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!

Alley Oop RV Park in Iraan, Texas

It’s our second day on the road, and we found a very quirky place to spend the night.

We had a restful night at the River Ranch RV Park in New Braunfels last night. We weren’t bothered at all by the freeway noise from the bridge overhead since we had the air conditioner running all night to fight the humidity. This morning it was foggy and overcast when we awoke, but the sun was trying to break through by the time we pulled out around 10:30.

We took I-35 south to San Antonio, then took the 1604 Loop west to get back on I-10 west. There was a lot of highway construction around north San Antonio, so the lanes were narrow and traffic was congested. There was also a little bit of light rain at times. It was pretty stressful driving for Andy in the RV, but we made it just fine. Once we got past the road work, we stopped and fueled up both vehicles at a Love’s Truck Stop, and then the plan was to travel about 8 miles further down I-10 to a rest stop to have lunch.

Route for October 2

By then we were well into the Texas Hill Country, and the rest stop was located at the top of a high mesa. Andy was so busy watching the RPMs on the dashboard while climbing the mesa that he drove right past the rest stop. No worries, we just pulled in to the Lowe’s in Kerrville, parked in their parking lot, and proceeded to have lunch.

Stopped for lunch in the Lowe’s parking lot in Kerrville, TX

Before we left New Braunfels this morning, Andy made a huge salad to last us for several days, and I made the dressing to go with it. So while we were in the parking lot, we just opened a can of black beans and heated them on the stove to go with the salad. We enjoyed our lunch, washed and dried the dishes, used the bathroom, cleaned the floor, and then we were ready to hit the road again. So nice to have our house with us!

We got into Iraan about 4:30 and found the Alley Oop RV park right next to the City Park. In the past, RVers were allowed to stay overnight in the City Park for free (no hookups), but it doesn’t look like they do that anymore because the sign says the park is closed from 10PM-7AM. The RV Park right next to the City Park used to be $10/night for full hookups, but now they’re $15. We got the last available spot in the RV Park, and considered ourselves fortunate. It’s nothing fancy, but it’s a bargain.

Alley Oop RV Park, Iraan, TX

Site #4, pull-through, $15/night with full hookups

Iraan has a couple of interesting things going for it. First of all, it’s right in the middle of the oil patch, and most of the RV’s in this park belong to oil field workers who are staying here long-term. In 1926 a successful oil well was drilled  on a ranch belonging to Ira and Ann Yates. They donated the site for the town, which was named for them–a contraction of “Ira” and “Ann”, becoming Iraan. The Yates oilfield is still producing today.

Oilfield equipment display next to the RV park

Iraan is also the birthplace of the Alley Oop comic strip, hence the name of the RV park. There’s a small museum and an Alley Oop-themed “attraction” next to the RV park which we explored this afternoon. It was quirky but fun. We both had to climb up on the dinosaur for a photo op. Later we found out that a mama cat and her kittens have a home inside the dinosaur’s belly, via a square cutout on the underside.

Andy as Alley Oop

Dinny, the dinosaur, currently has a family of cats living in its belly.

There was a beautiful sunset this evening, so after we had dinner and cleaned up the dishes we went for a walk in the City Park. There’s a nice breeze blowing and the temperature is nice, and we didn’t see a single mosquito–that’s awesome!!

Sunset in Iraan, Texas

Tomorrow we won’t be driving quite as far, only about 180 miles to Van Horn. The little town of Van Horn has a special place in our hearts (and our nightmares)–we spent three nights there in 2000 when our fully-loaded U-Haul truck broke down while we were moving from Houston to Phoenix. We were towed in to Bud’s Diesel Shop in Van Horn, and we spent three nights in a little motel waiting for the parts to come in so they could replace the drive shaft which had broken. So this time we’re staying in Van Horn mostly for sentimental reasons.

Andy found the problem with the overhead vent in the bathroom that leaked water during yesterday’s rainstorm. The gasket around the vent had become unseated, so it was an easy fix to adjust it. However it should probably be replaced as it has gotten stiff and hard.

Otherwise, the vehicles and systems are working great (knock on wood!). We’re looking forward to a good night’s sleep tonight before getting back on the road tomorrow. Still chasing 70° and low humidity–New Mexico, here we come!

Gut-Check Tour – Day 7

This entry is part of a series recounting our experiences on a two-week RV trip we took to southern Mississippi, Alabama and northern Florida. The goal of this trip was to test ourselves, our two cats, and our rig to make sure we all have what it takes to be full-timers. While we posted highlights of our trip on Instagram and Facebook, these entries are some behind-the-scenes notes on our trip and experiences.

Friday, April 13, 2018 – Escapees Rainbow Plantation RV Park, Summerdale, Alabama

Today was another moving day as we left Biloxi and drove east on I-10, past Mobile, into rural south Alabama. We are staying for the next three nights at the Escapees Rainbow Plantation Park near Summerdale.

Gutcheck Map move to Rainbow Plantation

We didn’t leave the RV park in Biloxi until almost 11:00. Andy wanted to take a shower before leaving, and I took time to do a little house-cleaning. It’s only about a 70 mile drive between the locations, so there was no need to be in a hurry.

We stopped along the way at the Alabama Welcome Center where we parked in the lot with the semi trucks and had lunch of salad and black beans. I picked up some brochures of things to do in the area, mainly because the nice hostess just insisted that I take them. I haven’t even looked at them yet.

We got to Rainbow Plantation about 2:30 and checked in to site #59. The sites are large and pretty level, and they’re mostly grass and sand. We’re right next to a big oak tree that offers a lot of shade, but not directly over the RV. We have full hookups, but no picnic table or fire-ring. But we’re only paying $22/night, so that’s not bad. There are two bars of Verizon service, but it’s on the slow side.

They have a pool and a large clubhouse. There are two separate unisex showers, which seems a little skimpy for such a large campground. However, a lot of the units here are permanent or seasonal residents, and I doubt they have any use for those showers.

We got set up pretty quickly and then just relaxed under the awning with a beer. I fixed a brown rice salad and some baked tofu for dinner (tofu was a little salty), and then we just stayed in for the evening.

The weather is supposed to get pretty nasty with strong thunderstorms tomorrow evening, into Sunday morning. It’s supposed to be really windy all day tomorrow. There’s already a flash flood watch out for this area. We had talked about going in to town to listen to Kyle play, but we’ll have to see what the weather looks like.

Our First RV Rally – Sevierville, TN

Greetings from the River Plantation RV Park in Sevierville, Tennessee, at the gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains. Andy and I have been here since early Monday afternoon, attending the RV-Dreams Fall Educational Rally. So far it has been a wonderful experience, giving us the perfect opportunity to learn more about the fulltime RV lifestyle from those who are currently living it. It has also been a chance to learn more about our own RV by using it in ways we have not until this point.

We left Tupelo last Sunday afternoon just after 3PM, timing our departure so that we would arrive in Chattanooga, Tennessee just after sundown because we wanted to get our first boondocking experience under our belts. We parked the rig (and our Prius which I was driving as a chase vehicle) in the Walmart parking lot and settled in for the night. While it wasn’t the best night’s sleep I’ve ever gotten (we were near a train track), it was not bad at all. We ate our dinner in the rig, baking potatoes in the microwave while we ran the generator. The following morning we had overnight refrigerator oats that I prepared before we went to bed. We took our time and pulled out of Walmart just after 10am since we couldn’t check in at the RV park until noon.

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Settled in at Camp Walmart.

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The River Plantation RV park is also a new experience, it’s our first private park (as opposed to the state parks we’ve been using). They provide full hookups, including electricity, water, sewer, and cable TV. They have two swimming pools and a hot tub, a lazy river, pickleball courts, a video game arcade, an onsite RV/Bus wash facility, and other amenities, including the conference center.

We’ve had a couple of issues with the hookups:

  • The breaker on the hookup pedestal has tripped three times so far. One of those times was when we were away from the campground, and when we returned the power was off to the RV. Wouldn’t be a huge issue except that the kitties were in here and without A/C it was starting to get a little stuffy.
  • The park advertises that they have free wi-fi, but it was not working all week until just this afternoon (hopefully it continues to work).
  • The sewer connection is on a PVC pipe that sticks up out of the ground. Our RV’s outlet is pretty low, so there’s not much downhill slant between our outlet and the sewer drain. We would prefer a lower-to-the-ground outlet.

But overall, we are enjoying our stay here at River Plantation. We had our RV washed yesterday (they charge $2/foot, so it was $44 for our rig).

We’ve met so many interesting, helpful people, many of whom are just like us, in the early stages of getting their rigs and their lives ready for fulltiming.

Interestingly, we are the only ones at this conference who are in a Class C rig. Everyone else is in a Class A, a fifth wheel or a travel trailer. That just makes us feel special, not weird.

The cats have done well on this trip, with the exception of one little scare. When we were getting ready to move the rig to the RV wash facility yesterday, Andy opened the drivers side door and Molly fell out of the RV. She had been hiding on the floor between the door and the drivers seat, sensing that we were about to start moving. As soon as she hit the ground, she ran up under the RV and would not come out. I had to belly-crawl on the gravel, under the RV, to get hold of her so I could pass her out to Andy, who put her back in the RV. She immediately hid under the laundry bag on the bed and stayed there the entire time the RV was being washed (I stayed inside with the kitties while Andy stayed outside watching them complete the wash). But as soon as we got back to our campsite and settle back in, she was fine.

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#Molly says it’s bedtime. #forliz #rvcats

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Tonight we’re having a potluck at the rally, so I’m cooking spaghetti (vegan, of course). We have two more days of seminars and rig tours, and then we’ll head home on Sunday, driving straight through to Tupelo.

We’re having a blast this week!