Pilot Knob LTVA, Solar Power, Geocaching, Los Algodones Mexico, Missing Family

We just spent our twelfth night boondocking here at the Pilot Knob BLM LTVA (that’s Bureau of Land Management Long Term Visitor Area). So far we are really enjoying it, even though we haven’t spent a whole lot of time exploring the area.

The first few days we were here were spent getting our solar system up and running. Andy had to drill a hole in the floor just above the battery compartment in the entry steps so he could run the cables from the battery to the new charge controller which he mounted above the front door. He ran the cables through a length of PVC pipe conduit to make them less obvious. Now he just needs to fasten the conduit to the wall and then seal up the hole, and that project will be complete.

Our new solar charge controller lets us know how our batteries are doing

We are in love with our new solar system! It has drastically reduced the amount of time we need to run the generator–now we only run it when we need to use the microwave or the Instant Pot, or on a rare rainy day like we had on Saturday. Each morning before the sun even rises, the panels start charging a tiny bit as soon as there is light in the sky. Since I’m the early riser in the family, I go outside and turn the panels toward the east, and at about 7:15 AM when the sun finally rises over the nearby mountain, the panels start doing their magic. By watching the numbers on the charge controller, you can literally see the voltage flowing into the batteries as the sun rises. During the day, we turn the panels to the south and then to the west to follow the sun. On most days the batteries are fully charged by about 10:00 AM, and then the panels just keep them topped off until the sun goes down, by which time we have enough voltage to get us through the night.

Our solar kit also came with the Kodiak portable solar generator, which is basically a big lithium battery with an inverter which allows us to plug in any of our devices that need to be charged, as well as any of our small appliances that run on 110V like the television, Roku, hair dryer, etc. Without the Kodiak, we would have to run the generator to power those devices.

Our new Kodiak portable generator to be charged with solar panels

Since our campsite is free (after purchasing the $180 annual pass last month) and we’re not spending money on fuel to move from campground to campground this month, we’re hoping that the additional savings from not running the generator will all add up to make this a month of significant cost savings, which would be really nice after the last two months of solar investment, maintenance, and repair costs.

This is our first time to stay in a BLM LTVA, and it’s an interesting experience. The camp hosts are a couple named Roy and Joann, who basically collect the entrance fees and answer questions. There are no designated campsites, you just find an area that you like and park your rig there. There are a few rigs that are parked fairly close together since they are friends traveling together, but mostly everyone is pretty spread out and respectful of each other’s privacy. There are all types of rigs from big Class A motorhomes, truck campers, fifth wheels, travel trailers, vans, small Class B and C motorhomes like ours, and even skoolies. It is very quiet here, other than the sounds of the trains going by.

One of our neighbors barely visible through the Sunday morning fog

After having such an intense week in Glendale at Christmas time and then spending a couple of days working on the solar system, it was nice to finally just relax and hang out without having an agenda. Most of the time the weather has been nice, although there were a few days that were extremely windy and cool, and yesterday it rained most of the afternoon. It has never gone below freezing at night where we are, even though it has been colder just to the north of us in Quartzsite and Phoenix.

There are a lot of geocaches in the area, so I’ve gone out on several hunts. Andy went with me on one of my hunts, and I think he might be starting to get the bug! 🙂 Even though the desert looks flat when you look outward, once you start walking across it you find small dunes and washes that conceal all kinds of interesting things that make good hiding places for caches. So far I’ve found caches in an old squatters’ shack, a tree next to an old hot tub, an old paint can, and a pipe buried in the sand in the middle of an old tire. From a short distance away, none of these places are visible due to the slight undulations of the land.

Found a geocache in this abandoned squatters shack hidden between the dunes

There’s also a rock quarry in the side of the mountain (Pilot Knob) next to the campground. There are some geocaches hidden at the top of the quarry and the mountain. Andy and I made an attempt to go after them but the only trail we could find to the top was very steep and unstable, so we decided it wasn’t worth risking an injury. We’re know our limits! 🙂 But we did have a nice hike to a spot about a third of the way up the quarry where we got a great view of the area.

Hiking down from the rock quarry (photo cred: Andy)

So far we’ve gone into Yuma three times. Andy went once to pick up some wire he needed for the solar hookup, and then we went grocery shopping twice at Walmart (two different ones). Once interesting challenge with this location has to do with oranges. When we drive back to the campground (located in California) from grocery shopping in Yuma (Arizona), we have to go through an agricultural inspection station and tell them whether or not we have any fresh produce. If you remember from our previous post, when we first arrived, they actually came inside the RV to inspect, but let us keep our produce. It seems they are most interested in oranges. When we went grocery shopping last week, of course we loaded up on produce as we always do, and that included oranges. We were hoping that since we were in the pickup instead of the RV, they would just wave us through. But no, when we rolled up to the inspector, he specifically asked if we had oranges, and we couldn’t lie. He asked to see them, and then said that although technically he should confiscate them, he would let us keep them “this time”. Of course, yesterday when we went shopping we decided not to get any oranges, and when we pulled up to the inspector he just waved us through without stopping us. You never know. It’s a bummer because the closest grocery store to us on the California side of the border is about 37 miles away, so we’re going to see if we can find a farmer’s market stand or something a little closer that sells California oranges.

Last Friday we spent most of the day in Los Algodones, Mexico. The border crossing is about four miles from where we are….in fact, we can see the lights of Algodones from our campsite at night. Getting in to Mexico is no problem. The local Indian tribe has a parking lot next to the border where you pay $6 for a regular passenger vehicle, then you just walk down the sidewalk through a couple of small buildings with some un-manned metal detectors, and then you’re in Mexico.

Arriving in Los Algodones, Baja California, Mexico

The place is crowded this time of year with American senior citizens who are there to get their prescriptions filled, their glasses replaced, and their dental work done, all at prices much lower than in the US. Many of them live in Arizona and Southern California and come here on a regular basis, others are full-time RVers who specifically stay in this area in the winter for this purpose.

We didn’t need any those services, we were just there for some Mexican food, a margarita, and some sightseeing. We had lunch at a popular spot called “El Pariso” or The Garden Place. It’s a large outdoor seating area surrounded by shops. While you are perusing the menu, a small army of vendors approach your table with all kinds of things for sale–jewelry, wall art, blankets, hats, ponchos, belts, t-shirts, you name it. But once your food arrives, they pretty much leave you alone. I bought a hat which actually came in handy because the sun got pretty intense even though the temperatures were very comfortable. The food was so-so, but the margarita was excellent!

Lunch at The Garden Patio (El Pariso) in Los Algodones

After lunch we did some shopping around for a particular kind of candy we found several months ago when we crossed the border from Columbus, NM to Palomas, Mexico. It’s called Damy Peanut Crunch, and it sells on Amazon for $12.95 for a 100-count bag. We get it in Mexico for about $3.50/bag. Luckily we found it in a small candy store in Algodones, and we found another brand that is similar (although the pieces are smaller) for about $2.05 in the liquor/pharmacy store.

When in Mexico we always look for a bakery, or panadería. We didn’t spot one immediately so we asked one of the vendors, and he said there wasn’t one currently open. Later we stopped to get some freshly made churros from a street vendor, and the guy that was helping him told us about a bakery that was close by, and he volunteered to walk us to it. His name was Victor, and he was such a nice guy. He told us about all the times he visited and lived in the US (which explains how he speaks such good English), but he has returned to Mexico to be with his family. Victor helped us find the Pan Superior bakery where we picked up some of our favorite Mexican sweet breads.

Shopping in the panadería for Mexican sweet breads

The worst part of going across the border in Algodones is the long line to get back into the US. We waited somewhere between 45 minutes to an hour, and we’re told that it’s usually closer to two hours. They do provide shade and benches to sit on while waiting in line, and there are restrooms and vendors selling bottled water. Since a large portion of the people in the line are senior citizens, it’s good that they have some amenities to make the wait a little less uncomfortable. Once we got to the front of the line, we sailed right past the customs agent.

We’re already looking forward to our next visit to Algodones–there’s just something special about having easy access to visit a different country and culture, and meeting friendly people like Victor.

In other maintenance news, Andy was able to get the bat-wing TV antenna fixed so it raises and lowers from the ceiling crank on the inside. After we got it raised, we ran the channel scan on the TV and didn’t pick up a single over-the-air station, so we assumed we were either too far out in the desert or maybe we were being blocked by the nearby mountain. But then I noticed that other rigs had their bat-wing antennas up and it didn’t make sense that they would have them up if there was no reception. So I did some investigating a few days later and found a small push-button switch hidden in one of the overhead bins. There were no instructions or labels on the switch, except for the brand name Winegard, which is the brand of the antenna. I pushed the button and a green light came on, so I tried the channel scan again, and Voila!! We’ve got 19 digital channels coming in, about half of which are in Spanish, but we do get the major networks. The picture is crisp and clear, so chalk that up as a win. Of course, we rarely watch TV anyway, but it’s good to know we can see the next season of “The Voice” and maybe even the Super Bowl!

Other than that, we’ve just been hanging out and enjoying life. There are definitely more rigs here in the LTVA than there were when we first arrived, but there is still a lot of empty space around us. Now that we have our maintenance tasks done and we’re stocked up on groceries, we’re looking forward to doing some sightseeing in the area. There’s a lot of history here, and Yuma actually has a lot of cultural activities on their weekly calendar. We’ll let you know what we get into.

Oh yes, we learned one other thing yesterday when we picked up our mail which we had had forwarded to us via General Delivery in Winterhaven, CA. The postmaster there told me that you are only allowed to use General Delivery at a specific post office for 30 days out of a calendar year, and after that you need to rent a P.O. box. That’s interesting information, but when our thirty days are up and we need to have another packet of mail forwarded to us out here, we’ll just pick a different post office. Winner winner, tofu dinner!! 😀

Lastly, on a very personal note, you’ll notice that it’s been longer than usual since I posted to the blog. Last week we received word that my nephew and his wife lost their baby in the middle of her third trimester of pregnancy. We were devastated for them, and it was difficult knowing that we were so far away and could not be there to join the rest of the family for the memorial service. I just didn’t feel like blogging while going through such an emotional time. We send our love and prayers to Tyler and Allie and their two sons, Hudson and Westin, as they deal with the loss of baby Mackson. Our hearts are back in Mississippi with them, even while we are parked here in the California desert.

Thanks for reading the blog, and be sure to share it with your friends if they are interested in full-time RV living! You can also follow us on Instagram to see what we’re doing between blog posts.

Take care, safe travels, and live every day to the fullest!!

 

 

Boondocking – From Asphalt to BLM

As you know, we spent the first three months of our full-time RV life connected to electricity and water hookups, with an occasional sewer connection. We stayed in state parks and private campgrounds where there were dump stations and showers, but also camping fees.

Well, we’ve changed things up considerably in our fourth month. We’ve now graduated to boondocking!

As I reported in our last post, after leaving New Mexico on Sunday, we spent the night in the back lot of a Chevron station in San Simon, Arizona, along with a lot of eighteen-wheelers. We actually got a pretty good night’s sleep in spite of the traffic noise from the interstate. We ran our generator all night in order to use the electric heater, so it all became white noise after awhile.

On Monday morning Andy made some phone calls to locate a source for new house batteries, and we decided to go to Camping World. They had the batteries that we needed, the warranty would be good at any Camping World in the country, and they would also allow us to park overnight in their parking lot until they could work us in on Tuesday morning.

So after having breakfast in the back lot of the Chevron station, we pulled out and drove across the street to the Shell station to top off the gas tank in the RV even though we had filled the tank the night before at Chevron. We just wanted to see how much gas the generator had used overnight. Turned out it used 6.4 gallons in 15.1 hours, so we’re getting about 2 hours and 20 minutes per gallon of gas. We were also going to top off our propane there, but they ran out when they were helping the customer in front of us.

We drove on into Tucson, arriving at Camping World around 11:00 AM. We went ahead and picked out the batteries that we wanted and set up our service appointment for 8:30 AM the following morning. They have a pretty small parking lot, but we got a good space and settled in, having a good lunch in the RV while we watched customers come and go.

Boondocking in the Camping World parking lot in Tucson

After lunch we decided to do a little exploring in Tucson, primarily to get some ice cream. We drove downtown and parked at Broadway and 6th Avenue. By the way, have you used the ParkMobile app yet to pay for your parking? We first used it in Santa Fe, but found that Tucson also uses it. Very convenient!

We got some delicious ice cream at The Screamery on Congress Street. I had the Sweet Cream Honeycomb and the Rough At Sea. I don’t remember what Andy had, but it was all very good, and the guy that waited on us was very friendly and professional. We highly recommend The Screamery!

Ice cream at The Screamery on Congress Street in Tucson

Afterwards we took a stroll down Congress Street to the Veinte de Agosto Park to see the statue of Pancho Villa. I never realized old Pancho was such a popular character in the area, but he seems to be everywhere! We walked back up Broadway to get back to our parking space, and found this area of Tucson to be full of restaurants, condos, small shops, even a downtown grocery store. If I were in the mood to live in a sticks-and-bricks again, I would definitely consider looking for a condo in this area of Tucson.

Statue of Pancho Villa in Tucson

We returned to Camping World and then spent about an hour looking through some of the RVs they have for sale on the lot. They mostly had travel trailers which didn’t interest us, but we did go through some Class A’s and fifth-wheels, just to check out some floor plans. We’re not planning to trade in Lizzy for awhile, but it doesn’t hurt to stay up to date on what’s out there.

Touring RVs on the sales lot at Camping World

Camping World closed at 6:00 PM so the parking lot cleared out except for us and a big Class A rig that was also spending the night. We cooked dinner, cleaned up the dishes and settled in for the night. Once again we were right off the interstate, and there was plenty of security lighting in the parking lot, so it was almost like napping during the daytime instead of sleeping. We still managed to get some good rest before rising early for our service appointment.

They had told us we could pull the rig around to the service area at 8:00 AM, and sure enough they knocked on our door at 7:55 to make sure we were ready. We verified that it was okay to leave the cats inside the rig while they were swapping out the batteries, and they even agreed to let one of us stay inside with them. So Andy stayed in the rig while I waited inside the store. They were finished with everything by 9:00 AM, to the tune of $285. We got two new deep-cycle, 150 amp-hour batteries, and also were told that the previous batteries had been hooked up incorrectly. That, combined with the fact that we rarely drew down the batteries at all since we were always hooked up to electricity, probably contributed to their early failure. Now we have our electrical system in good shape and ready to work with the new solar panels that we have ordered.

New batteries installed to make boondocking more comfortable

We weren’t ready to leave Tucson just yet because we were waiting on an Amazon delivery to a nearby locker. The item was scheduled to be delivered “before 9 PM”, and we were hoping for something on the earlier side. Since we needed to pick up a few groceries, we left Camping World after topping off the propane tank, and drove to Walmart, taking a spot on the far edge of the parking lot. We fixed a cup of hot tea and settled in with our books and iPhones. Around 11:00 AM we went inside and did our grocery shopping, then put the groceries away and had lunch.

Since our destination for the night was on BLM land in an unfamiliar area, we decided that we needed to leave Walmart by 1:00 PM to allow time for dumping the tanks and finding a camping spot, even if our Amazon package had not arrived by then. We located a free dump station using the Campendium app (yay!) on Flowing Wells Road in Tucson. A big thanks to Merrigans Arizona RoadRunner RV for providing free sewer dump and fresh water fill-ups to the RV community. I did spend a little money in the store to say “thank-you”.

Free dump station in Tucson

Our destination for the night was a BLM campsite commonly known as Cactus Forest Campground on Cattle Tank Road, just northeast of Red Rock, AZ. It was a good thing that we left Tucson when we did, because when we got off the interstate and started east on East Park Link Drive, we found the road was totally closed for construction. It’s out in a rural area, so there aren’t a huge number of alternate routes to get where we were going. We tried a road that looked promising and wound up on a small dirt road that led to someone’s ranch where we turned around. A friendly guy came out to the rig and directed us to an alternate route using Missile Base Road.

So we turned around and went back toward Tucson until we found Missile Base Road and turned east. This route would bring us into the campsite from the south instead of the north. Unfortunately, Google Maps didn’t know about the brand new paved extension of Cattle Tank Road. Instead, it directed us to another dirt road that was horrendous–we wound up turning around in someone’s driveway again (Andy’s getting really good at that).

We went back to the new paved extension, and even though it wasn’t on the map, we decided to go for it, and it brought us right to the campsite.

New paved extension on South Cattle Tank Road, not yet on Google maps

After living in developed campgrounds with hookups for the past 18 months since we bought the RV, we were in for quite a different experience. The only indication that we were in the right place was a brown metal post that had the BLM logo on it and said “No Dumping” and “Camping 14-Day Limit”. There is a good-sized lot at the entrance where a Class A was parked next to a primitive corral that contained a couple of watering tanks. The dirt and gravel road that leads further into the area is narrow with cactus on each side. Within the first 100 yards are several pull-outs where you can park your rig, and there are obvious signs (i.e. fire ring) that it’s meant for camping. We found a good spot and were set up very quickly since there are no hookups.

BLM sign marking the camping area

We fell in love immediately with our surroundings. It truly is a cactus forest with towering saguaro, jumping cholla, teddy bear cholla, barrel cactus, and prickly-pear, just to name a few. There are also palo verde trees. We took a sunset walk down the road in both directions and were so happy that we didn’t give up on finding this place. Besides us and and the Class A parked up at the entrance, only one other camper was in the area, a van-dweller that arrived after we did and parked further down the road. The campsites are so far apart from each other that you literally feel alone out here.

Our first BLM campsite is in a cactus forest. Beautiful!

After being in such noisy places for the previous two nights, it was such a relief to be here in the desert where it was almost totally quiet and dark. Every once it a while we would hear a car go by on the paved road, or a plane fly overhead toward the Tucson airport, but it was so peaceful, and the sunset was gorgeous, even though it was a little overcast. We waited until it was totally dark before starting the generator to run the Instant Pot, just so we could enjoy a quiet sunset.

Sunset out our front door. Glad to be back home in Arizona!

I wish I could say I got a good night’s sleep. I actually did until about 3:00 AM when the kitties decided it was time to eat–Maggie does that a lot. I held her off until about 5:15 but I was awake the entire time.

By the way, for those of you who were asking, Molly seems to be doing fine at the moment after that one bad day that she had on Sunday. We’ll continue to monitor her, but at the moment her plumbing doesn’t seem to be bothering her.

So here it is, Wednesday morning, and I’m watching the sun rise over a cactus forest in complete silence except for Andy’s snoring–he is impervious to the antics of the cats during the night. 🙂

We’ll need to drive back to Tucson today to pick up the Amazon package that finally made it to the locker about 8:00 PM last night. Have you ever used an Amazon locker? This will be our first time. It’s located at a Quik Trip store, so this should be interesting. It’s a great option for full-time RVers who need a place to have things shipped while not having a permanent home address.

Otherwise we’ll do a little hiking and just soak up the good vibes from our surroundings today. I feel like we’ve graduated from RV prep school to boondocking college!! There will be a new set of challenges to solve camping this way–conserving water so we don’t have to take the rig to a dump station as often, conserving our battery power–but being able to have our home in a place with this kind of view is definitely worth it!

If you have any questions about our RV life, be sure to leave a comment and we’ll address it in a future blog post. You can also follow us on Instagram at Instagram.com/JustCallUsNomads for updates between blog posts.

Happy holidays, everyone! Safe travels!!

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??

 

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.

 

 

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!

Creativity On the Road

It’s hard not to feel inspired when you’re living in a beautiful spot with free-spirited, like-minded people around you. Both Andy and I have hobbies and creative interests that we hope to actively pursue even while we’re living in a small space and moving from spot to spot.

Andy has been making silver and stone jewelry for over twenty years, selling it online and in local markets and festivals. When we were in our sticks-and-bricks home, he had a separate workshop that was his man-cave and sanctuary, and he had a large collection of tools and equipment to support his craft.

When we decided to downsize to the RV, the toughest decision he had to make was whether or not he could walk away from his workshop and his creative outlet. In the end, he figured out a way to bring his studio with him, albeit in a much scaled-down version. He decided to concentrate on filigree, a specific style of jewelry that he’s very good at making, and he kept only the tools and supplies needed for that type of work.

This past weekend was the first time he set up his portable studio in a campsite and started making a new jewelry piece. These first few attempts will be a lot of trial and error, figuring out if he can actually work outdoors with his pared-down collection of tools and equipment. He’s already figured out that he needs a larger torch head to get hotter temperatures, and he can’t find his copper tongs that he needs for the pickle process (he can explain this better than I can).

But it’s good to see him with his magnifier visor on again, doing what he loves and does so well.

My creative outlet is photography, and most of the time I’ve been content with shooting photos with my iPhone to share on social media and this blog. But I do have some serious photography equipment, including a Nikon D700 full-frame camera with some great lenses, and I enjoy doing some more serious shooting when I’m in an environment that inspires me. I also enjoy playing around with various photo-editing software to enhance the shots or to alter them creatively.

Yesterday at sundown, we went down to the beach and set up the camera with my large wide-angle lens to try and capture the sunset. There weren’t a lot of clouds, so there wasn’t much drama or vivid colors, but I was still able to concentrate on composition, as well as remembering how to adjust the settings on the camera.

I edited a few of the photos this morning and posted them on my Flickr page, and also updated my photography blog, The Zen of Zann, if you would like to check those out.

On Saturday we did some local sight-seeing. First we visited the Geronimo Springs Museum in Truth or Consequences. They have quite a collection of stuff for a small-town museum, including prehistoric mastodon and woolly mammoth skulls that were discovered in the area. They have one room dedicated to the story of how the town got its name (I’ll let you Google it if you’re interested), another dedicated to the Elephant Butte Dam, and they have a lot of Native American pottery and artifacts on display. We spent about an hour and a half enjoying learning about the area.

After we left the museum, we walked up the street to a local cafe we had read about online where it gets rave reviews. The place is called Passion Pie Cafe, and they are especially known for their desserts, some of which are vegan. It’s a small, eclectic place where the owner is the head cook. They have a lot of veggie options on the menu, so we enjoyed a healthy lunch–that is until we indulged in dessert! By the time we left, we were stuffed and happy!

Otherwise we’ve just been enjoying the scenery, the wildlife, the beautiful weather, our own cooking, and peaceful sleeping. We’ll be at this campsite through Saturday night, and then we’ll head to our next destination, wherever that may be.

I’ve received some more questions from readers of this blog and will be answering them in future posts. If you have questions about our full-time RV life, feel free to leave them in the comments and we’ll add them to the list.

Turning 60 in Albuquerque and Santa Fe NM

When we first began talking seriously about becoming full-time RVers, I set a couple of personal goals. I wanted to be on the road full-time by the time I reached 60, and I wanted to spend my 60th birthday in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Both of those goals were accomplished as of Wednesday!

We left the Leasburg Dam State Park on Tuesday morning around 10:30 after stopping to dump the tanks. We drove north on I-25 toward Albuquerque, stopping for lunch at a rest stop near Fort Craig. The rest stop itself wasn’t much to look at, but it just happened to be near a historic site on the El Camino Real trail (for my friends in Mississippi, the El Camino Real is similar to the old historic Natchez Trace). There was a huge metal and glass sculpture standing on a small hill out in the desert, so in spite of the cold wind, I just had to hike out to see it.

Camino de Sueños (Road of Dreams) by Greg E. Reiche, 2005

The sculpture is made of metal and turquoise-colored glass. Based on its orientation, I would assume that both the sunrise and the sunset would shine through the glass, giving it a beautiful glow. Unfortunately we were there in the middle of an overcast day, so I have no way of verifying that.

We arrived at our destination, Enchanted Trails RV Park and Trading Post in Albuquerque, just after 4:00 PM. It was cold, overcast and windy, and the site wasn’t exactly level, but we got set up as quickly as possible and hunkered down inside the RV.  We turned on our little electric space heater (why run our propane furnace when we’re already paying for electricity, right?), and we were able to stay toasty warm.

On Wednesday, I hit the big 6-0, and we made a day-trip to Santa Fe to celebrate. Our birthday celebrations tend to be pretty low-key by most standards–I was just happy to get to view the beautiful scenery on the hour-long drive north.

Our first stop in Santa Fe was lunch at a vegetarian restaurant that I found on the Happy Cow app. It’s called Annapurna’s World Vegetarian Cafe, and it specializes in South Indian vegetarian and vegan dishes, along with vegan desserts. It’s located in a little strip center and doesn’t look like much from the outside, but this place was packed for lunch.

Annapurna’s World Vegetarian Cafe in Santa Fe, NM

The inside of the cafe was very colorful and comfortable, as well as being a great place for people-watching. Their clientele is very diverse and obviously very loyal, so we saw some interesting characters while we dined there.

Inside Annapurna’s World Vegetarian Cafe in Santa Fe, NM, just before the crowd arrived

I had a sampler platter of Indian dishes for lunch that was very tasty. Andy had the Mediterranean platter that included hummus and falafel, and declared it was some of the best he had ever tasted. For dessert, we split a slice of their homemade vegan coconut pie–this was not a cream pie, it was pure coconut and was delicious!

Vegan coconut pie at Annapurna’s

After lunch we drove into Old Town Santa Fe to do a little exploring and sight-seeing. Of course we visited the Palace of Governors where the Native Americans sell their jewelry on the sidewalk. Our first visit here was about 20 years ago when Andy was just getting started with his silversmithing hobby, and it was one of the sources of his inspiration. Now 20 years later, he was able to discuss techniques and materials with the artists as we admired their handiwork.

Andy (@silverlap) admiring a heavy copper bracelet with the artist

We walked around downtown a little longer, visiting the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi and more of the little shops. NOTE #1: Living in a small RV helps remove the temptation to spend money on needless “stuff” because there’s nowhere to put it!

Inside the Cathedral of St. Francis

For our final stop, we went to Starbucks so I could get my free birthday drink, and also  so that we could use their wi-fi to run back-ups on our iPhones and download updates to some of the software on my laptop. Well, that didn’t work out so well. We used the Starbucks app to find the nearest location, but when we arrived there we found that it only had outdoor seating. Nice concept, but it was very cool and windy, so we decided to try another location.

We got to the second location which was right back downtown where we had started from. When we went to the counter to order, we were told that they don’t honor the Starbucks rewards because they aren’t a regular licensed Starbucks, but are more like the Starbucks in the Barnes and Nobles stores. We went ahead and ordered anyway, but I missed out on my free drink. And their wi-fi was pitifully slow, so we were there for a couple of hours before all my downloads finished. NOTE #2: Living on the road makes you really appreciate high-speed internet, if you can find it.

But I really enjoyed my day in Santa Fe, especially getting to chat with Mom and Dad by phone while at Starbucks.

Yesterday (Thursday) was busy also, but it was mostly errands and chores. After a late breakfast, we did three loads of laundry here at the RV park. While the clothes were tumbling, I enjoyed checking out the vintage trailers and Hudson automobiles that they have on-site here at the RV Park. These trailers are actually available for rent here at the park, and are so cute.

Vintage trailers and Hudson automobiles here at Enchanted Trails RV Park

After lunch we drove in to Albuquerque, and first visited the post office to pick up our first packet of forwarded mail from our Escapees mail service in Livingston, Texas. It was mostly junk mail, but it did include our absentee ballots for the upcoming election, so we’ll be voting in the next couple of days. NOTE #3: It’s easy to get your mail on the road if you have a good mail forwarding service.

Main post office in Albuquerque

After picking up our mail we went to Walmart for grocery shopping, and then to Costco for a few other things, primarily the cats’ dry food. Our last stop was at Camping World to get an extra set of leveling blocks and a couple of maintenance items for Lizzy.  After returning to the rig and putting the groceries away, Andy whipped up one of his huge chopped salads to last us for the next few days. We ate leftovers for dinner and then I turned in about 7:30–I was so tired! NOTE #4–You do tend to get tired more easily at higher altitudes when you’re used to living near sea level.

So today, we’ll be leaving Albuquerque and heading back south. Our destination today is Percha Dam State Park where we have reservations for two nights. I doubt we’ll stay there any longer than that, as we’re leaning toward trying to get into one of the other state parks in the area that have nicer facilities, where we can hopefully snag a first-come, first-served spot near the water. We’ll see how that goes.

Life is good, we’re happy and healthy, and we’re loving New Mexico.

Be sure to follow us on Instagram at Instagram/JustCallUsNomads for updates between our blog posts!

Fort Selden and White Sands

Yesterday (Sunday) we spent most of the day exploring some of the sights around our campground near Las Cruces, New Mexico. It was a beautiful, partly cloudy day with high temperatures in the low 70’s–perfect for getting outside in the sun and fresh air.

After having breakfast and cleaning up the dishes, we took the short drive of less than two miles over to the Fort Selden Historic Site. The fort was established in 1865 to provide protection from Native American raids and general lawlessness in the area. About 1800 soldiers served at Fort Selden during its years of operation, until it was officially closed in January 1891. I found it ironic that more soldiers died at the fort at the hands of other soldiers or local outlaws than from the Native Americans.

Fort Selden Historic Site, Radium Springs, NM

The structures at the fort were built primarily of adobe and wood, although the jail was constructed of stone. When the fort was finally abandoned, most of the wood from the roofs and door/window frames was removed for re-use, leaving only the adobe material in place. Over the years, the wind and rain have relentlessly eroded the adobe walls until just enough remains to fuel the imagination as to what the fort must have looked like.

Andy sitting outside what was once the fort jail

There is a nice Visitor Center at the entrance to the site, and there is a $5/person entry fee. The tour starts with a short 9-minute video that gives the history of the fort, and then there is a small museum with exhibits describing what life was like for the men, women and children who occupied the fort during its time of operation.

After touring the museum, we went outside where we followed a numbered, self-guided tour of the fort ruins. It was pretty small as forts go, so the tour didn’t take that long to complete. Perhaps the most interesting tidbit of information we discovered during our visit was that General Douglas MacArthur lived at Fort Selden for several years as a small child when his father, Captain Arthur MacArthur, was posted there.

Douglas MacArthur and his family lived at the fort when he was a child

We finished the tour shortly before noon and returned to the rig for a quick lunch. As soon as the lunch dishes were done, we headed out on our next adventure of the day.

We drove for just a little over an hour to visit White Sands National Monument, between Las Cruces and Alamogordo, NM. Interestingly, the Monument is located within the boundaries of the White Sands Missile Range, and several times a week the Monument, along with Highway 70, is closed for several hours for missile testing. Fortunately, we timed our visit pretty well so we didn’t get turned away.

The White Sands dunefield covers 275 square miles, and is the largest gypsum dunefield in the world. Gypsum is the material used to make drywall and plaster. The National Monument preserves more than half of the dunefield, its water supply, and the plants and animals that live there.

White Sands National Monument Visitor Center

We started our tour at the Visitor’s Center where I purchased a National Parks passport book so I can start collecting the stamps from parks that we’ll be visiting on our travels. There was a small museum that we browsed through until time to enter the theater to view a short film about the dunefield and its inhabitants. After the film was over we strolled through the gift shop, but didn’t buy anything (typical gift shop junk, although there were some cool t-shirts).

From that point, it was a driving tour through the dunes, with numerous pull-offs for hiking, picnicking, sledding, or just wandering around. There was a fee station at the entrance (I believe it was $30/vehicle, but we used Andy’s lifetime senior pass that he paid $10 for, and got in free).

The outer perimeter of the dunefield has more vegetation

Our first stop was a hiking trail near the edge of the dune field where there is more vegetation and animal life. The trail was a 1-mile loop over the dunes and was marked with tall blue poles along with interpretive signs. It was so interesting to see how the sands are continually shifting, because some of the signposts were already starting to get buried. I’m sure it’s a constant maintenance task to keep the trails well-marked when the landscape keeps shifting.

Andy checking out one of the interpretive signs in the dunes

After completing the hike, we drove further into the dunes to where there was almost no vegetation. About that same time, the sun started to come out from behind the clouds, and the dunes just lit up in this brilliant white against the blue sky. It was gorgeous!

Heart of the Dunes

We got out of the truck a couple more times to walk on the sand and to watch some of the young people sliding down the dunes on the round sleds that they sold in the gift shop. The kids were having a blast! We also saw a lot of photographers setting up for some sunset pictures, and there was also a group of women who were obviously models being photographed on top of one of the dunes–I mean, who else would be on top of a sand dune in a long, flowing red dress?

The sand itself is extremely soft, almost like talcum and not like the gritty sand on the beach. Also, it tends to hold water, so it was cool to walk on even when the sun was shining on it, and it’s still moist just under the surface.

Andy on the dunes

We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to the White Sands National Monument, and highly recommend it if you’re ever in the area. We got back to the rig a little after 5:00, cooked and ate dinner, and called it an early evening.

Today is our last full day here in Leasburg Dam State Park. The weather has turned much cooler due to a cold front that’s moving through most of the country right now. We’ve spent a good portion of the day getting things ready to travel tomorrow–dumping the tanks, checking the tire pressure and fluid levels, charging up the walkie-talkies, for instance. I also reorganized the attic (the storage area over the cab) to make better use of the space.

We plan to pull out of here around 10:00 AM tomorrow morning to drive to Albuquerque. Travel days are not my favorite, but it will be fun to see some new scenery and check out Santa Fe for my birthday on Wednesday.

Be sure to follow us on Instagram for updates between the blog posts! And if you have any questions about our life on the road, please leave a comment and we’ll try to answer in a future post!

Settling In to Full Time RV Life

It’s been just over six weeks since we moved into our RV, Lizzy, full time after selling our house and almost all our possessions. Those six weeks have not been without challenges, but we’re starting to get into a groove now as we settle into our new lifestyle.

The weather here in New Mexico has been interesting. We arrived just at the tail end of a warm spell, so the first few days we used the air conditioner. Then on Sunday we had a severe thunderstorm roll through with high winds and heavy rain. We got an emergency alert on our phones that indicated we could also see hail, but fortunately we were spared from that. And after the storm ended, we were treated to a beautiful double rainbow!

Double rainbow after the storm

Yesterday was overcast and drizzly, and this morning we woke to a dense fog. But by 10:00, the fog lifted and the beautiful blue skies have returned. With the rainy front that moved through, the temperatures have cooled considerably, and we haven’t used the air conditioner in several days, relying on the breeze only.

Here’s a little timelapse that I shot from the roof of Lizzy this morning as the fog lifted.

Speaking of breeze, Andy was able to install two vent covers on the roof just before the storm hit on Sunday. The covers allow us to keep the vents open and the fan running even when it’s raining so we don’t have to close everything up and run the air conditioner. The vents do have original covers that tilt up, but those can get damaged or even ripped off in a high wind, so these new covers that we installed will protect the original tilted cover from the wind. Confusing, I know….

Installing covers over our vents and fan

On Saturday we did some hiking on some of the trails here in the park that meander down along the Rio Grande River and over to the Leasburg Dam. The trail along the river was nice and serene, but the dam was a bit of a disappointment. There really isn’t any water to speak of behind the dam, at least on the day we were there. The dam was built in 1908 to divert water from the Rio Grande into the surrounding agricultural fields of the Upper Masilla Valley. It’s just over 11 feet high, and was the first dam completed on the Rio Grande Project by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (it was originally 10 feet high but was raised by 1.25 feet in 1919).

Hiking along the Rio Grande river on the Mogollon Trail

Rio Grande River below Leasburg Dam

Yesterday (Monday) was an errands day. The first order of business was to locate some repair parts for the toilet, which appears to have a slow leak. Andy tried for over an hour to talk to someone by telephone in the parts department at Camping World in Anthony, Texas to see if they had the parts in stock. They took his number and said they would call back, but after waiting for a half hour we decided to just make the 45 minute drive and ask them in person.

When we got there, they only had one guy working in the parts department, and he was slammed. When we finally got to the front of the line, he was able to identify the parts we needed, but then told us they were out of stock. He was kind enough to call another RV dealer just across the freeway, and they said they could have the part by the next day. But since we didn’t want to make another trip to Anthony, we just decided to order it from Amazon and have it shipped to us here in Radium Springs. Free shipping, and it will be here tomorrow (Wednesday).

Retailers, this is why Amazon is winning.

After we left Camping World, we headed back north to Las Cruces for the rest of our errands. First we had lunch at Chipotle (our original plan was to eat at a local Mexican restaurant that was supposed to be really good, but they were closed for some reason). Then we tried to go by the bank, but they were closed for Columbus Day.

Next stop was Home Depot so we could pick up some plumber’s grease for the toilet repair. From there we went to Walmart for groceries and supplies (cat treats!!). And our last stop was Sprouts for some good fresh greens, since Walmart didn’t have any decent romaine or kale. After all that, we headed home to the RV, put up the groceries and enjoyed the rest of our evening. Oh, have I mentioned that we have developed a serious addiction to those 50¢ pies at Walmart??

Most of our grocery haul.

Today we’ll need to unhook Lizzy and drive her over to the dump station here in the park to dump the tanks. We’re using the campground showers instead of the one in the RV so we can go longer between dumping, and there are also vault toilets close by that we can use to extend the time between dumps. It’s a bit of a hassle to have to unhook and move Lizzy, but it’s worth it to have our own kitchen and bathroom facilities available.

So I know it sounds kind of boring, but we are not on vacation. We are just living our normal everyday lives, just like people in sticks and bricks houses. But our view from our windows is amazing, and when we get tired of it, we’ll just move. We just paid for five more nights here at $4/night, and will probably tack on a few more days after that.

Plans for the next few days include toilet repairs and some sightseeing, so stay tuned! Be sure to follow us on Instagram as well for more of a real-time look at what we’re up to!

New Mexico – I’m In My Happy Place

Good Friday morning from Leasburg Dam State Park in Radium Springs, New Mexico, about 15 miles north of Las Cruces. I just spent an hour sitting in my lawn chair in my pajamas and slippers, sipping my coffee and watching the sunrise. I’m in my happy place!

My view at sunrise

But getting here was a little bit stressful. We left the Alley Oop RV Park in Iraan on Wednesday morning about 11:00, on our way to Van Horn, Texas. Our route from the park back to I-10 took us through an active oil field where we could see the pumping units bobbing up and down. There was also a large wind farm with lines of huge wind turbines along the mountaintops. Most of them weren’t turning however, which we continue to puzzle about.

We got to Van Horn about 4:30 and checked in to the Desert Willow RV Park. With our Passport American membership, the nightly rate was $13.50, and that included electricity, water, sewer, fast wi-fi, and cable TV (which we did not use). The park also had laundry facilities and nice showers (we didn’t use either but they looked nice). The staff was friendly and laid back, and we were able to choose any open spot that we wanted.

Desert Willow RV Park in Van Horn, TX

It was pretty warm but it was breezy, so not too uncomfortable outside. Inside, we ran the air conditioner. As the sun was going down a small thunderstorm came through, and then later we got more rain. At one point there was a lot of lightning and our power went off for just a second and then came back on. Didn’t think anything about it.

Desert Willow campground–great for overnighting

The next morning (yesterday) when Andy was disconnecting all the hookups for us to leave, he found that the 30 amp electric plug from the RV had partially melted and stuck to the heavy duty surge protector that we use when connecting to shore power. He had to use a pry bar to get the plug out of the surge protector. We’re thinking that the electrical surge from the lightning strike caused the damage, and the surge protector did its job to keep the RV safe. The RV plug appeared to still be intact, with just a little of the rubber missing, but the surge protector seemed to be toasted, so we discarded it and decided to get a new one when we went through El Paso.

The drive through El Paso was extremely stressful for Andy in the RV as there was a lot–a LOT–of road construction and heavy traffic. He did a great job of keeping it between the lines. We stopped at Camping World on the north side of El Paso and picked up a new surge protector, along with two vent covers to allow us to have the roof vents open when it’s raining.

Camping World of El Paso

In Las Cruces we stopped at Walmart to pick up a few groceries and a New Mexico atlas by Delorme. The atlas has detailed maps showing where the public lands are, as well as elevations, so we can plan out our boondocking locations. Getting off the freeway and into Walmart was another stressful excursion, but we made it fine. While we were inside Walmart we left the generator running with the air conditioner on, so the kitties were comfortable.

We got to our current campsite in the Leasburg Dam State Park about 4:30 MDT and settled in to site #17. We have electric and water hookups, but no sewer (there is a dump station). The site is gravel with a level concrete pad for the RV, and there is a picnic table covered by a pavilion. The park has nice showers and restrooms, hiking trails and a visitors center. There’s also great cellphone coverage with 4 bars of Verizon LTE.

Parked at our site #17 with covered picnic table

I cooked some pasta and meatballs for dinner, then we took a sunset walk to an overlook where we could see the water. The dam doesn’t look too impressive right now as the water is pretty low. I’ll try to talk to the rangers today to see what the dam status is (LOL).

After our walk, we settled in to our lawn chairs to watch the stars come out. There were so many stars! It’s been years since we’ve been in a place where we could see the Milky Way, much less satellites traveling across the star field. The temperature was perfect, there were no bugs, the humidity was just over 20%–I had found my happy place!!

Our campsite at sundown

For the first time since we moved in here full-time, we were able to go to bed without the noisy air conditioner running, using only the vent fans. This morning when I woke up at 5AM (we changed time zones yesterday and my body thought it was 6AM), it was 57° outside and 59° inside the rig. It’s supposed to get up into the high 80’s today so eventually we’ll turn the A/C back on, but this morning is wonderful!

Today we’ll do some exploring around the park. I’m hoping to get my camera out and do some photography. It is supposed to get windy this afternoon, hopefully it won’t stir up so much dust that we can’t enjoy being outside.

Not sure where we’re going next, we’ll decide that today.

Stay tuned to find out!

Follow us on Instagram at Instagram.com/JustCallUsNomads for live updates on our adventures!