Southern New Mexico, Then to Texas

From Albuquerque we headed south on I-25 to Truth or Consequences and Elephant Butte Lake State Park.  I didn’t get to leave until mid-afternoon, after finishing my realignment job at Statkus Engine.  It’s a good 150 miles to Elephant Butte, and I was stopping in Socorro to do laundry.  We got to T or C just after dark, so I just popped in to the Walmart right off I-25 and parked for the night.  My New Mexico State Parks annual pass had expired and I needed to buy a new one, which I could do at the park entrance in the morning.  It’s really the best deal in the country.  Out-of-state residents pay $225 for the pass (NM residents pay even less), which cuts $10 off of the nightly the rate.  Developed sites are $10, so they become free; electric sites, normally $14, are $4 with the pass.  Can’t beat it with a stick!  It would pay for itself before I left the state, and I knew we would be traveling to NM again in 2014.

Anyway, I wanted to get to Elephant Butte as soon as possible.  Christine and Carol were there and our friend Roxanne was there, but planned to leave within a day or so.  I had last camped with Roxi in the Coconino NF near Flagstaff, when she and Annie were there in the Duck and hadn’t seen her for a year.  So we headed over to the main part of the park and met up with the gals at the Desert Cove Campground.  The next day, Saturday, Christine drove us to Truth or Consequences to the farmer’s market.  Carol had a booth set up to sell the napkin sets and potholders that she makes.  Afterwards we met at the Passion Pie Cafe for breakfast with Roxi and Sue.  Sue is in the Women Go Solo Yahoo group that we are all on, but I hadn’t met her yet.  Great coffee, great breakfast, and great gabbing.  Always fun to hang with the gal pals.

Carol at TorC farmer's market

Carol at TorC farmer’s market

Just a few yards over from the Passion Pie stood this piece of street art.  Truth or Consequences is a funky town.

Street Art

Street Art in T or C

On Monday we moved over to the South Monticello Point campground (nicknamed “SoMoPo” by Roxi), on the far north part of the park.  The sites are nicer, a little bit further apart and with a view of (what’s left of) the lake.  Andy arrived from Bisbee that afternoon, then Chris arrived on Tuesday.  He had gotten a draw for an elk hunt in the Jemez, then spent some additional time in Santa Fe, so I hadn’t seen him in 3 weeks.  We all got sites together on one loop of the campground (it’s not as packed as the campgrounds closer to town.)

All of us at South Monticello Campground

All of us at South Monticello Campground (Chris, me, Christine (with Roxi’s “Spud”) and Andy behind the bushes on the right)

Nice sites at SoMoPo

Nice sites at SoMoPo

Carol had stayed back at the Lion’s Beach campground, closer to town.  But she came by for a lady’s luncheon that Christine had arranged to welcome Andy.  This is (l-r) Chris, Andy, me and Carol.  Roxi must have been taking the picture. (I stole it from Christine’s Facebook page. Actually, I just noticed it has Good Luck Duck in the corner, so she had gotten it from Roxi.)

Lady's Lunch

Lady’s Lunch

Anyway, around this time I was having trouble with my TV reception.  It had worked fine in Albuquerque.  But the TV towers for all of central NM are on Sandia Peak, right above the casino.  Getting reception there is easy.  Chris brought the TV from his RV over to see if it was a TV thing, but no, didn’t work.  Next, I took a long cable wire and ran it directly off the top of my antenna, in through the window, and to the TV.  That worked.  So, it was a wire problem.  Turns out the connection going into the RV at the base of the antenna was fried.  I guess I had been picking up channels from the TV itself, without the roof antenna.  I hopped on the scooter and cruised into T or C, got new connections and tools and replaced the fried pieces.  Easy-peasy.

Saturday we all (Andy, Roxanne and I) piled into Christine’s RV and headed to town for the farmer’s market and then met Sue at the Passion Pie Cafe again.

Passion Pie Gals

Passion Pie Gals (Sue, me, Chris, Roxi and Andy)

On the 30th Riley and I moved down to Caballo Lake State Park, which was almost full.  (I guess there was some flooding near T or C and it flowed down to Caballo, but not into Elephant Butte Lake.)

Caballo Lake

Caballo Lake

Chris stayed a couple extra days at South Monticello.  He had just bought a new kayak in Elephant Butte and wanted to spend time on the lake fishing with it. Christine and Andy would follow in a few days.  Roxi was heading northwest to her property.  She had just bought a parcel of land with an unfinished cabin on it.  She’d been planning to visit it and start making plans, but had stayed several extra days in the T or C area with us.  I was glad to be able to spend some time hanging out with her.

Last year I spent time with my buds at the Riverside campground below the dam, so this time I wanted to spend time up at the main campground. The Caballo sites are OK, but they have a very nice enclosure for the picnic table, with a carport!

Caballo has a little carport for your scooter!

Caballo site with a parking spot for my scooter!

There is really nothing near Caballo.   I was having a new iPad delivered to the park, then planned to move along to Leasburg Dam State Park, just north of Las Cruces.  Christine and Andy had spend a few days at Caballo, but had moved on to Deming and we planned to meet up again at Leasburg.  Chris was going to head back north on the way to Phoenix for Thanksgiving.  Before leaving, Chris and I worked on practicing loading and unloading my scooter.  He spotted me while I worked the scooter several times, eventually I got better at it. Now I can load it as well as unload it by myself (as long as I’m on flat ground).  I really wanted to be able to put it on and off by myself.  I came close to dropping it at Sandia when loading it by myself and sometimes it scares me.  So practicing with Chris was important for me.

On the 5th Riley and I headed down I-25, stopping in Hatch for a few groceries, then to Leasburg.  They have a lovely Visitor Center building:

New Mexico architecture at Leasburg Dam State Park Visitor Center

New Mexico architecture at Leasburg Dam State Park Visitor Center

Which is more handsome?  Riley or the door?

Nice door at the Leasburg Visitor Center

Nice door at the Leasburg Visitor Center

I scooted in to Las Cruces on Wednesday for the mid-week farmer’s market.  It’s good – a couple of blocks downtown, a mix of food and crafts.  On Saturday Christine, Andy and I went downtown to the farmer’s market, which is just huge on Saturdays.  Then it’s about 8 blocks long, plenty of food, and a LOT of arts and crafts.  After the market we went to the theater to see “Gravity” in 3D.  Great movie, especially in 3D.

Downtown Las Cruces with Christine and Edna, and Andy with Nell and Riley

Downtown Las Cruces with Christine and Edna, and Andy with Nell and Riley

Leasburg site (and another scooter-port)

Leasburg site and sunset (and another scooter-port)

White Sands National Monument is not far from Las Cruces, so on Tuesday 11/12 we packed our lunches, piled in Christine’s Toyota, and headed over.  The visitor center is right at the entrance, so we checked that out.  We each wanted a t-shirt, and when we decided to buy the same shirt, we had to dork it up and put them on for a picture.

At White Sands

At White Sands

Here is where we stopped for lunch.

Lunch Spot

Lunch Spot

It was nice to have one more outing with the girls before leaving. When we got back to the park I got busy packing up, since we were heading back to Texas in the morning. I was able to load the scooter by myself, no one else was around.  Yay!  The next morning I dumped the tanks on the way out and headed south to pick up I-10 to cross west Texas.  We made it to Fort Stockton by late afternoon, so just pulled into a corner of the Walmart parking lot for the night.  Close to the highway, but quiet.  That’s a good overnight spot!  The 2-day trip was pretty uneventful and I stopped near the end for an oil change and inspection.  Back in Denver in July, when I registered my new rig, I found out it would have to be inspected within 3 days of entering Texas.  So got it done and out of the way.  All told, I was on the road for just over 10 months and 6,800 miles.  I can’t even count all the new friends I made.  What a great trip!

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Salida, CO and an Update

First an update – I’m in Santa Fe, NM for some warranty work on the scooter.  It wouldn’t start one day, and rather than drive over to Sportique in Colorado Springs I got an appointment at Centaur Scooters in Santa Fe.  We were already heading to New Mexico to meet some Lazy Daze folks at Abiquiu Reservoir on Sept. 20th, then to Albuquerque for the Balloon Fiesta in Oct.  I just had to do a little side trip before getting to Abiquiu.  Good news – the problem was a failure by the starter solenoid and was fixed less than 2 hours after I dropped it off yesterday.  They diagnosed it quickly and had a solenoid available to use.  Also, they filed the warranty claim so I wasn’t out of pocket anything and was able to load up the scooter and be on my way.  Sometimes you get an early failure on a part, so I’m not worried about the scooter.  I really liked Centaur when Chris and I visited in June.  We had stopped in there to look at scooters and see about putting a rack on my prior rig (which ended up not being possible).  It seemed like a great mom and pop shop, well stocked and well run.  They sure did well to get me on my way with no delay.  So, I have scheduled my initial 200 mile service with them, before heading down to Albuquerque on Oct. 1st.

Anyway, after Leadville we moved down to Salida.  We had stopped in there for a week or so back in late June, early July.  There is a free BLM boondocking spot just east of town, on the Arkansas River.  Leadville was nice and cool (highs were in the high 60’s, low 70’s), but really cloudy and rainy.  My 85 watt solar panel couldn’t keep my batteries charged with just an hour or so of sunshine per day.  So, Salida seemed like a good next stop, usually sunny, hopefully not too warm at 7,000 feet, plus we had enjoyed it before.   Salida has a Walmart, dump station/water at the Chamber of Commerce and a decent laundromat.  I utilized all of them on the way to the campsite, that way I would be set and not need to move for 10 days.

Salida Campsite

Salida Campsite.  The Arkansas River is right behind our rigs.

Arkansas River at Salida East

Chris had fun fly-fishing in the Arkansas River near our site.

Chris and I unloaded the scooter that afternoon.  I was really excited to have it at this spot, since the town is cool (cute with a funky vibe) and just a couple of miles away.  The next day (9/6) I made a quick trip in to get something at the True Value hardware store.  The next morning was Saturday and I was looking forward to scooting to the Farmer’s Market and the big Fiber Fest (yarn and roving, spinning and weaving, etc.) in Riverside Park.  Unfortunately, the scooter wouldn’t start even though it ran fine the day before.  Everything worked except the starter button.  We checked the battery, fuses, whatever else we could see, but couldn’t find the problem.  I was quite bummed.

Then, I turned on the water heater and it wouldn’t start.  What is up with these failures?!?  I checked it all over, researched online for possible answers, cleaned the connections, etc.  When nothing worked we took the circuit board off of Chris’ unit (same Atwood model) and hooked it up to mine.  It fired right up.  So, it seems I needed a new board.  The RV dealer in nearby Poncha Springs quoted $323 for a new one, but I ordered one from Amazon for $124.  I had it sent to PakMail in Salida – they do package acceptance for $5.  (Some mail can come general delivery to the post office for free, but Amazon usually ships UPS or FedEx, which can’t go to the post office.)

Later in the day I rode into town with Chris in his truck.  We really liked Cafe Dawn downtown and went several times while in Salida.  Afterwards we drove by the park and Fiber Fest was still going on.  It was much bigger than I expected, lots of booths.  There was some really nice yarn, fiber art, felted hats, lots of interesting stuff.  I kept thinking how much our friend Melinda (who is on her way to Balloon Fiesta after summer in Alaska) would have loved it.  I meant to get a picture, but failed.  Here’s a shot I took of our favorite coffee place on July 4th:

Cafe Dawn

Cafe Dawn

Next on my failure tour, the batteries didn’t seem to be holding a charge, even though we had more sunny days in Salida.  Checking the cells with a hydrometer showed the batteries were only 50% charged.  I called my Dad and also my friend CB for advice.   They are both smart engineers and had good info, things to check/do.  Also, I spoke to AM Solar, the servicer for my solar controller.  I decided to check into the RV park next door and plug in for a day or 2 and get up to 100%.  After 2 days one battery was up to 75% and one was still barely above 50%.  There must be something wrong with them.  I had just gotten them at the end of August in Steamboat Springs, so I swung by Napa after leaving the RV park and explained the situation.  They had to order a set that would arrive the next morning as they didn’t keep the 6 volts in stock.  I asked them to put a slow charge on them and I would come by in the afternoon when ready (something I should have thought to do with the Steamboat Napa).  I picked them up Friday, the 13th, and this set seems to be doing fine.

While at the Salida spot Chris and I took the opportunity to wash and wax our rigs.  It takes a while using just buckets of water.  The wax didn’t seem to do well on the silver/grey paint on the part I waxed, leaving swirly streaks where I applied it.  Figures, everything that could go wrong was going wrong lately.  Now I had ruined part of my paint. Terrific.  I read online that 3M makes a restorer for heavily oxidized paints and was able to pick some up at Napa.  Haven’t had a chance to try it yet.  Hopefully it will work OK to restore the silver.  Chris’ rig looks really good all washed and waxed, though.

When I got back to the campsite after leaving the RV park I found that my friend Carol, who I had met in Caballo Lake last year, was camping near us.  I didn’t remember that she was from the Salida area.  She makes really beautiful sets of cloth napkins and potholders and had a booth at the farmer’s markets at Salida.  I drove in to town on Saturday to do the market and run errands. It had been raining for a few days and more was forecast, but it turned out to be a really nice morning, great for the vendors.  I hoped to get some cranberry/almond/cinnamon swirl bread at the baker’s booth.  I had gotten some in July and had lusted for more ever since.  Luckily they had some and I’ve been enjoying it for breakfast.  If you ever get to the Salida farmer’s market look for it, it’s fantastic.

Salida Farmer's Market

Lovely day at the Salida Farmer’s Market

Carol at the Farmer's Market

Carol (on the right) at the Farmer’s Market with her beautiful napkins and potholders.

I really liked Salida.  It’s a good size, has a nice Safeway and a Walmart, walkable area downtown with parks and residential nearby, renovation of historic buildings downtown, etc.  As I said, it’s got a funky vibe.  There are a lot of cool refurbished vintage bicycles that people ride around town (didn’t get a pic), they have thrift shops with names like “Free The Monkey” and “Wanderlust Road”, and houses of different eras are intermingled, like Victorian next to a mid-century craftsman, next to adobe… I loved looking at the houses as we drove into town:

Salida Houses

Salida Houses

Salida House

Salida Houses

Salida’s a town that I could live in, but it’s been ‘discovered’ and real estate seems to be  pretty expensive.  Well, it’s a nice place to visit for now.

House

The little house in the middle with the for sale sign was about $300k!

Just before leaving we had more Lazy Dazers roll in.  John and Linda (and Sadie), who stopped to see us at Rabbit Ears Pass, stopped by on the way to Abiquiu from their home in Colorado Springs.  Also, Frank and Cookie, who I had briefly met in Quartzsite, were traveling with them, so we had 4 Lazy Dazes at the campsite for the night.  It was great to have a visit with them, and we all went out to Amica’s Pizza for dinner.  Great pizza and company, a terrific evening.  Can’t wait to spend time with them and a whole bunch of Lazy Dazers in Abiquiu over the next several days.

Hanging out with Cookie, John and Linda (and Riley and Sadie)

Hanging out with Cookie, John and Linda (and Riley and Sadie)

I think/hope the troubles I have had recently are done.  Sometimes trouble comes in waves.  Hopefully it all doesn’t sound like too much of a bummer.  These things happen, sometimes all at once.  Just the normal life of an RV’er.  It’s all probably less than when I had a house to take care of – when the A/C went out a few times (replacing the whole HVAC was fun), sections of fence falling over in storms, having to fix sprinkler heads, replacing the roof, etc.  You have a moment of upset, breathe, figure it out, maybe replace some piece of equipment, and move on.  Literally – you move on to some new piece of real estate that offers stunning mountain views, or forests, or lakes and rivers.  You move to where the weather is nice and the town is interesting.  It’s all good, and I’m loving it.  🙂