Friday, September 30, 2016

Great Escape, 2016, part 2, On to Big Bend National Park

So, we left Albuquerque, New Mexico bright and early Friday morning, heading for El Paso, TX.  Getting out of Albuquerque was a nightmare, bumper to bumper traffic, stop and go, on the freeway.  It took us an hour to get out of Albuquerque.

It's an interesting drive, lots of nothing but scenery and a few scattered towns here and there.

We spent Friday night at a brand new KOA (right behind a Camping World) in Anthony, New Mexico (just barely north of El Paso).  It was huge (long and wide) and since it's new, basically a parking lot in the desert with huge mostly pull thru sites.  No ammenities at this time, except for a great dog walk/yard, but full hook ups.  Only half of it has been put into service.

I did not like El Paso at all.  For anybody who doesn't know, I'm a very empathetic person who feels other peoples feelings and emotions like they are physical.  I can feel good and bad etc. and I felt very BAD in El Paso, I'm sorry to say.  It was very depressing, at least the parts we saw.  Granted, we were only on a freeway, except for Golden Corral, Walmart, and fuel stop, but the extreme from "well to do" to "poverty" was so painful.  Plus on the right side of the freeway (West) it looked so crowded and desolate, it really made me feel sad.  

Then I noticed a huge flag waving over there that was not the US flag and realized we were on the border of Mexico and what I was seeing crowded on the hillside was Ciudad Juarez.  We were careful to not take any of the roads to the Mexican crossings, as we didn't want to go there by mistake.  

We had been warned to avoid El Paso if we possibly could, due to road construction.  So we unhooked the trailer at the camp ground, and drove to dinner and to get fuel and drove our route through the city to see if it would be okay with the trailer the next morning.  It was no worse than any other larger city we've driven through, and since we would  be leaving at the (as my so articulate daughter puts it) butt-crack of dawn, we thought we'd have no problem.  We were correct, we sailed right through, and headed south to Big Bend National Park.

We discovered that Big Bend National Park is in the middle of NO WHERE!!!   We thought we lived in the middle of nowhere, but we're in a very populated area compared to this part of Texas.  Towns with single or double digit populations and NO businesses.  Ranches truly in the middle of nowhere hundreds of miles from the nearest store, post office, etc.  NO Walmart or Golden Corral, LOLOL.

We did see a lot of beautiful scenery, lots of hills and mountains, lots of flat land, lots of desert, LOL.  We also saw some interesting sights. . .

 This sign about Van Horn Wells was quite interesting, talking about the Butterfield Mail line (which I've read about in books) and the "Jackass Mail" (is that another term for pony express?). . . Never heard that term before.   

This interesting shape from the distance and getting larger and larger had us wildly guessing what it might be.  I finally said some kind of weather balloon?  When we got to the road leading to it (fenced, gated, locked, etc., of course) there was a sign saying it was a tethered aeronautical radar device of some kind.  We thought that was pretty cool.  But it was honestly out in the middle of NOWHERE!!!!

Rather than staying in the National Park itself (no hook-ups and we're spoiled, LOL) we chose to stay just to the North West of the park in Lajitas, TX.  There is a "general store" (we didn't go inside, but from the outside it looks like the general stores from Little House on the Prairie).  It does have fuel with the next closest fuel being 50 miles away. . . So we stayed at Maverick RV Park and Resort.  This Resort is a REAL golfing resort place, with hotel, condos, houses to rent, as well as the RV park.  A very nice looking golf course (we don't play golf).  There is a huge controversy over this resort, as the "locals" and "National Park preservists" resent having this land cut up and made into a golf course resort etc.  It's a nice RV park, has a pool and RV park people can use the resort facilities, also, which include a spa, amphitheater, bakery, golf course, boardwalk shops/art gallery, Christmas World shop, cafe, Thirsty Goat Saloon, Equestrian Center, Fitness Center, theatre, chapel, Ballroom, Golf shop, and Gun and Saddle Shop.  It might be a great place to "snow bird" to, as long as you don't need anything "big store" wise.  

Finally the sign for Lajitas. . .  and then. . . Maverick Ranch

The following pictures are various pictures of our RV site, getting set up and the various views from the RV.  I'd love to return here some day and have this exact same campsite.  
The office.
The view driving up to our campsite.
A lovely BIG yellow butterfly, similar to our Yellow Sulphers, but MUCH larger.  right beside our water spigot.  

 Just pulled into the campsite, not set up yet.  
 The view from our front door.

The first 3 days we were here it rained, non stop. . . (I thought there was no rain in the desert???)  So we stayed in camp and relaxed, I worked on canes (got a few finished and a BUNCH started, but realized I needed more black polymer clay than I brought, so I had to order some to have shipped here. . . and then the "adventure" began. . . and I don't mean adventure in a positive note. . . sigh
Our fire ring, we used it once, LOL.  It was too rainy at first, then too hot, and tonight it was cool enough and we're leaving in the morning, so we had hot dogs and chips and my favorite dessert, perfectly roasted marshmallows.  
 View from my "studio" area.

 Rain, rain and more rain. . . I thought it didn't rain in the desert, LOL
 You wouldn't believe how incredibly dark it get here.  There are absolutely NO lights outside.  It is darker than I've even seen before.  We sat out one night for a short while just looking at the sky.  The stars were so bright and there were so many. . .

Hope to see you again in the next post.  We took a beautiful drive.  Smiles and see you soon.  

Sue C

Great Escape from IL Harvest Allergies, 2016, part 1

Hmmm, not sure where to start with this post.  This has not been a "great" trip, so far, but one thing at a time, so I guess I should start at the beginning.

Before leaving home, Mr. C and Bandit had some silliness in them:

We left IL, on a grey rainy morning, Sept 15, and began our trip West towards St. Louis, with the first overnight in Springfield, MO.  We've stayed here in the past, it's a nice quiet KOA campground, easy in and out, flat pull thru sites where we could stay hooked up overnight.

While traveling, since I've seen this scenery time and time again, I crocheted while we listened to Audio Books.  I finished a sun hat for our hikes in Big Bend National Park and worked on a heavy weight shawl, in turquoises and blues.

Sept 16, we arrived at Twin Fountains Campground in Oklahoma City.  We've also stayed here before.  This trip we were actually right beside the Twin Fountains, LOL.  This campground has lots of campsites, many, many long pull thru sites, Some are lots more level than others.  Sometimes when we stay here we can stay hooked up for an overnight and quick get away the next morning, other sites have a bump in the middle which would not allow one to stay hooked up overnight.  They have a pool, mini golf, play room, gift and sundries shop, snack bar and more.  It's a nice campground.  I had some asthma problems here and we assume it is "big city smog" as I have had no problems since then.  When we went to dinner (Golden Corral, of course, you KNOW it's our favorite.  We hardly ever eat in camp while traveling, as we're tired when we get in and know we'll pull out early the next am and don't want to "unpack everything".)  Anyway, when we went to dinner we saw a BEAUTIFUL color of Crepe Myrtle, an actual RED, although in the picture it looks more dark pink/fucshia.  I love Crepe Myrtle bushes/trees, they remind me of lilacs that bloom all year.  They don't do well in IL, although Becky (daughter) brought me one that is supposedly good down to -10* this year.  Hopefully it will survive the winter, we'll see.

Sept 17, we arrived at Amarillo, TX (or as we teasingly tell our grand daughter Lilli, armadillo, TX, as that's what she called it once upon a time).  We stayed at a new campground this time, as our usual campground is rather tight quarters and we found this one on our previous trip through Amarillo.  Oasis RV Park is very spacious.  It is new, so not much in the way of shade or trees (more like NONE, LOL) and is much like a large parking lot in the desert, LOL.  But the sites are nearly all long, wide pull thru sites, easy in and easy out and the ability to stay hooked up.  They DO have a pool, although it was closed for the season.  It was a nice quiet night and early pull out the next morning.

Sept 18, we headed out towards New Mexico (I have to admit to being a bad traveler.  I HATE the daily travel day after day to get where we're going.  I LOVE going new places, just hate the driving to get there.  Once we retire, we won't have to drive day after day, we can drive, stay a few days drive, stay a month, drive, stay a couple months or whatever schedule we want to keep.  Around the New Mexico Border we stopped at a rest stop for the obvious reason.  We had noticed some clouds building up in the west, and figured we were going to have to drive through a storm, but it didn't look too bad so we weren't too worried.  As we finished our "business" a huge gust of wind struck the trailer and I asked, what was that.  Mr. C said, it was the wind, we'd better get going.  So we made our way out of the trailer and back to the truck fighting a VERY strong wind all the way.

The clouds looked worse and the wind had really kicked up and we discussed if we'd be better off sitting it out in the rest stop or hitting the road and going on (remember, we're a 40 ft 5th wheel trailer being pulled by a 22 ft pick-up truck, so we're nearly the same size as a semi, just as tall and top heavy).  The trucks were pulling out, so we decided to follow their lead.  As we started down the on-ramp though, there were 4 semis stopped.  The first one finally pulled over to the side enough the second one could pull up beside him.  The next 2 and we were stopped behind them. . . finally the next truck carefully pulled out around the 2 stopped ones and went on, followed by the next semi.  We also carefully edged around the 2 stopped trucks (it appeared they had just stopped on the on ramp to chat???)  Suddenly the skies opened up and huge heavy hard hitting (say THAT 5 times fast) rain started up.

We wondered if it was hail, but didn't see any hitting the ground, so decided it was just hard rain.  After about 15 minutes of nearly blinding rain we drove out of it.  So, we're glad we went ahead and didn't sit it out, as it probably would have lasted a lot longer if we hadn't driven right through it.  The weather was great the rest of the way to Albuquerque.

We stayed at American RV, right off I-40 on the west side of Albuquerque.  We usually stay here.  It has a nice pool, store, continental breakfast, easy in and out long pull thru sites.  The area we are usually in is kind of an "overnighter's" area.  No trees or shade, basically a parking lot for RVs.  This works for us, as we're there to see family and don't spend any time in the campground anyway.  There is a part of this campground that is nicely shaded with trees etc. but the sites are a bit smaller and closer together and it takes more maneuvering around to get settled, so we always choose the easy area.  Then, the first unexpected disaster struck. . . well, maybe not a disaster, it could have been worse. . . We pulled into our campsite and started to un-hook the trailer and it wouldn't come apart because there was too much stress on the hitch, so Mr. C got back in the truck, released the brake, put it in neutral to let it "roll" to relieve the stress on the hitch (we've done this before with no problems) but when he went to stop again, the brake pedal went clear to the floor.  Mr. C got it stopped and got out and said, we have no brakes. . . but we went ahead and unhitched and got settled before doing any further checking.  He went out and checked it and there was brake fluid under the master cylinder and it appeared the main brake line had broken off the master cylinder.  GREAT. . . just what we need, but as I said before, NOT a disaster, at least it hadn't happened somewhere in the mountains. . . we were Blessed enough for it to wait until we got safely parked in our camp site and then failed at a time we could easily stop and park it.  RVers (actually anybody using a vehicle for long heavy use) have to expect the unexpected, and sometimes have to change plans.

So, the next morning, we called Ford and got an appt to bring the truck in (well, have it towed in).  This was on Monday and we planned to leave Albuquerque on Thursday to head towards Carlsbad, NM. . . So we called Good Sam to have the truck towed to Ford, called Good Sam for our extended warranty, and called Enterprise Rent a Car to come get us to get a rental car for our stay in Albuquerque.  We've been through this one other time (for a different reason) in Galveston, so we know the drill. . . just not the "schedule".  Power Ford were extremely nice to us.  They got someone to check it out, right away, and sure enough it was the master brake cylinder and they ordered the part as well as new shocks as they noticed our shocks were shot on the front end.  The parts wouldn't be in until Wednesday.They gave us an estimate of getting it back to us MAYBE by late Friday night.  so we went in to see them, in person, remember, we had the truck towed, so we hadn't talked to them as "people", only on the phone.     So, okay, we can change our plans and cancel White Sands and still arrive at Big Bend on Schedule for Saturday, if we can at least get it back by Thursday night.  So, we asked, them, please, please, is there anyway for us to get it by Thursday night, or even Noon on Friday.  If we need to skip the shocks, we will, just fix the brakes.  After looking at it again and knowing our situation, they agreed to skip the shocks, because they were so rusted they were afraid the bolts etc. would break off and would cause the repair to take even longer. . . and they could wait until we get home.  So they fixed the brakes and had it back to us on Thursday late afternoon (they were especially appreciative of the donuts we took in as a thank you).

While in Albuquerque, we spent time with Mr. C's Dad and "Step-Mother".  We had a lovely Spare Rib dinner at their house the first night we were there with Dad and Janet, Mr. C's sister, Joella (who had driven down from Colorado to be with us), Janet's sons, Kenneth and Roy and their wives and some of their sons.  Janet picked us up (as we couldn't get the rental car until the next morning) and Kenneth and his lovely wife Debby brought us home.  It was a very nice meal and evening of conversation with our relatives.  Since Dad and Janet married after Mr. C and I were married, he never had time with them as a family and it is hard for us to realize that Janet's children are actually Mr. C's "step-brothers".  (So sadly to say, although I took pictures here, I can't find them anywhere, I don't have a clue where they are. . . )

We spent each afternoon with Dad, Janet, (and Joella, until she left on Tuesday morning); one day at Sandia Casino, and each evening a meal at Golden Corral.  They have the best Golden Corrals in Albuquerque, they are 'pavillion' style and are larger than the ones we are used to.

The last day we were in Albuquerque, Mr. C and I went to the "Rattlesnake Museum".  It was in Old Town and was awfully small, but still very interesting.  It had more than just Rattlesnakes, including a lovely albino Rat snake (like our big yellow banana snake we used to have for those of you who might remember) and

MOM:  stop here, warning, snake pictures. . .

a Gila Monster which I won't get to see in person until we finally make it to Arizona (if then. . . )  If you don't already know, Mr. C LOVES snakes and lizards of any kind.  He has worked with them since he was a teen and is especially fascinated by Rattlesnakes.

We also wandered through Old Town, but it was basically just shop after shop, after shop of  Southwestern jewelry and clothing.  So after meeting Dad and Janet for dinner, we went back to the RV and got ready to leave early the next morning.

That's plenty for today, I'll save our Big Bend adventure (LMAO, just wait til you hear. . . sigh. . . )

Til tomorrow. . . Smiles, Sue C