Pancho Villa State Park, Things Are Getting Crowded, Cabalgata Binacional

Currently located at Pancho Villa State Park in Columbus, New Mexico:

Our little home on site #50D at Pancho Villa SP, before we put out the mat

We just started our second week here at Pancho Villa, and it continues to be one of our favorite places to stay. This campground has 79 developed sites, 75 of them with at least 30 amp electricity. Only 6 of the sites are reservable, the rest are first-come first-serve. Many of them have shelters with picnic tables, and there are plenty of sites that are large enough for the biggest rigs. There are two comfort stations with great showers and flush toilets, and the staff here are diligent about keeping the facilities clean and well-stocked with toilet paper.

This is our fourth time to stay in this park, and we’ve noticed that it’s a lot busier this time around. We thought that the higher occupancy rate might have had something to do with the festival this past weekend (more on that below), but when I talked to the park manager, he said that they have seen a lot more activity than usual since January. He said that they haven’t dipped below 70% occupancy at all this year, which is unusual for this park. It’s even higher on the weekends.

We’ve noticed that same thing in all the New Mexico state parks we’ve visited in the past six months–they’re all getting more full. There’s a 14-day stay limit in the parks, but it’s almost impossible to get a 14-day reservation–at best, you would have to move from one site to another sometime in that 14-day period. For that reason, we like to take our chances and try to get a first-come first-serve site, if we can.

Pancho Villa State Park has never let us down, but with this bigger rig we may have a little more trouble fitting into the first-come first-serve sites that remain open when we arrive. And that has presented us with a conundrum.

Our plan was to move from state park to state park throughout March and most of April until we head to Colorado for our work camping summer job. But we are a little concerned that we might have issues finding a site in the places where we want to stay. There are two other state parks around Deming:

  • Rockhound State Park, south of Deming – We stayed there last November and loved it. We would like to visit there again after we leave Pancho Villa. We drove by there last week and they were totally full with rigs parked in the overflow section (this was mid-afternoon).
  • City of Rocks State Park, about 20 miles northwest of Deming – We drove to this park last week to check it out. It’s absolutely stunning, with campsites tucked away among the huge boulders and other-worldly rock formations that are just randomly scattered in the middle of the high desert. But there are very few of those sites where our rig would fit, even if we could handle backing into the tight spaces. There are a few reservable pull-through sites with electricity, but they are located in a kind of parking lot area, which defeats the whole purpose of going to this park in the first place. Plus, it’s impossible to get a last-minute reservation in this park.

We’re due to leave Pancho Villa SP this Sunday when our 14 days are up. To be on the safe side, we went ahead a reserved a full hook-up site at the Escapees Dreamcatcher RV Park in Deming, using our Escapees discount. We made a reservation for a full month at $225 + electricity. Since there was no deposit required and no cancellation penalty, we decided that when we leave here on Sunday we will stop by Rockhound SP to see if anything has opened up (lots of people pull out on Sunday mornings). If there’s a first-come first-serve site available that we can fit on, we’ll grab it and cancel our reservation. And if not, we’ll go ahead to Dreamcatcher and spend the month with full hookups in Deming. While we’ll miss the beauty of the landscape and the large sites in the state park, we’ll save a bit on fuel since we’ll be located close to shopping, and we won’t have to move the rig every week to dump the tanks since we would have a sewer connection.

Always pluses and minuses to weigh.

Assuming we do wind up at Dreamcatcher through April 15, that will leave us with just over two weeks to meander around New Mexico before we go to Colorado. The plan is to head to Storrie Lake State Park in Las Vegas, New Mexico, where we can dry camp on the side of the lake for free. It’s another place we’ve camped before and really like, so we’re looking forward to a return visit.

Life is good in the Borderland.

It’s hard to believe that we’ve been here over a week and haven’t yet gone down to Palomas (across the border). We had bought a lot of fresh produce the day after we arrived here, so we needed to get it eaten before it went to waste. And then on Saturday, there was the annual festival here in Columbus that we attended, where Mexico came to us.

Each year the village of Columbus, in coordination with Pancho Villa State Park and the city of Palomas, Mexico, commemorate the events of March 9, 1916 when Pancho Villa and over 400 of his men conducted a raid on Columbus and the nearby army post where the state park is now located. The festival is not at all a celebration of the raid, in which 15 civilians died, along with about 10 American soldiers. Rather, it is a symbol of the solidarity, friendship and unity that exists now between the people of Columbus and their neighbors to the South.

The festivities begin with a horseback ride. American riders from all over the area, from as far away as El Paso and Albuquerque, load their horses into trailers and bring them to Columbus, where they then ride them 3 miles down Highway 11 to the US/Mexico border. There they are met by riders from Mexico who have come across the border for the ride. (Before the Mexican riders can participate, their horses must be examined by a veterinarian at the border, and then after the ride is over, the horses are again examined by the same vet to make sure it’s the same horse before it’s allowed to cross back into Mexico. It’s expensive for them, which says a lot for their willingness to participate.)

Once all the riders are congregated at the border, they begin the 3-mile ride to Columbus, under escort by the Luna County Sheriff’s department, the Border Patrol and other law enforcement. When they get to Columbus, they are met by citizens from both countries who have lined the highway to see the parade. The horses and costumes are beautiful, the riders show off their skills, and the kids get most excited by the candy being tossed out the window of the big fancy Pancho Villa truck at the end of the parade.

During the 3-mile parade, all traffic is halted on Highway 11 both north and south-bound, which I’m sure got a lot of people irritated. But, oh well, small town life!

After the parade, everyone walked over to the town Plaza where there were food vendors, arts and crafts, singers, dancers, and pony rides for the kids. There were speeches by the mayors of both Columbus and Palomas, the National Anthems of both countries were played, and everyone had a great time on a beautiful day.

I put together a few clips of the festivities, and posted them here:

In the afternoon, the State Park had presentations by several speakers who shared information about several aspects of the history of the area, the raid itself, and how the U.S. air force had its very beginnings here in Columbus as part of General Pershing’s punitive expedition to track down Pancho Villa and his men.

All in all, it was a wonderful experience and we’re glad we were lucky enough to be in the area to take part in it.

And everyone was lucky that the weather was so beautiful on Saturday, because on Sunday it rained. All. Day. Long. It got so muddy here in the campground that we didn’t even want to walk the short distance over to the showers. So we just stayed in our PJs all day and watched movies and Hulu.

Today the weather is much nicer and the grounds are drying up fairly quickly. We went into Deming this morning, had brunch at Irma’s (YUM!), and then did some grocery shopping at Walmart. Yes, we did buy a few extra rolls of toilet paper, but since we don’t have a lot of space to really hoard stuff, we left a lot on the shelves for the rest of you preppers.

Irma’s potato and egg burrito with that famous New Mexico red sauce, with a side of beans. Can’t beat it!

As for the rest of this week, yes we do plan to make a trip over the border into Palomas, assuming that the border isn’t shut down with all this hysteria in the air right now. There’s a geocache or two in the area that I still want to see if I can find, but other than that, it’s going to be a laid back week. We’ve met some nice people in this park, including a couple from Albuquerque, Larry and Vicki Leahy, who were our very first guests in our rig when they popped over for an afternoon visit. And then, there’s the weird guy who is always walking around the park in his Speedo-sized underwear, sometimes without a shirt, always in flip-flops, no matter the temperature. Not sure what his story is, afraid to ask. 😀

But this is RV life, and we love it!

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Safe travels!!

One thought on “Pancho Villa State Park, Things Are Getting Crowded, Cabalgata Binacional

  1. Pingback: Dental Work in Mexico, We Get Kicked Out of Pancho Villa SP | Just Call Us Nomads

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