Greetings, everyone, from our home on wheels! After seven months, we’re finally back out on the road, even if it is just temporarily. It feels so good to be back in the RV, having a different view outside our windows, living a little closer to nature.
Since our last update, we did become official residents of New Mexico. We got our New Mexico drivers licenses and got both the truck and the fifth wheel registered and titled in NM. If we hadn’t done that, we wouldn’t be camping where we are right now.
Yesterday we left our home base in Deming, New Mexico, and drove about thirty miles south to Pancho Villa State Park in Columbus, which is about three miles north of the US/Mexico border. If you’ve been following us for awhile, you’ll remember that this is where we were staying back in March when the NM governor issued the health order that shut down all the state parks, forcing us to leave with just a few hours notice.
We also have a longer trip, total of about 22 days, planned for November when we will travel to northeast Mississippi to visit my family for Thanksgiving. Our trip to Pancho Villa this week is really a sort of shake-down cruise to help us make sure the rig is in good shape and that we remember what all we need to do when setting up and tearing down.
When we moved out of our rig and into our new home base back in May, we pretty much emptied everything out of Lizzy Too–dishes, utensils, cookware, bed and bath linens–everything needed for everyday living. So when it came time to get back on the road, we had to decide whether to replace those things with new purchases, or just pack up stuff from the house. We ended up doing a little of both. I bought new bedding and silverware for the rig, and new dishes for the house so I could put the non-breakable stuff back in the rig. I had to create an entirely new packing list so I could remember what all we needed to put back in the rig for travel.
The NM state parks were just reopened for overnight camping on October 1, and that’s only for New Mexico residents. They no longer allow first-come first-serve camping, you have to make a reservation using the Reserve America website, which I’ve always considered a rip-off (really, $12 fee just to make a reservation, and another $12 if you change or cancel it???). I’m not sure about the rest of the state parks, but at this one only about a third of the sites are even available, the others are blocked off and inaccessible. That was a disappointing development, since we couldn’t reserve the site where we normally camp on the south end of the park.
So yesterday, we finally got everything loaded up and ready to pull out just after 1:00 PM. We arrived at the park a little after 2:00 PM, only to find the gates locked. There was a large Class A also parked on the side of the road outside the gate. I checked the signage on the gate, and it provided a phone number to call for “late arrivals”, so I dialed it and got a voice machine. I left a message along with my phone number, and then decided to walk into the park to see if I could find anyone to help us get in.
On the way, I stopped to chat with the driver of the Class A. He said they were also waiting for a call back, and that his wife had walked into the park to find the people they were supposed to be camping with. I walked through the gate, checked the office and the maintenance area, and there was not a soul to be found. I went to the park host’s site, and the sign said he/she was “off duty”. I was starting to get a little irritated.
About that time, Andy called from outside the gate and said that the people in the Class A had finally heard back from the park people, and they had received the code to the gate, so he was going to follow them in. Just after I got off the phone with Andy, I got a call from the park manager. He explained that since it was a holiday (Columbus Day/Indigenous Peoples Day) he had let the staff take half a day off after they told him that everyone that was due to arrive had already come in. He himself was off all day, so he wasn’t aware that there were more people due to arrive. He apologized and provided the code to the gate.
He told me that when the park reopened on October 1, they were just leaving the gate open, but that the locals were coming in, cutting doughnuts in the camping area and generally being a nuisance, so that’s why he decided to keep the gate locked.
So we eventually got into the park and found the spot that we had reserved (site #6). It’s a pull-through site, but it’s a curved driveway style that makes it tricky for our very-long truck/rig combo. In order to get the rig parked next to the shade shelter, the truck has be turned at about a 45° angle to make the curve without hitting the rocks that line the driveway. That’s not a great situation because then it’s hard to let down the tailgate to unhitch without it hitting the front of the rig.
Andy did a little maneuvering and was finally able to get the rig and the truck into a straight-enough line for us to unhitch, but that also meant that the rig was further away from the electricity pole and water spigot. Fortunately when we purchased the rig, the former owner (Thank, Pat!!) included a 50-amp extension cord as well as an extra length of drinking water hose, so we were able to reach the electricity/water hookups from the rig.
The electricity hookup was fine, but when Andy hooked up the water we found that our drinking water hose has a leak in the metal fitting (the hose, not the rig). Whenever he turned on the water, we got a little shower inside the bin where the hookups are. Andy was going to drive back to Deming to get a new hose, which wasn’t a very appealing prospect at 4:30 PM when we were hot and tired and ready to be settled.
So we decided to just put some water in the fresh water tank and use the onboard water pump for the first night. Andy has to drive back to Deming today anyway to pick up the new propane fire pit (yay!) that we ordered from Costco that is being delivered today, so he can just pick up the replacement hose while he’s there.
So, by 4:30 PM we were settled in and ready for our first night in the rig since we moved out back in May. We had a cold drink and some appetizers, and then later we cooked some hobo packs on the grill (potatoes, peppers, onions and vegan sausages), while listening to some good tunes from the 70’s, streamed from Spotify to our Bluetooth speaker.
Our two fur-babies, Maggie Mae and Molly Ann, seemed to have no problem readjusting to being in the rig. They remembered exactly where their food and water bowls were supposed to go, and had no problem finding their litter box in its usual place in the shower. They’ve been enjoying sitting by the windows watching the wide variety of bird life here in the park, including a friendly road-runner that has made a couple visits already.
We really expected the park to be more crowded, even if it’s not the weekend. So many people were griping and complaining about not being able to go camping, we figured there would be a pent-up demand that would make it hard to get a reservation. But there are a lot of empty spots available right now. Not sure how crowded it was over the weekend, but it seems like there is plenty of room for social distancing right now.
That said, we’re holding our breath that we don’t get tossed out of here again. In the past few weeks, the COVID case counts here in New Mexico have been rising steadily to record numbers. The current health order expires on Thursday, October 15, so we don’t know if the state officials will decide to once again lock things down. Even though the park is open for camping now, there are still a lot of services that aren’t available–no showers (toilets are still operational), gift shop and museum are closed–so it wouldn’t be much of stretch to simply close the campgrounds to camping once again.
I sure hope that’s not the case. Camping in a self-contained RV is a very easy way to social-distance. We have little-to-no contact with other campers or with park staff. We’re fervently hoping that we get to complete our six-night stay with no disruptions this time.
We still have a valid annual pass for the NM State Parks that is good through the end of November. In one of the recent press releases, it was stated that the passes would be extended because of the park shutdown over the spring/summer, but the last time I talked to the park manager here at Pancho Villa, he said they were still trying to work out the details of how that will happen. We’ll check on that while we’re here.
So that’s where we are this week. I’m back in my happy place! And at the same time, it is certainly comforting to know that if anything goes wrong, we have a home base where we can hunker down again, make any needed repairs or perform maintenance, or just rest up for the next trip.
Life is certainly good, even in these uncertain times!
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Safe travels, or happy hunkering down!!