Short Trip

Well, this RV trip was different, and not what I expected.  A friend just bought a small travel trailer and needed some practice maneuvering it.  We decided a nearby camping trip with a third friend would be in order.  They could go for a few days, but I could fit in only a 24-hour period.

It was a busy, exhausting week for me.  I had little time to pack or prepared the RV.  But it’s only a day and I was camping with friends, so that wouldn’t matter.  It just didn’t seem to offer much relaxation – pack the RV, drive 20 miles, set up – and be there.  Next morning  pack up and go home.  Few expectations, no disappointments.

View of the Rio Grande from my campsite.

The surprise for me – how one evening setting by the Rio Grande watching the river and the birds, even a deer, and good conversation with friends, could refresh my attitude.  The early morning the next day just added to the healing.
Maybe it means that I’m comfortable enough with the RV now that even a one-day camping trip is worthwhile.  Something for me to remember.


Riverside, Caballo Lake State Park, New Mexico, USA.

Jemez Springs Trip

In March Cassie and I took off for Jemez Springs, northwest of Albuquerque.  This time I took the car and stayed in a delightful retro motel – The Laughing Lizard.  It’s right in ‘downtown’ Jemez Springs and has a fine porch where I sat and watched the light on the bluffs to the west.  Nice, clean rooms and friendly owners – it that weren’t enough, it’s next door to the Highway 4 Cafe.  One of the finest little restaurants I’ve experienced in New Mexico.

Downtown Jemez Springs.

Jemez Springs is in a canyon on the side of the Valles Caldera – there are so many things to see and do here.


Gilman Tunnels

Fenton Lake State Park. Nice to see lots of families there for Spring Break.

Valles Caldera National Preserve

Las Conchas Trail – one of dozens of options.

At the Caldera bookshop I bought a wonderful (= understandable) book, “The Geology of Northern New Mexico Parks, Monuments, and Public Lands.”  I can’t imagine anyone visiting here and not having geology questions.
We stayed three days.  Hardly enough time to scratch the surface of the area, but long enough to let me know I want to go back.

Valley of Fires RV Trip


The interpretive trail with one of the sources of lava in the distance.

I spent 3 nights in January at Valley of Fires National Recreation Area near Carrizozo, New Mexico.   The campgrounds are surrounded by fields of lava.  I now make a distinction between places to hang out for a while and places to just visit, see the sights, and move on.   This is the latter – not a place I want to stay for a long time.  But definitely worth visiting.

The RV sites are on a hill above the lava – water, electricity, and nearby – the finest restrooms ever!  Don’t miss those.  And views of sunrise, sunset, and lots of lava.
vof-3The campground for tents and cars is lower, against a wall of lava.  Very cozy, not so windy, but without the distant view.

Sunrise over Carrizozo.

Sunrise over Carrizozo.

The accessible interpretive trail is about one mile long.  Visitors are welcome to go off trail, but that is some rough hiking.  Cassie and I walked it several times.  The light is so different in the morning from the afternoon.

Cassie had to be on the leash.  The lava could be very sharp on dog feet.
It amazes me that someone put a fence through this land.
They conveniently provide a pipe-scope to identify the insignificant hill that produced a lot of the lava.
This juniper is over 400 years old.
I liked the camp site I had.  I sat out occasionally to read and just watch the world go by.  There was little wildlife to see – I realized how much I enjoy seeing animals.  Here we saw a ground squirrel (in the lava field) and a cottontail in the camp.  Lots of birds – mostly quick, small, and unidentified.
Beautiful sunsets every night.
So this isn’t a hang-out place, or a retreat spot, but I will stop here every time I go by – in the RV or in the car.  And I’ll walk that trail every time.

El Morro RV Trip – Part 2

[The first part of this trip to El Malpais is here.]

morro-2My goal for the second part of this trip was El Morro RV Park – perhaps better known for its Ancient Way Cafe, an excellent restaurant.  The park has cabins, camping, and full hook-ups for RVs, showers, washers and dryers, and great hiking.  No cell service for me, but they do have wifi.
I found a cosy site under the trees.  Plugged in the camera battery charger and retired to my chair with my book.  It was nice sitting outside reading.  And watching for wildlife – many birds, a squirrel and a chipmunk.  And chickens.  Some of the permanent residents here keep hens.
This tiny community is rich in artists – there’s a shop packed with fascinating creations; there is lots of outdoor art.  Being creative is just a normal part of life – and they show it here.

We hiked to the top of the mesa where there are acres to explore and incredible views.

View of the mesa where we hiked - taken from the next camp site.

View of the mesa where we hiked – taken from the next day’s camp site. The RV park is at the bottom of the slope at the far left.

A delightful couple from Colorado were in the space next to me.  They have a Tiger RV – only 16’ long.  Very sweet.  We had breakfast together at the restaurant and then we walked around the property, by the cabins, through the outdoor art gallery.

My idea of art - dents on an old truck.

My idea of art – dents on an old truck.

I stayed just two nights.  At $30/night, it’s more than I like to spend.  And I wanted to get to the campground just down the road at El Morro National Monument.  First we went to the visitors’ center and then hiked for a couple of hours – the long hike over the top.

It was nice to be able to take all the time I wanted.  It was a warm day and there’s not much shade on the top.  Cassie had to stay on the leash all the time, but she still got a good workout.  And she loves finding pools of water.

Trail to the top.

Trail to the top.

On top of El Morro.

On top of El Morro.

Atsinna ruins at El Morro.

Atsinna ruins at El Morro.

Not far from the visitors’ center is the El Morro Campground – no services except vault toilets.  But the sites are beautiful.  And it’s free.  I picked an east-facing site.

It would be perfect to watch the full moon rise.  morro-3

There are only nine spaces here and they filled quickly for the weekend.  Folks came on Saturday to pick piñons.  When they left, elk ventured in.
We hiked the shorter trail that goes along the the wall with the inscriptions.  We had all the time in the world to read them – from native Americans to travelers to soldiers.
I met my neighbor – a women traveling in a van with a severely disabled man and a big husky-like dog.  All interesting beings, but quite a job camping under those circumstances.  And they do it fairly often.  I was impressed.  Made my outings look so simple.
And I met a nomadic woman who was from Santa Cruz, my old stomping grounds.  Current Santa Cruz sure sounds different from my time there in the 80s and 90s.  I think the town got fat and greedy.  This camper lives a fascinating life and I hope to have her as a friend.  I invited her to visit Truth or Consequences.  One of the benefits of camping for me is meeting folks who like a similar lifestyle.

El Malpais RV Trip Part 1

October 2016

Even before I bought the RV I knew this was a trip I wanted to take:  El Malpais and El Morro – National Monuments in New Mexico.  And October is a beautiful month here.  Cottonwoods are turning yellow and gold; skies are full of cloud and color.  Cool enough to hike, warm enough to sit outside.
The drive there took longer than I expected – I really drive slowly.  Going north on I-25 I saw many RVs and trucks with travel trailers headed south.  Snowbird migration has started.
I-25 was easy driving.  And then I turned west on Highway 6 at Las Lunas to cut across to I-40.  At that point I have to get on the interstate for a few miles and I thought that might help me make better time.  Awful.  Lots of traffic – trucks, big RVs, everything going fast.  I got off at the first exit – it allowed me to get on Route 66.  Sigh.  It’s a beautiful drive through Laguna, Paraje, Budville, Cubero, San Fidel, and McCarty’s to the turn-off south on Highway 117 to El Malpais.  I was sorry to see that the Ranger Station and Visitor Center are closed permanently.  I stopped at the Joe Skeen campground.  There are about 8 or 10 campsites – picnic tables, shelters, and vault toilets – no other facilities.  There were only a couple of other campers, but some very noisy coyotes!  And dark, starry skies.

Cassie on the trail to the top of the bluff.

Cassie on the trail to the top of the bluff.

The campsite was at the base of a bluff with an easy trail to the top where we could wander for miles.  Cassie and I both liked it.  We walked there every day, sometimes twice.

Looking back at the RV.

Looking back at the RV.

Crack near the top of the bluff - will be at the bottom within 100 years!

Crack near the top of the bluff – will be at the bottom within 100 years!

Cassie loves finding water.

Cassie loves finding water.

One day we walked toward the Sandstone Bluffs and accidentally wandered on and then off Acoma Pueblo land.  Walked only about two miles, but both of us were tired when we returned.

Scaled quail.

Scaled quail.

My camera batteries were low – major crisis!  I have no way to recharge them except running the generator.  No one was around so I ran it about an hour.  Annoying.  A better plan is to move to the El Morro RV park to get electric hook-ups.

Lava flow.

Lava flow.

Leaving Joe Skeen I went sightseeing by way of the top of the Sandstone Bluffs which overlook the lava fields.  And a little way down Highway 117 to see Ventana Arch and the part of the Continental Divide Trails that crossed the malpais.  Then it’s just a short drive to the RV park.
malpais-12And some interesting rock detail.

The second part of this trip to El Morro National Monument is here.

Hillsboro – City of Rocks RV Trip Part 2

(Part 1 is here)

cr-1There are two roads from Hillsboro to City of Rocks State Park.  One goes over the Black Range through Emory Pass – shorter, but a climb on mountain roads.  Not my winter choice.  I took the flatter way – south to Nutt and west to Highway 180.  Turning off on Highway 61 (not Dylan’s) I went past Faywood Hot Springs to the park entrance.  It was an easy 90 miles.  There seemed to be a lot of traffic, then I remembered it was the Christmas weekend.

City of Rocks from one of the perimeter trails. My RV is just to the right of center.

City of Rocks from one of the perimeter trails. My RV is just to the right of center.

I found a fine campsite at #34 – Lacerta.  The sites are named for constellations and Lacerta is the lizard.   I liked that.  I needed to level the RV and did, but I don’t like the method I have – the yellow interlocking blocks.  They sank into the soft ground giving me only half the change I wanted.  Research time.

My campsite with Cooke's Peak in the background.

My campsite with Cooke’s Peak in the background.

The RV section of the park with electrical hook-ups.

The RV section of the park with electrical hook-ups.

cr-3Walked through the rocks, watched young folks playing.  The boulders remind me of being a kid in east San Diego county.  Lots of granite boulders there – a few as big as these.  Caves and forts and hideouts.  A great place to play.
I met Davey, a nomad who travels with three dogs in his car.  He invited me back for a drink later.  Nice, but not my thing:  drinking or being out after dark!  His parting shot, “I have TV” pretty much sealed it.  I understand if you are a full-time RVer, that a TV is nice, but that’s not what I want camping.

There were no camps within several hundred yards of mine.  Something in me relaxes with that.  There was a raven in the oak tree, and just after sunset, an owl on top of a tall rock. And later coyotes yipping.

Nice campsite.

Nice campsite.

We walked several times a day – around and through the rocks and on the perimeter trails.   There were miles of trails we didn’t get to.  Cassie had to be on a leash all the time.  It’s hard to tire her out that way.  On one walk we met Cheryl – our nearest neighbor.  She is making plans to photograph all the state parks – quite an ambitious and worthy goal.

Another nice picnic spot.

Another nice picnic spot.

It was a windy night – buffeted the RV.  I didn’t envy the folks in tents.  Woke up on Christmas morning to an inch or two of snow.  And still snowing – horizontally.  Beautiful.  This is Christmas 61 AB – After Buck – the glorious day I got my first horse.
The wind quieted down for a while, so we walked.  No one else in the rocks.  The peaks to the far west (Bullard and Burro Peaks?) were covered in snow.  The wind picked up and it started snowing again.  We headed back for shelter.  I finished my book by noon.  Oh dear, never get caught without a book to read!  The wind continued; the snow stopped and was soon blown away.

My Sunday morning view of Cheryl's tent.

My Sunday morning view of Cheryl’s tent.

cr-14Monday morning was windy and cold – in the teens.  The kettle was on and I could hear the owls again.  Walked through the rocks after sunrise and saw a fine red tail hawk facing the sun trying to get warm.  I understood. By noon I decided to head home.  On this whole trip, there was no sitting-outside-in-a-chair time.

116 miles home.  251 miles for the trip.

Hillsboro – City of Rocks RV Trip Part 1

This trip would cover holidays at least from Solstice through Christmas.  And it would be different for me because on our first stop, we would stay at an RV park.  Usually I prefer campgrounds – often state parks.hb-rv-sign

Hillsboro RV Park is not what I imagined most RV parks to be.  It’s not very big, it’s charming and close to the center of a small town.  And it is still a work in progress.  It backs up against Percha Creek which was a babbling stream when we arrived.  The owner, Kristen, is renovating vintage trailers which will be for rent.  Vintage trailers or RV parking or camping – so much in a small space.  She’s also working on a fire pit and hot tub area.
hillsboro-rv-showerKirsten is a high school art teacher and it shows in the details of her work.  She re-purposed the backdrop from the senior prom – a canvas painting of the Titanic’s ballroom – into framed pieces that make up the walls of the shower room. There is wi-fi in the park, but no cell service in the entire valley.

It was just a 34 mile drive for us.  I liked that.  There were three other RVs there, so I had my choice of many spaces.  None are large, but they are comfortable and level.  One occupant I never saw or heard, but the others were friendly and respectful.  My immediate neighbor, Charles, has a travel trailer.  He had come out from Virginia on a motorcycle in October and returned before Christmas with the trailer.  Farther away was Milo, a musician with a recording studio in his RV/bus.  I didn’t get to talk with him much, but he certainly seemed to live an interesting, creative life.  [Update:  1/7/17 I just heard Milo Matthews perform at the local Art Jam tonight.  He’s amazing – multi-talented singer songwriter.  I recommend checking out his itinerary in case he will be in your town.]
hillsboro-cafeThe first afternoon we took a short walk down the main street and back on the levee trail.  I saw three deer across from the museum.  Cassie didn’t see them.  She was leashed, so it would have been okay.  Hillsboro was very quiet this Tuesday before Solstice.  Nothing open except the Post Office.  The cafe here is very good, but closed during the holidays.
On Solstice morning, it was a little too cold to have the door open.  I missed that.  It was also quite overcast, so the the sun’s light was diffused.  I fixed my favorite start to the day:  tea and oranges.  “All the way from China” (Suzanne).  Thank you Mr. Cohen.

Nicely carved gate that is seldom used.

Nicely carved gate that is seldom used.

Shop window with reflection.

Shop window with reflection.

My book for this trip was “Fingersmith” by Sara Waters.  I did like the plot twists, but it’s not what I want when I camp.  It’s set in 1860’s London – urban, dirty, violent, not compatible with the great outdoors.

Later that morning we walked around town, up to the courthouse ruins, and to the cemetery.  I lost my phone (see the whole story here).  Eventually I got it back, but losing things is exhausting.


I liked this cemetery.  It’s maintained but not manicured – this is the desert.  I especially liked the handmade memorials.

Sad row with few markers.

Sad row with few markers.

It rained Wednesday night and most of Thursday.  Steady rain – so beneficial, but there was no sitting outside.  In all my time here I saw little wildlife.  I did hear a noisy woodpecker.  It was hard to see and impossible to photograph.

Friendly folks of Hillsboro.

Friendly folks of Hillsboro.

I had lunch at a friend’s home:  good company – fun, intelligent – and good food.  Having left Cassie for several hours, she was ready to play when I returned.  Throwing the ball for her was not easy nor much fun in the RV.  And didn’t give her nearly enough exercise.  I planned to give her a good run on Friday.  I was hoping to cross the creek and let her run on the other side, but by morning the creek was too high to cross.

I decided to head to the campground at City of Rocks State Park.  There are lots of trails there.


Lost and Found

Hillsboro, New Mexico, seemed like the perfect town for a holiday RV getaway – small, quiet, and photogenic.  And, as I was to learn, its best quality may be its people.

hb-cem-gateHillsboro RV Park is a charming park along Percha Creek.  I ended up staying three days.  On our first morning walk Cassie, my rescue mutt, and I went by the Post Office and I read the notes on the bulletin board: upcoming concert, lost keys in the cemetery, help wanted, accordion for sale, free cow manure, and other important topics.  Then past the cafe and up to the courthouse ruins.


I like taking photos in cemeteries, so we headed up the hill – the cemetery overlooks the valley.  The heavy gate was closed so I climbed through and Cassie went under.  The plots are dry and overgrown with grasses and a few mesquite bushes.  We meandered through all sections of the cemetery.  Most photos I took with my ‘real’ camera and a few with the phone camera.  Spent over an hour there.  Came back down the hill and took a few more photos at the museum yard.  And took the creek trail to the RV park.
After I was back 10 minutes I couldn’t find my phone.  Looked everywhere in the RV.  Thought maybe I had used it last at the museum so I retraced my path and found nothing.  I was going to have to climb back up the hill to the cemetery.  Cassie was delighted with this prospect; me, not so much.  The most likely place to have lost it was at the main gate when I clambered through.  But no, it wasn’t there.

I tried to reconstruct my wanderings through the graves to look at every path I took.  Finally, I got back to the one place I knew I had taken a phone camera shot.  Still no sighting. Then turned around and walked back.  Suddenly I saw some shiny flash of color – not phone, but keys!  Probably the keys that the bulletin board alerted me to.  I pocketed the keys and headed back down the hill.  In this holiday season, the only place in town that was open was the post office.  I handed the clerk the keys and the notice taken from the board.  She said she would call.  I left a note with her about my phone saying I was staying at the RV park.

Hillsboro on a quiet day.  The Post Office in the building on the left.

Hillsboro on a quiet day. The Post Office in the building on the left.

Walked back to the RV.  My neighbor, Charles, asked if I found the phone.  No, but I found someone’s keys.  He said to see Kristen, the park owner, because she knows the woman who lost them.  Turns out the woman had stayed at the park over Thanksgiving.

I went to the post office to get the keys – Kristen would return them.  When I got back, she was talking to a man in a car and called out to me.  “He found your phone.”  He left before I could do anything except shout ‘thank you.’  He found the phone at the gate and took it to the post office – the only place in town that was open.

I love Hillsboro.

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.