Not As Planned – Part 1

Now I don’t like a set itinerary or even reservations for an RV trip, but I like to know my general direction and options. I had a chance to practice this on my last trip.

This trip was mainly planned to go north – to get out of the heat. Thought I’d check out Orilla Verde campground (the south end of the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument) and then spend most of my time at The Great Sand Dunes National Park in southern Colorado.

I had the RV ready on Saturday morning – food and clothes on board. But I was tired, just wanted a nap – at 9AM! I realized I didn’t have to go as far as I had planned. I could just go to South Monticello Point on Elephant Butte Lake – about 15 miles away. That energized me. I camped there for two nights. The first change of plans.

I chose a quiet spot (#7) on the edge of the campground. I’ve stayed in several sites here and they have all been good. The park wasn’t busy – it’s still warm here and the lake is so low that it’s barely in sight here. There were mosquitoes – I was bitten several times. Cassie and I heard coyotes howling and in the early morning great horned owls were calling. Hummingbirds were finding nectar in the creosote blossoms.

What is now green was once the lake in wetter years.

I had a list of four things I wanted to get written. I’ll tell you now, none of them were even started. Another plan pitched into the wastebasket.

Cassie, my co-pilot.

Monday I moved to Cochiti Lake. There are two COE campgrounds, one on each side of the lake. I had always stayed on the east side, so I thought I’d try the west side this time. There was a part that was not well maintained, but was up on the hill with nice views. I had hoped to find a space there, but settled for one in the newer part – closer to the showers and pay station.

Ran into Roxanne, a friend from home. Nice surprise. She had just come from Orilla Verde where I was headed next. She also mentioned that Evie would probably be coming. I’d never met Evie, but I’ve followed her blog for a long time. Turns out the three of us had dinner together with fine conversation. Didn’t plan this gathering, but it was one of the trip highlights.

Sunset over the RVs at Cochiti Lake

Orilla Verde, near Pilar, New Mexico, was the next destination. It was an easy drive on the relief road around Santa Fe, through Espanola, towards Taos. The problem was I didn’t like the campsites for RVs. I should have asked at the visitor center if a small RV could be in the tent sites. I would have fit. I reviewed my list of options.

At the north end of the campground across the river is a dirt road to the top of the west rim of the gorge. Not a bad road, but I probably wouldn’t take a big RV on it. My RV did just fine. From there it was an easy drive to the Rio Grande Gorge bridge. And then to Taos and north to Wild Rivers. It’s the north end of the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument.

I found a site (#11) in the Little Arsenic campground. The only available site. It’s not that there were so many people, just very few campsites. The names are strange. There is also a Big Arsenic Campground. The names come from the springs at the river – also Big and Little Arsenic, although I think they don’t contain arsenic. Figured I’d stay a couple of days until I left for the Dunes.

The road leading to the campgrounds at Wild Rivers.

Cochiti Lake RV Trip (Part Two)

cl-cassie-cottonwoods-road(You can see Part One here.)
On Thursday we walked to the cottonwoods again.  I wanted to try to get a photo of the beavers’ tail smacks.  After many photos of the splash, I finally tried a video.  I did get it, but I need to practice the technique.  I was bit shaky.   The hill climb back was tough.  I don’t usually do this long a hike everyday – this was the third day in a row.  Cassie loves it.  It would be a recliner day for me.

I started reading “Visual Intelligence” by Amy Herman.  Although I considered myself to be fairly observant, I’m becoming aware of what I’m not seeing.  Her workshops are often presented to law enforcement – makes me think of everything like a witness!  What did I see?  What can I remember?  She also writes about ‘inattentional blindness’ where we don’t see what’s right in front cl-frog-beetleof us.  I took a photo of a roadkill frog (don’t ask why).  It was only when I was back at the RV and looking through all the photos that I notices a big beetle on the frog.  Never saw it when I took the picture.  I decided I needed to read Herman’s book carefully.

I hadn’t done any writing except this journal.  I was hoping to get some genealogy and other blog posts done.  It seemed so far away.  I’m barely interested in the genealogy anymore.  It feels like a bit of a burden to share this information.  But it would be a shame not to – I did so much work to collect it.  Also my meditation has suffered here.  Never even thought about it until today.  I found the driver’s seat is a good meditation spot.  Cassie waits patiently in her co-pilots seat.

cl-deerOn Friday we walked farther – to the second group of cottonwoods.  I saw one deer – luckily Cassie did not see it.  This was an easy three-mile hike – except for that last quarter mile up the boat ramp.  I was tired and happy.  I figured I won’t walk there on a Saturday morning – too many folks coming in for the weekend.

Spending this much time in the RV had me thinking of small improvements.  I have too much stuff on the other side of the table – on that seat.  I could move the clothes storage to the foot of the bed – lots of room there.  And make a thinner bolster for the dinette seats.  They are thick because they are the mattress if this is made into a bed, but I don’t do that.  If the bolster were thinner, there would be more room on the seat and I would be more comfortable reading.  I’ve been using recycled plastic bags for trash.  That’s okay for a day or two, but I need a decent closed container for these longer trips.  I decided I want a curtain to hide the sleeping area.  These are just small adjustments to make the RV more livable.

cl-raven-flyingI was back in the recliner watching a raven as it perched on a leafless tree over the overlook.  It was a long way away but could make a nice photo especially if I could get it when it flies away.  I tried to hold the focus (shutter pressed halfway) but my hand shook after a few minutes.  Then the shutter finger tired and fired off a frame or three.  Re-focused and started again.  Finally the raven flew off.  Mediocre photo, but at least I was persistent.

My treat tonight: Ritz crackers (really Trader Joe’s fine version) and guacamole.  This was a childhood favorite – maybe the first way I had guacamole.  Heaven.

cl-ccI had kept up with the Facebook and Instagram posts that I wanted to.  I was in an August photo-a-day challenge and missed only a couple.  I’m just learning Instagram (mostly because my granddaughter is on it).  So that became more routine.  I posted on Cassie’s Facebook page (CassieCorgi).  That’s been fun.

cl-parthenonOur Saturday morning walk was to a new area – a picnic area near the entrance.  It was strange.  The gates are locked.  It’s abandoned.  There are maybe 50 shelters with no roofs, but still the tables and grills.  It looked like ruins.  I called it the Parthenon.  Seems they had the roofs removed for repair, but didn’t like the cost, so they closed it.  Beautiful area for picnics.
Today would have been my sister’s wedding anniversary had she stayed married.  No one celebrates it now; I do remember though.  It was back when she and I didn’t know who we were or what we wanted.  And yet, she married – she was 21, it was the time to marry.  That was some of my feeling brought up by the book “So Long Marianne” – young women trying to find their way.  Trying, stumbling, slowly finding the path.  Painfully slow.  My sister died over 20 years ago without really finding her way.  I miss her.

I met the mayor of the city of Cochiti Lake and his wife at the overlook.  His issues sound a lot like our mayor’s issues.

Friends from home arrived Saturday afternoon.  They’ve been touring with their granddaughter.  We took a walk to the old picnic area.  Very nice to have friends nearby.  We were all leaving in the morning.

Planning to leave made a different kind of evening.  I’ve finished both books.  And I was thinking about what needs to be done to set off in the morning.  The leaving had begun.  And I think that’s why this longer trip (7 days) in one place was so nice.  It takes the driving day to settle in.  And the last day is taken up with thoughts of leaving.  Good to have lots of days in between for me.

Nice relaxed Sunday morning.  Time to sit with my friends.  Time to say goodbye to neighbors.

Cochiti Lake with the Sandia Mountains in the distance - Albuquerque is at the foot of the mountains.

Cochiti Lake with the Sandia Mountains in the distance – Albuquerque is at the foot of the mountains.

It was almost all interstate driving, but traffic was light.  I drive about 60 mph in the RV – the slowest driver on the freeway.  Getting through Albuquerque was easy – no extra lane changes.  I don’t like those.  I think I need better mirrors.

South of Socorro and just an hour from home we stopped so Cassie could get out for a few minutes.  The wind was picking up.  It wasn’t terrible, but this is a fairly high profile vehicle so the wind was noticed.  Especially as the road goes across arroyos.  Sheltered by road cuts, there’s no wind and then as the road goes through a canyon, the gusts hit.  Off and on all the way.  So I drove a little slower.  There was almost no traffic here anyway.

Along this stretch a truck pulling a fine Shasta trailer passed.  Even I can recognize them – vintage “canned ham” trailers with the wings on the back corners.  It looked immaculate.  When I got off at the Truth or Consequences exit, that trailer was at the gas station.  I pulled in to talk with the folks.  Turns out the trailer is brand new – they are making a limited edition re-issue – same retro style with modern updates in appliances and plumbing.  It was beautiful.  I’d like to have it to camp in, but I don’t want to have to tow it or set it up alone.

While we talked about their trailer, their 8 year old son captured a highly rated Pokemon – only his second capture ever.  They were all very surprised to find such a good one here.  This was my first experience with Pokemon hunters.  I had no idea what they were talking about.

Another mile and we were home.  It was a fine trip and we were happy to be back.  I’m already thinking about that next trip.  Try to get to Heron Lake?  Or maybe El Malpais?

Cochiti Lake RV Trip (Part One)

cl-road-to-tetillaI like my trips to start on Sundays. I figure by the time I get there, the weekenders will be gone. But I left a lot till the last minute this time. I was overwhelmed with three trips to Las Cruces that week. The last one was on Friday and before I returned home the car’s ‘check engine’ light and the ABS light were on and I realized I had only one headlamp. I still needed the car for errands, so I didn’t want to take it to the mechanic on Friday. I was still sewing window covers for the RV on Friday afternoon. I got hung up on my own arbitrary schedule. Decided to give myself the weekend to

I made the window covers for the sleeping area out of a camping motif fabric. They need a few alterations, but work well.

I made the window covers for the sleeping area out of a camping motif fabric. They need a few alterations, but work well.

prepare, take the car to the mechanic on Monday and leave in the RV after that. I can leave on a trip any day I like. Problem solved.

Monday morning, August 22nd, Cassie (the mutt) and I were on our way. My plan was to spend most of the time at Heron Lake in northern New Mexico. That’s too far for one day’s drive, so I planned to make a stop for a night or two at Cochiti Lake, just north of Albuquerque.



It feels good to drive the RV. Cassie settles in easily in the passenger seat. On the way up we were passed by a van with this slogan “Gleewood – Bringing mountain music to those in need.” Made me smile. I found out later they are a band from Ruidoso, New Mexico. Has to be a fun group.

I drove I-25 all the way to the exit for Cochiti – about 200 freeway miles. I had looked on Google Earth at the campgrounds and campsites available. I decided on the Tetilla National Recreation area on the east side of the lake rather than the State Park on the west. It looked a little more isolated and I was hoping that meant it was quieter. The campsites that looked best online were already taken, but I found a fine one near the overlook.
cl-overlook-pathIt’s easy now to set up the RV. I hooked up to the electric with my surge protector. And I covered the whole thing with a plastic bag. The cover to the plug didn’t stay on well and the surge protector seemed pretty exposed to rain and theft. I saw that someone covered theirs so I just copied. I turned on the propane, but I use it only for cooking and heating water. I leave the fridge on electric. I also leveled the RV, and then wondered if that was necessary since I wasn’t using the fridge on propane. It was good practice anyway.
I paid for two nights. It’s more expensive here than at the State Park ($10 v. $4 with passes) but it was worth it to me. Both places have electric and water hook-ups, dump station, toilets and showers.

Another part of the plan for this trip was to be more active on social media. I wouldn’t have wi-fi, but I could post from my iPhone. I had already scheduled the AlwaysBackroads blog posts, so I didn’t have to worry about those. I was doing a photo-a-day challenge for August and wanted to keep that up. I would take photos on the phone and upload to Instagram and Facebook. It did make me think about getting MiFi so I could download photos to the computer, play with them and then post to any of my blogs. I’m certainly not going to do a post of this length from my phone!

I had a great view to the west. The lake was not in sight – it’s down a cliff from here, but the Jemez mountains are beautiful. Just after I set things up, Cassie and I took a short walk – we both need it after several hours driving. We went to the overlook and then found a trail along the edge of the cliff. We had a good view of the the Rio Grande coming into the lake. It’s been raining a lot lately and the river was much muddier than the lake.

I set up my reclining chair (Costco) outside. It rained a little, but the chair doesn’t stay wet, so I didn’t worry about sheltering it. I sat outside with my water, this journal, a book, my phone and my camera. Everything I need. I take photos for immediate online use with the phone, but the cl-coyotecamera has a great zoom lens for much better shots. I am getting better with the phone camera, at least I’m remembering to use it more often. When it’s too warm, I move inside. Even had the air conditioning on a few times. When the clouds return, I move back out. About 10AM one morning a coyote wandered nearby.

The first book I started reading was “So Long Marianne” by Kim Hesthamer. It’s the story of Marianne Ihlen, Leonard Cohen’s inspiration for many songs. I wanted to know more about her than just his song. She died a few weeks ago. Cohen had written her a letter when he heard she was dying. It’s one of the most touching notes I’ve read.

“…well Marianne it’s come to this time when we are really so old and our bodies are falling apart and I think I will follow you very soon. Know that I am so close behind you that if you stretch out your hand, I think you can reach mine. And you know that I’ve always loved you for your beauty and your wisdom, but I don’t need to say anything more about that because you know all about that. But now, I just want to wish you a very good journey. Goodbye old friend. Endless love, see you down the road.”

I think that would be comforting to a person near death.

I liked the book, but it made me sad. She was about 10 years older than me, but her struggles to find her passion, to find herself, were familiar. And I fear are still being repeated by young women today.
Early Tuesday morning we walked down the boat ramp road to the lake. Really steep. I imagined trucks and boat trailers coasting into the lake.  There was an area with a locked gate, but I figured I’d ask the camp host if it’s okay to walk there. I wasn’t sure what is Federal land and what belongs to the Pueblo.
Back in the RV I listened to a J. K. Rowling podcast about failure. On my phone – very nice to be able to do that. Rowling is one of my heroes. She had a vision for herself that survived not only poverty, but also great wealth and fame. She’s the definition of ‘grounded.’

That day (August 23rd) was the first anniversary of my having this RV. I should write to Dorothy, who sold it to me, to let her know how much I enjoy it. She was 88 then and her kids didn’t want her go go camping by herself. Sad that she didn’t sell it of her own accord. I was glad to be out in it on this anniversary. Thanks Dorothy.

I finished the day watching the PBS show “Boys of ’36” about the Olympic rowing team. It’s a treat to be able to watch these programs here. I rarely take time at home for them.

cl-elkeOn Wednesday I finally met my neighbor three spaces down – my only neighbor on this loop in the campground. She’s Elke, an older German woman. She was here for the full 14 days allowed. And then she will head to another campground. She has a house in Santa Fe, but is tired of city life. She will probably come down to Elephant Butte someday.

cl-road-sun-treesThe morning walk took Cassie and me to the clump of cottonwoods down the road from the boat ramp. This is a day-use only area. We had it to ourselves because we went before the gate was unlocked. Near the shore there were about six or seven beavers in the water. I didn’t know beavers lived in lakes. They swam back and forth in front of me occasionally slapping their tails on the surface and
I took a lot of photos. Not great – the sun wasn’t up here yet. In the viewfinder I had a clear view of the tail as it raised and smacked the water. In all the photos, I got only the splash. They didn’t give me any indication that I could see to hint that the action was coming. The camera and I were too

The days fell into a similar rhythm. A cup of tea. A walk down the boat ramp road before the day warmed up too much. Past the locked gate I could let Cassie off the leash which we both appreciate. She never found anything to chase, but lots of things to smell. The rest of the day is read, write, take photos, and watch the sky and mountains and birds. Mix and repeat. Move inside when it rains (never hard); move outside when it quits. Take another

I was enjoying this routine. And the thought of packing up the next day and heading north just didn’t appeal to me. I paid for two more nights. The travel days are more taxing.
To be continued…
See Part Two here.