Villanueva State Park

On 5/20 we had to leave Storrie Lake State Park, having used up our maximum 14 days in a 20 day period.  Would have to find somewhere else to go.  I wanted to get back to Storrie ASAP, since the weather was nice, the Verizon and TV signals were decent, good town/shopping and it’s just a pretty park.  Villanueva was just 40 miles away down I-25 and I had never been there before.  I had heard it was a pretty park, so we would do 6 days there and then be eligible to go back to Storrie Lake for 2 weeks.

From reading other blogs and looking at Campsite Photos, I decided to go directly to the upper “El Cerro” campground.  Supposedly there is a bit of signal possible up there.  But, I didn’t get any Verizon up there at my site 25C.  I wandered around a bit with my MiFi, never found anything.  Not a huge deal.  I could always scoot someplace to connect and check email or whatnot.  (Which I did a couple of times.  There is signal at the nearby “town” of Sena.)

Our site

Our site and rock shelter

Most of the sites have these rock shelters.  Made a nice area that I could close off with Riley’s exercise-pen and make a little private sitting area.

Our rock shelter

Got my chair and a complimentary beverage for relaxing…

It was a really pretty park.  The Pecos River flows right through the park and has some good hiking.  The visitor center is a nice looking building.  Had some interesting displays in there.

Villanueva Visitor Center

Villanueva Visitor Center

There are 3 trails in the park – the El Cerro Trail above the upper campground, the River Trail and the Viewpoint Loop Trail on the other side of the Pecos. We did the El Cerro Trail first.  It’s not hard and not long.

The view from the El Cerro Trail

The view from the El Cerro Trail

Riley at the top of El Cerro

Riley at the top of El Cerro

The trail is pretty rocky in some places.

The trail is a little rough in places

Cactus Flower

Trail cactus.

On another day we went across the bridge to the Viewpoint Loop trail.

Pecos River

Pecos River

Sit....Stay...

Sit….Stay… Awww, isn’t he cute?

The trail is mostly rolling or level, with a couple of spots on each end where it’s like a rocky StairMaster and you get the elevation gain.  The Verizon is good up there.  I brought my Verizon MiFi hotspot and iPad and was able to get 3 bars of 4G.  I could see the towers over by I-25 from up there.  So, you just have to get high enough to line of sight.

4G Territory

4G Territory

There are 3 shelters at the top of the Lookout trail and 2 of them have picnic tables.  If I went back again, I would just hike the trail once a day and check in online.  It’s less than 2 miles.

Chillin' like a villain...

Just chillin’

Nice view of the park from up there, both the lower and upper campgrounds.

Villanueva CG

Villanueva CG

Not having internet is good for getting other things done – lemon oiled all the wood in my RV, did some bookbinding, reorganized a couple of cabinets, rented movies at the Villanueva General Store, read, made dog treats, etc.. Lots of back-burner things finally get done when I’m bored.

I figured maybe I wouldn’t go back there again, no internet at the campsites.  But, I’m just spoiled.  I want to go online anytime any little thought passes through my head.  A once-a-day hike and internet session isn’t the worst life in the world.  Maybe I should consider going back sometime.  It’s entirely possible.  🙂

On The Road Again – In New Mexico

After 5 months in Texas, we are back on the road.  As mentioned previously, we left on April 14th and pointed the Lazy Daze towards New Mexico.  I plan to have a ‘Touring New Mexico State Parks‘ sort of year.  Last year was quite expensive, traveling through half of  California, visiting San Francisco, then back to New Mexico and Colorado.  Buying a new RV and scooter was not in my annual budget!!  So, I figure maybe when we have a spendy year traveling, then I’ll make the following year a less expensive year.  The NM state park system fits that bill.  I bought my annual pass ($225) after Balloon Fiesta last October, so we’re good until 10/31/14.  We can park in primitive, developed and water-only sites for free.  If we need an electric site it’s just $4 per night.  Plus, with all the parks at various elevations across the state, we should be able to adjust to the weather pretty easily.

Anyway, we got to Horizon City (just east of El Paso) on the first day. I don’t normally do 515 miles in one day, but I just wasn’t tired of driving until that point.  The next day we got to Pancho Villa State Park in Columbus. Columbus isn’t much of a town, but it’s just 3 miles north of Las Palomas, Mexico, and I needed a dental checkup.  I had looked at other Lazy Daze owners blogs (Jim/Gayle and Andy Baird) about Las Palomas, as I remembered reading they had been there for dental or vision care.  I have a good Obamacare plan now, but no dental.  It would cost $150 to have my previous dentist do a checkup and cleaning, so made an appointment at American Dental in Las Palomas for the morning of the 17th.  The place was a perfectly normal dental office, instruments came out of a sterilized sealed packet, nice competent doctor, no problem.  Cost was $35 cash, no additional work needed – Yay!

Las Palomas, MX

The dentist office (American Dental) is just next door to the Pink Store

Next, we headed up to Rockhound State Park.  We had liked it there previously.  This time there was only one site available and it was hard to get level there.  Plus the flies were horrid!  So, I decided to not stay and just go straight to our next planned stop – Oliver Lee Memorial State Park near Alamogordo.  We hadn’t been there before, so wanted to work it into this trip.  I really liked it!  Good hiking, close to a decent sized town, good space between the sites, and I was able to get a pretty level no-hookup site away from the electric/reservation section.

Oliver Lee Site

Oliver Lee Site, at the base of the Sacramento Mountains

The next day I got our site all set up.  I don’t normally put a lot of stuff outside, but if I plan to stay in a site for several days, or 2 weeks like here, I get the big rug out and Riley’s ex-pen.  He loves to hang out outside with me.

Set up for a good stay

Getting set up for a good, long stay

We hiked the Riparian Trail, a short nature trail from the visitor center along a creek.

Riparian Trail

Riparian Trail

Then we hiked the Dog Canyon Trail.  That is actually a long, several mile, all-day hike, with major elevation gain up into the forest.  We did part of it, 1 mile or so then back.  That’s all Riley could handle.  On another day we did 2 miles, then back.  He really does not like the rocky trails and can only go for a few miles, then wants to lay down a lot.  We need to build back up to longer hikes like we did last year.

Dog Canyon Hike

Dog Canyon Hike

Looking down on the campground from the Dog Canyon Trail

Looking down on the campground from the Dog Canyon Trail

On the way back down I noticed all the solar on the visitor center.  I really like to see the alternative energy efforts of the state parks.

Oliver Lee Solar

Solar on the Oliver Lee Visitor Center

When we got back to the RV Riley was tuckered out.  Didn’t quite make his bed, and did not care.

"Close enough, I'll just lay like this for a while..."

“Close enough, I’ll just lay like this for a while…”

So, Oliver Lee is definitely one park I will keep on my list of go-to NM state parks.  It’s pretty close to Alamogordo with decent shopping – Walmart, Lowe’s, Home Depot, Lowes (the food one), good hiking, good Verizon signal and TV, and a good breeze (high enough up above the town).  It’s a short ride to town on Hwy 54, but that is too major of a road (65 mph) for me and the scooter, so I found a back way in on lesser roads that I could go 45 mph or less.

After about 2 weeks we headed to Santa Rosa Lake State Park.  Will post about that next.  Currently I’m at Storrie Lake State Park, with plans to visit Coyote Creek, Eagle Nest Lake, Cimmaron Canyon, and Hyde Memorial this summer.  Hyde Memorial State Park is near Santa Fe.  Chris and I spent a couple of weeks there last June.  Having a free spot to stay just a few miles from Santa Fe is great.  Unfortunately, there isn’t any Verizon signal at the campground.  Will have to go in to town for internet.  But I have the scooter now, so no problem!  More soon….

Oliver Lee Sunset

Oliver Lee Sunset

Back in Texas For a Few Months

It’s nice to be at my folks’ place on Lake Buchanan.  We are about 75 miles northwest of Austin.  I have a nice parking spot with a 30-amp hookup and water, and access to the benefits of a house (nice washer/dryer, long/hot showers, big kitchen, etc.).  And mostly it’s nice to be with my family.  I decided last year that I would stay around for a while this time and skip Quartzsite.  At least until it gets warm, when I will head back to the higher elevations of New Mexico.  Probably be here until about April or so.  While here I’m working on several projects.  Big projects include – installing new solar panels and controller/monitor, redoing the TV cabinet and installing a pantry.  Also, there are always small things to do.

My spot at Lake Buchanan

My spot at Lake Buchanan.  The lake is so low.  Normally you could see water just past my RV.

Riley and I got back in mid-November.  We got to have a nice Thanksgiving with family.  Then, in December, we did several shifts with Austin Sheltie Rescue at Barnes and Noble.  We have done this for the past few years at Christmas, wrapping gifts for customers for donations.  Riley hangs out in the pen looking handsome and getting some lovin’ from the customers, while I wrap gifts and visit with the other volunteers.  We raised some good funds, which help to pay down our vet bill.

Riley is in the ex-pen while Lucas (with Sunne) sniffs around.  Fran wrapped and brought Oreo, in the pen with Riley.

Riley is in the ex-pen while Lucas (with Sunne) checks things out.  Fran wrapped with me and brought Oreo, who is in the pen with Riley.

Back in Las Cruces, at the Farmer’s Market, I bought a small triangle loom and started weaving on it.  It’s OK, but got me thinking about taking up weaving on a traditional loom.  I went by Hill Country Weavers when in Austin to check it out.  It’s one of my favorite local yarn stores, but had never noticed any weaving items when there.  I talked to one of the saleswomen and turns out you can weave on a small loom, called a rigid-heddle loom.  They had a class coming up in mid-December, so I signed up.  You learn to weave and start a project in the 3-hour class, then are allowed to take the loom home for 2 weeks to see if you like it.  I did, I loved it!  In that 2 weeks I made about 10 scarves.  I ended up getting a Flip loom that folds.  It will be easy to use and store in the RV.

We had the whole family up at the lake for Christmas, like always.  My brother and S-I-L (George and Marie) flew in from Seattle, where they had moved last year after George took a job at Microsoft.  It was nice to be able to see them.  I didn’t think they’d get back to TX this year.  Marie is crafty like me, so we had fun going through my yarn stash (and my mom’s, too) and working with the loom together.  I got busy and made a couple of scarves for them to take back for the cold Washington winters.  Marie picked out a nice combination of burgundy and grey, and George asked for shades of black and grey.

Scarves for George and Marie

Scarves for  Marie and George

I learned a dominoes game called 42 from my nephew, Kevin, and there was a game going on a lot of the time.  Kevin and George are really expert at it.

Playing 42 - nephew Kevin, my Dad, nephew Tyler and George

Playing 42 – nephew Kevin, my Dad, nephew Tyler and George

By mid-December my dad and I had decided on the equipment we needed for the solar project.  Having done one system on my prior rig last December, we had some ideas of what to do the same or different this time.  I ordered the panels, charge controller and monitor online and got regular parts locally.  By the end of the month, we had removed the existing 85-watt panel, the controller, and wiring.  It took some thinking, but we finally decided on the new wiring route and where to mount the new controller and monitor.  We did most of the installation in January.  I’ll write a separate post with pics about all that soon.  I’ll do a post about the new TV/entertainment setup, too.  That took a lot of work, but turned out really nice.

I’ve been keeping busy with other things too.  I spent some time switching the expensive, catastrophic-only insurance that I’ve had for the past 1.5 years for a good Obamacare plan. I was able to get my coverage set up in mid-December and able to get an annual checkup with my regular doctor in January.   Also, I spent some time going through the stuff I had stored with my folks.  I had some clothes and yarn in a closet inside and some boxes in a 4’x4′ corner of my dad’s garage.  It’s been mostly too cold to work in the garage, but I did some work on a nice day recently, and we’re in a warm spell, so can do more these days.  I would like to get to a point where everything I own is with me in the RV, but I can’t seem to make myself get rid of my books, and some kitchen and craft items.  Last month I opened an Etsy shop online to sell scarves that I have woven.  I call it “A Wandering Weaver“.  Currently I’m working on a table runner.  Scarf season is almost over.

In January I had a birthday and my folks had a cake made with my Lazy Daze on it!  This is hand decorated with a pastry bag, and is such a close replica I almost couldn’t believe it.  What a fantastic cake!

Birthday cake

And it tasted as good as it looks

Next, I will write about the solar system we did.  Lot’s of RV’ers are interested in how others set up their systems, so I want to document it a bit.

One more picture.  We saw a little baby goat at the farmer’s market in Austin.  Riley could not be any less interested.

Baby goat at the farmer's market

“Booorrrrring!  Where are the snacks?”

From the beginning

So, I’m starting a blog.  I’ve been on the road since August 2nd and have seen wonderful places, met fantastic people, and want to share with friends and family.  So far, I’ve been through northern New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana and Idaho.  Still to go are Utah, Arizona, New Mexico (southern), and then back to Texas by Thanksgiving.  I’ll post in order, so this all will be delayed until I get everything posted and caught up.   Hopefully my pictures will convey the fantastic places we’ve seen.