with the Christmas tree in the background

Chile Ristras for sale at the market

Jake the Snake tacos from the Luchador food truck – amazing!

The next stop on our tour was the historic town of Mesilla, which has been swallowed up and surrounded by Las Cruces but still retains much of the original architecture and character from its origins. Mesilla’s history is tied to Billy the Kid, much as Tupelo’s history is tied to Elvis. In fact, the building that once housed the Doña Ana County Courthouse where Billy was tried and sentenced to hang is still standing. Unfortunately, instead of preserving its original interior, it is now a pretty tacky trinket shop, even though it’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The old Doña Ana Courthouse where Billy the Kid was sentence to hang

The town is arranged around a central plaza which is surrounded by shops, restaurants, and the Basilica of San Albino, a beautiful Catholic church which was established in 1851 by order of the Mexican government. The present building was constructed in 1906, replacing the original adobe structure.

Basilica of San Albino on the Plaza in Mesilla NM

El Patio Cantina, operated continuously since 1932. although the adobe walls date back to at least 1858.

We ate lunch at one of the best Mexican restaurants in the Southwest, La Posta de Mesilla, located just off the Plaza in another original historic adobe building. Actually the restaurant started in one small adobe building, but as its popularity and customer base grew, the owners bought the adjoining adobe buildings, knocked out the walls, and now it’s a huge place with multiple rooms, each decorated differently. They already had their Christmas decorations up in all the rooms, so it was even more colorful. I had the Chile-Rita and Andy had a mango margarita. I ordered the sour cream enchiladas (served pancake style topped with a fried egg), and Andy had a combination plate that featured a chile relleno. The food was absolutely delicious, but it was way more than I could eat. We highly recommend this place if you’re ever in Las Cruces!

One of the entrances to La Posta de Mesilla Restaurant and Cantina

Sour cream enchiladas and the Chile-Rita

We were too full to order dessert, but that didn’t stop us from each purchasing a chocolate treat from the Chocolate Lady shop just down the street as we continued our tour. We also spent quite a bit of time in a shop called Silver Assets, where Andy found a kindred soul to discuss turquoise and silver jewelry-making for almost an hour.

We definitely recommend spending some time in Mesilla if you’re ever in the Las Cruces area. We’ll be back for sure!

Yesterday (Friday) was a day for chores. We dumped the tanks in the morning, and then I spent about an hour giving the rig a thorough cleaning inside. I love having such a small home–takes no time at all to finish my housework! Today we’ll be going back into Las Cruces to stock up on groceries and drinking water and get gas for the truck.

Last night we sat down with the laptop and our Arizona atlas and started planning where we want to head next. Our goal is to keep our expenses as low as possible, within reason, so we’re going to be doing a lot more boondocking or dry-camping, which means no hookups. Unfortunately Arizona doesn’t have the same awesome deal on their state park annual passes that New Mexico has, but they do have a lot more public land for boondocking.

We don’t want to travel more than two or three hours at a time, so our first stop will actually still be in New Mexico in a town called Lordsburg. They have free camping at their Veterans Park, so we’ll overnight there on Sunday night. On Monday we plan to head to some BLM land north of Tucson near Eloy. There’s a 14-day limit on BLM land, but I doubt we’ll stay the entire 14 days in that location. We’ll still need to dump our tanks every 4-5 days which means we’ll have to move the RV anyway. If we really like our campsite, we can return to it for up to 14 days, but if not we’ll just move on.

We’ve also scouted out some sites where we can stay in the Phoenix/Glendale area. We’re looking forward to visiting some of our old haunts and seeing some old friends while we’re passing through.

What about the holidays?

We’ll most likely be spending Thanksgiving parked in the desert on BLM land. We have a delicious meal planned, and will be giving thanks for the lifestyle that we are able to enjoy. Not sure at this point where we’ll be for Christmas, but wherever it is, we’ll be celebrating!

So be sure to subscribe to the blog to stay up to date on our travels. You can also find us on Instagram at Instagram.com/JustCallUsNomads to see what we’re up to between blog posts.

Safe travels, everyone!

Our First Sub-Freezing Night In Our RV

Baby, it’s cold outside!

Low this morning was 22.5° outside while it was 69.2° inside!

The cold arctic blast that is sweeping through the country made its way into south-central New Mexico yesterday (Monday), as forecasted. We made a trip into Las Cruces after lunch yesterday to pick up some groceries. When we left the campground, it was sunny to partly cloudy and in the mid-50’s. It was about 70° inside the RV just from the sunshine coming  in through the windows. But as we made the 20-minute drive south to Las Cruces, we could see dark clouds and precipitation over the mountaintops.

We stopped first at Sam’s Club, where we encountered a cold wind when we stepped out of the truck. Next, we went to Walmart and while we were checking out, Andy overheard someone talking about it snowing outside. When we went back to the truck, I did actually see one single snowflake fall, but it was definitely cold, cloudy and windy. We made a final stop at Sprouts, and then headed back to the campground.

When we got back in the RV, we found the temperature had dropped to 55° inside. Maggie had burrowed down under the comforter on the bed, and Molly was curled up in her fabric-and-foam “hidey-hole”. We turned on the electric heater to warm things up, put away the groceries and set about preparing the RV for the cold night ahead.

The arctic express on radar this morning. The blue dot is where we are.

The forecast was calling for a hard freeze with a low temperature around 23°. We had already dumped the black and grey tanks before we went to town, and Andy had also filled up our fresh water tank which holds 50 gallons. So to complete our preparations for the cold night ahead, we took the following steps:

  • Unhooked our water hose from the spigot at the site and drained it.
  • Turned on the water pump so we would use water directly from our fresh water tank.
  • Turned on the tank heaters for the black and grey tanks to keep them from freezing (these are small heating pads that are attached to the bottom of the tanks). The fresh water tank is actually under one of the dinette seats so it’s pretty safe from freezing.
  • Closed the privacy curtain to the attic space over the cab to avoid heating it.
  • Hung Andy’s t-shirt quilt over the opening to the cab area to keep the cold air out. Also placed our laundry bag and throw pillows on the floor where the blanket didn’t quite reach to block more cold air.
  • Left some of the cabinets and drawers slightly open to allow warm air to reach the plumbing lines.
  • Ran our small electric heater near the front of the RV.
  • Ran the onboard propane furnace, setting the thermostat to keep it between 60° and 65°.
  • I wore a pair of light flannel pajamas instead of my usual tank top, and we had plenty of blankets on the bed.

Using blankets, curtains, pillows and dirty laundry to keep out cold air

The only area that we need to work on in the future is the entry door. A lot of cold air gets in here around that door, so we need to come up with a way to hang a blanket or something over the door when we need it.

This morning when I got up about 5:45 AM, it was 23.9° outside and 62.7° inside the RV–perfect!! I cranked up the furnace a little higher, and over the next hour, the temperature outside continued to fall another degree or so, while the RV got pretty toasty, getting up to 74° before the furnace cycled off. The thermostat isn’t digital, it’s one of those old-school types with the sliding lever that goes from “cooler” to “warmer” and you have to just guess where to put it. I think we pretty much have it figured out now.

So we had plenty of heat, plenty of water, and we’re all snug and safe this morning!

As I mentioned in our last post, we didn’t move to warmer weather because we were waiting for Andy’s prescription to arrive in the mail. The tracking information on the USPS website said that it was due to arrive here in Radium Springs today (Tuesday), so we pre-paid our campsite through tonight. However, our mail actually arrived on Saturday, so technically we could have already been gone if we had chosen to move on. Since we’re only paying $4/night for this campsite, we wouldn’t have forfeited that much money. But since we’re allowed to stay here a total of 14 nights, and the forecast is for warmer temperatures later this week, we decided to stick it out and test out the cold-weather systems on the rig. We had never used the tank warmers and had not used the furnace much at all. It looks like everything passed with flying colors!

The forecast shows two more nights of sub-freezing temperatures with highs in the 50’s before warming to the 60’s on Saturday. The thing about being in the desert–when the temperature is in the 50’s and it’s sunny and there’s no wind, it’s totally comfortable if you’re hiking or sitting in the sun. So we’ll continue to enjoy the beautiful sunny days, and we’ll rely on our RV systems to keep us warm at night.

We’re already making plans for next week, as our 14 days will be up on Sunday.  We’ll be headed west to Arizona for warmer weather, but our plans are to spend a lot of time boondocking or dry-camping, which is something we have limited experience with. So stay tuned to see where we go next! You can also follow us on Instagram at Instagram.com/JustCallUsNomads to keep up with us between blog posts.

Happy travels!!

Winter Is Coming So Why Aren’t We Moving?

So far our return visit to Leasburg Dam State Park has been nice. The afternoon temperatures have been in the low-to-mid 70s with clear blue skies and very low humidity. It gets pretty windy starting about lunchtime and stays that way until a couple of hours after sundown, but there’s not a lot of dust blowing around, so it’s okay.

I go hiking every day on the trails here in the park which lead down to the Rio Grande river and then to an overlook near the Leasburg Dam. Since we were here last month, a flock of ducks has moved in on the river, presumably on their migration route. We’ve also seen rabbits and roadrunners in our campsite.

On Wednesday we drove into Las Cruces to do some grocery shopping. We ate lunch at Chipotle, then we hit Walmart and Sprouts. While at Walmart we picked up a small runner rug for the RV to help insulate the floor a little bit on those cold mornings (keep reading to find out why!). After we finished shopping, we stopped at Starbucks to treat ourselves to some coffee and some wi-fi.

Wednesday night we finally had a campfire after more than two months on the road. We had bought a bag of marshmallows weeks ago and it had been taking up space in our pantry bin, so I was glad to finally get to open it. We like campfires but neither of us like the smell that gets into our clothes from the smoke. We had to close all the windows on the RV because the smoke was being drawn inside the rig. But it was still a nice touch of “atmosphere” for the campsite.

Our first campfire marshmallows since hitting the road

While we enjoyed the campfire, I set up my GoPro on a tripod in a nearby empty campsite and programmed it to record a timelapse of the stars. I’m still learning how to do timelapses with this camera, especially the night lapses of the stars. I attached a power stick to the camera so the battery would last longer. I started shooting at 6:45 PM, and when I went to retrieve the camera at about 12:30 AM, there was about 7% battery remaining. If you know anything about shooting timelapse at night, you’ll understand when I say that 5 hours and 45 minutes of shooting yielded a video that lasts just over 21 seconds. It didn’t turn out quite as well as I hoped it would but it’s okay. Here’s a look at the raw, unedited version–you have to watch it in full screen view on a larger screen to really see the stars.

Yesterday (Thursday) we drove to Hatch to pick up our mail which had been forwarded from our mail service in Livingston, Texas. Since Hatch is the chili capital of the world, we just had to make a quick stop at one of the local chili roasters to check out their wares. We got a jar of homemade salsa, and jar of pickled peppers, and a small bag of dried mango coated with chili spice (not made locally). We enjoyed chatting with the local folks while we were there–well worth the stop!

Checking out the goods at Hot Damn Chile in Hatch, NM

So life is pretty normal, just enjoying the sunshine and the surroundings.

But things are about to change.

Our plan has always been to follow the weather, chasing 70° as they say. But sometimes life throws you a curveball.

Andy has a several prescriptions that he takes, one of which he orders through Humana’s mail order service so he can get a 90-day supply at a time. When it came time to reorder, he went to their website and clicked on the button that said something like “one-click order”. He said he thought it would take him to a form he could fill out to give them an address–guess he’s not familiar with “one-click” ordering. And unfortunately, he had never given them our new Livingston address.

So as soon as he placed the order, he got confirmation that the prescription would be shipped, but it was going to our old address in Tupelo.

That wasn’t good.

He called Humana to see if he could get the address changed for the shipment. Well, of course that led to a two-hour conversation. Since the new address is in Texas, that means he’s in a different plan market, so they had to set him up on a new Medicare Part D plan. The monthly premium didn’t change, it just took a lot of time on the phone. At the end of the conversation, he asked them if they could change the address on the outgoing shipment, and they assured him that they would.

Yeah……right.

The shipment went to Tupelo first, and then it was forwarded to our address in Livingston. That took over a week. Once it got to Livingston, we had to put in a request to have it forwarded to the local post office here in Radium Springs, NM, general delivery. It was mailed out on Wednesday, and is expected to arrive here in Radium Springs sometime next Tuesday.

Fortunately he has plenty of medication to last until the new shipment arrives. But it does present us with a chilly dilemma.

Weather forecast is chilly!

There’s a cold front moving this way and the temperatures are going to drop significantly over the weekend. Nighttime temperatures will be well below freezing on Monday and Tuesday. Under normal circumstances, we would be pulling up stakes today and moving toward Arizona, but we need to stick around here and wait for Andy’s prescription to arrive.

We’ve never camped in the RV in temperatures below freezing, but we’re making preparations. The rig does have an onboard propane furnace. Since we’re hooked up to electricity here, we’ll also be using our electric heater. Yesterday, we unpacked some of our winter clothes from the storage bins in the Tacoma, and we’ve got plenty of blankets in the rig.

At night, we’ll unhook the water hose from the outside faucet and drain it so it doesn’t freeze and burst. We’ll use our onboard water tank instead. The rig also has tank heaters that should keep the black and gray tanks from freezing up overnight.

We’ll also see about hanging an extra blanket from the over-cab storage platform to block off the cab portion of the RV since a lot of cold air comes in that way.

Ironically, the temperatures are supposed to go back up into the 60’s once we get past Tuesday, so if we don’t freeze to death over the weekend, we may wind up staying here for the full two weeks, through the following Saturday night. The price is right ($4/night) and we save fuel by not moving, but that savings can be wiped out if we’re using a lot of propane to run the furnace.

We shall see!

Anyway, life is good! We’re happy, healthy and enjoying every day to the fullest!

Goodbye to the Best Campsite Ever (So Far)

Yesterday was moving day. We had stayed at Elephant Butte Lake State Park for 14 nights, which is the limit here in New Mexico. After 14 nights you have to leave the park for at least 6 nights before you can return for overnight camping.

We can understand why they have the 14 day limit, because if they didn’t, we would have stayed there indefinitely. There were so many things we loved about it:

Sunrise at Elephant Butte Lake SP from Site #79 at Lions Beach

  • We had the best campsite in the park. Not just our opinion, we were told that by multiple people who were hoping to snag the spot before we beat them to it. Site #79 in the Lions Beach campground is first come first serve and sits at the end of the loop on a bluff so there’s no one on your left side, giving you an unobstructed view of the lake. There’s a ramada with a picnic table as well as a fire ring.
  • The sunrises and sunsets were epic, especially since we had such an open vista to the east. Almost every morning I had to step outside in my PJs and slippers to gawk at the sky.
  • We had a covey of quail that came by to visit several times a day. There were cottontails and jackrabbits living in the bushes around us. We saw roadrunners and squirrels in the campground. The wildlife was so much fun to watch.
  • There was plenty of space to walk and hike, including both marked trails through the high desert as well as the beach and dry lake bed. The lake (actually a reservoir) is currently very low so there is a lot of exposed lake bed with other-worldly rock formations that makes very interesting hiking and photography opportunities.
  • The bathroom and shower facilities were a little dated, but they kept them clean and serviced. The water in the showers was always plenty warm, and on cold mornings they had the heat running in the buildings which made showering much more pleasant. They also have vault toilets scattered throughout the park, and by using those occasionally we were able to go longer between trips to the dump station to empty our black tank.
  • The nearby town of Truth or Consequences is convenient for grocery and supply shopping, and also has some interesting and quirky places to visit. The Walmart isn’t huge but it had just about everything we needed, and it also has covered parking with solar panels on the roof. McDonald’s is right across the street from Walmart, and they have super-fast wi-fi. We referred to it as an “adult” McDonald’s because there’s no PlayPlace, no garish colors, and we rarely saw a child in there. We enjoyed a visit to the Geronimo Springs Museum, followed by lunch at the Passion Pie Cafe, both in historic downtown T or C.
  • Although we were in a developed campsite, this park has an abundance of area for dispersed camping. We saw everything from tents to big Class A motorhomes parked off-road in desert clearings, on the beach or on the dry lake bed. Even without hookups, their campsites were awesome and made us want to try some boondocking for a few days.

Hiking over terrain that is normally under water

Just a word of caution if you’re ever considering staying here–the campsites in the Quail Run and Desert Cove loops are not very level, and some of them are on such a slant that they’re almost impossible to use. We had to cancel our original reservation in Quail Run for that reason. Stick to Lions Beach and you’ll be fine.

So to put it succinctly, we LOVED our stay at Elephant Butte Lake and were sad to leave. As we were breaking camp yesterday, a couple from Quebec, Canada stopped by to visit. They were so nice and interesting to talk to. And yes, they left their folding chairs in the campsite to stake their claim so that they could move their RV in there as soon as we pulled out. 🙂

We had to make a decision about where to go next. The weather forecast for this part of New Mexico is still showing mild temperatures for the next two weeks with highs in the 70’s this week and in the 60’s next week, and still nothing below freezing at night. So we decided to squeeze out even more value from our annual pass and stay in another state park.

We decided to go back south toward Las Cruces where it’s slightly lower in elevation and therefore slightly warmer. We considered Caballo Lake SP or returning to Percha Dam SP, but in the end decided to pay a return visit to Leasburg Dam SP in Radium Springs where we stayed in early October. I checked online and there were no sites available for reservation, so we decided to take a chance on getting a first come first serve site, preferably with electricity.

So yesterday we left Elephant Butte around 1:30 and made the 90-minute drive to Leasburg Dam after dumping the tanks and stopping for gas. And we must be living right because after entering the park, we found a beautiful spot with electricity within sight of the spot where we parked in October. It’s perfectly level, has a ramada with picnic table and fire ring, and is nice and quiet. We were set up by 4:00 PM and ready to enjoy the evening.

Setting up in site #11 at Leasburg Dam SP

You might ask, “What if there had not been a site available?”. We were prepared to turn around and go back north to Caballo Lake or Percha Dam where they have more capacity. We could have even spent the night boondocking at a rest stop on the side of I-25. But in our admittedly limited experience with the New Mexico state parks, we’re finding that there are always people checking out of their campsites on a daily basis, especially after the weekend is over. So there’s usually availability after 2:00 PM, even if it might not be the most desirable site in the park.

We paid for five nights here in Leasburg, and unless the weather takes a bad turn, we will probably extend our stay to the 14-day limit. This allows us to save money on camping fees since we’re only paying $4/night, but just as importantly, it saves us money on gas since we won’t be moving the rig so much.

It’s also nice to be closer to Las Cruces for awhile where the shopping is better. We need to make a run to Sprouts to pick up some bulk items like raw cashews and red lentils. Also, Andy is having a craving for Chipotle, so we’ll have lunch there one day.

One of the downsides to this lifestyle is, of course, being away from family for an extended length of time. This weekend my parents and all my brothers and their wives got together at Smith Lake, Alabama to enjoy some quality time together at a beautiful “cabin” (really a large, beautifully decorated house). We had planned to be there as well, thinking that our house would take a couple of months to sell, but as you know, it sold within 24 hours of putting it on the market, and we hit the road earlier than anticipated. My youngest brother posted a lot of pictures and videos from the weekend, and I was so happy to see everyone having a great time, especially my aging parents, but I sure did miss getting to be there myself.

It’s one of those trade-offs that you have to make to live this lifestyle.

So our plans for the next day or so include a grocery run to Las Cruces. We also need to drive to Hatch to pick up our mail which was forwarded from our mail service in Livingston, Texas over the weekend. I plan to do a lot of hiking around here, and we’ll also do some sightseeing–there are some old “ghost towns” and historical places that we want to see.

And that’s what’s going on with us right now. Still trying to adjust to the time change, and so are the cats–they still want to be fed on solar time, so for the past two days they’ve made me get up around 5:00. Bad cats!! 🙂

Kitties don’t know SQUAT about time changes. This was 5:15 AM.

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