Albuquerque – Part 1

March 19 – April 1

Albuquerque is even higher in elevation than Denver, but boasts mild weather in town, with the option for skiing at the top of Sandia Peak.  I visited with my friend Wendy just two years ago and thought this might be a place for us to settle.  We’re not sure we like it that much, but Pat likes skiing and we both like mild winters, so we suspect we’ll be back again, at least for a visit.

Coronado Historic Site

We took it slow when we first arrived and looked for a good place for strolling with Jackson.  Since our campground is in Bernalillo, just north of ABQ, we’re just minutes away from the Coronado Historic Site.  Right in the middle of construction – road and hotel – lies an archeological site beside the Rio Grande.  Francisco Vasquez de Coronado, a Spanish conquistador, arrived here in 1540 looking for the Seven Cities of Gold.  Instead, he found villages inhabited by the Pueblo Indians.  He and his crew would likely have starved without the assistance of these Indians.


I have to say, this was the prettiest view I captured of the Rio Grande and the Sandia Mountains.  You’d think you were in the middle of nowhere, but this lovely spot is surrounded by gas stations, fast food restaurants, and even a casino with a hotel under construction.  The striking red grass was beautiful in the sun.


Our stroll took us beside the Rio Grande, but also past a pueblo reconstruction and ruins.

A view of the Rio Grande looking north and the boys walking south.

Sandia Peak

I loved the tram ride up the mountain from my previous visit, so that was at the top of my list of things to do.  We were all set to go one afternoon, when I double-checked my directions and determined that on Tuesdays, it’s only open after 5pm.  Guess what?  It’s Tuesday.  So we waited for the next gorgeous day to take the tram and hopefully do a hike if the snow didn’t stop us.


We did have to slog through mud, slush and snow, but it wasn’t too bad.  The views were so worth it.  In the distance (way, way), is Sierra Blanca, that peak in the pictures from White Sands.


I had to wait for the tram to come by again for this photo.  I didn’t take any pictures on the ride up or down since it was Spring Break and the car was packed both times.

Wendy and I wanted to hike to this CCC cabin when we were here in February of 2016.  It was too snowy and icy during that visit and we barely got away from the visitor’s center building.  Fortunately/unfortunately, they’ve had very little snowfall this year, so we didn’t have to do too much slipping and sliding to make the three mile hike.


We made it!

A few more views of the day.  The ski lift, meadow below the CCC cabin, view looking south and our snowy wooded path.

Flamenco Dancing

As is our custom in a new place, we stopped at the visitor’s center to get local advice on what to see and do.  Emily was so enthusiastic and convinced us that flamenco dancing at the Hotel Albuquerque was THE thing to see.  So online I go to book tickets.  I was able to get two seats that looked like they’d have good views of the dancing and we made it our Friday night date.

Part of the fun turned out to be just getting seated.  A couple was in our spot enjoying wine and snacks, but I give the hostess great credit for handling it well and keeping us out of the middle.  I don’t think those folks were too happy since ours were the better seats.

As for the flamenco dancing, it was pretty amazing.  I’m calling it Angry Spanish Opera.  We didn’t understand a word of the songs, but could tell by the facial expressions that there was a lot of passion in the music.  The ladies had flowing dresses and flowers in their hair.  And when they hiked up their skirts?  Well, they were about to get serious.  They stomped and tapped until the sweat poured.  Our seats were perfect for seeing the footwork.  I really enjoyed the guitarist who handled all the music, but the hands down best part was the young guy who danced.  I’m trying to convince Pat that he needs a pair of those tight pants.  In the end, it was a great cultural experience, and something we’ve never seen anywhere else.  Viva España!

Old Town


Spring is sprung in ABQ!  We headed to the walkable Old Town area to see the shops, churches, and monuments.



It’s Holy Week, and the San Felipe de Neri Catholic Church built in 1793 is just beautiful.  A nice stop to pause, reflect and pray.


Tucked away in the remains of a tree outside the church was this interesting praying figure.

DSC00431  Then there’s Francisco Cuervo y Valdés, who founded Albuquerque back in 1706.

We rounded out our walking tour with a stop at the Alan Aragon Gallery.  This Navajo artist showed us how he makes his beautiful jewelry from start to finish.  Such a craftsman.  If he hadn’t been low on inventory from a recent show, I would likely have made a purchase.  Google him and see his creations for yourself.


So what do you do on a rare rainy day in Albuquerque?  You head to the casino.  Actually went went twice, mainly because I had such a great time during our first visit.  I was finally able to find a slot machine that I understood and won $50!  I promptly cashed out and we almost doubled our money.  The second visit wasn’t as profitable, but cheap entertainment, considering we pretty much broke even and enjoyed free sodas.

Next up – one more post from Albuquerque with volcanoes, an ice cave and our biking adventure.

Truth or Consequences

March 14-18

This is not going to be a picture-filled post.  I just didn’t end up taking a lot of photos and you’ll understand why as I tell the tales from this stop.  But, few pictures doesn’t mean it wasn’t an adventure.  There’s always an adventure.

On The Way

Our drive from Alamogordo to Truth or Consequences found us in Las Cruces, New Mexico at the halfway point of our travel day.  Coincidentally, our great friend Ann happened to be there visiting her brother.  When we figured out our paths would cross, we made a lunch date.  Fortunately for us, there’s a nice park close to her brother’s house with a parking spot big enough for Lucy & Bitsy.

I kept telling Jackson who we were going to see and from two blocks away he spotted Miss Ann and started crying with excitement.  Hugs all around and a great Mexican lunch made for the perfect stop.  We actually ended up spending four hours catching up and it was so very nice.  That is truly the best part of this traveling lifestyle.

Elephant Butte Lake State Park

It was hard to leave, but we needed to make tracks for our final destination, Elephant Butte Lake State Park, just outside of Truth or Consequences.  We didn’t arrive until 5 pm and that’s a really late day for us.  We like to tuck in by 3 pm most days, but with daylight savings time in full swing, we have plenty of daylight left.  Enough to see the “view” from our site.


Our spot was on the row closest to Elephant Butte Lake, with a really nice view.  Well, that is if you can look past the giant pontoon boat.  Our next door neighbors had it parked in front of our spot.  Getting Lucy backed in was a bit tricky with the boat there, but Pat’s had lots of practice and managed to squeak it in.


Hurray!  The next day the boat left and didn’t return during the rest of our visit.  Now we have a nice clear view of the lake.


This lake was such an interesting color.  It really looked jade, but I just couldn’t seem to capture it in a picture.  An odd color unlike any other shade of green we’ve seen in our travels so far.

The Tour That Was A Bust

So, why are we here?  Well, this stop was one of Pat’s picks.  He wanted to stay in Truth or Consequences, better known as T or C, to visit Spaceport America.  For those of you unfamiliar, this is the place built to support commercial space travel, including tourist space travel.

Virgin Galactic is one of its tenants, and they’re famous for SpaceShipOne.  That craft won the 10 million dollar X-Prize back in 2004 for being the first private aircraft to enter suborbital space not once, but twice, within five days.  It was and still is a huge deal since it opened up possibilities for commercial space flight.  And commercial space flight needs a spaceport since a regular airport just won’t do.

All that sounds great, but due to financial red tape and the crash of SpaceShipTwo, the spaceport has really never taken off.  No pun intended.  Supposedly there are “tours” for $50 each, but that involves a lengthy van ride out to the middle of nowhere to see the unoccupied building, and only if you can get seven other space geeks to join you.  Thus, the tour that was a bust.  We saved our money, thank you very much.


There is a visitor’s center for Spaceport America, so we went there for free.  Mostly a big open room with a video all about how great the tour will be when you go, and a desk with no one manning it to sign up for your grand tour.


Other than the few interactive displays, the rest of the space was filled with framed movie posters on easels.  Apparently any space movie will do – The Astronaut Farmer, The Martian, Alien.  You get the idea.

T or C

So what did we do here with our four days set aside for all things space related?  Well, we did learn about the town at their visitor’s center attached to the Spaceport America echo chamber.

This town did a crazy thing back in 1950, and changed its name from Hot Springs to Truth or Consequences.  The NBC radio program “Truth or Consequences” held a contest and promised to broadcast on its 10th anniversary from the first town to change their name to match the show.  It made the town famous and they have yearly Fiesta days to commemorate the event.  Of course not everyone liked the change, but after four failed referendums to change the name back to Hot Springs, they gave up.  T or C is still known for its hot springs that don’t smell, and are at the perfect temperature for a 30 minute soak.  We considered taking a soak, but decided to go visit Ann in Las Cruces instead.

Ah, best laid plans and all that.  The Las Cruces day trip went down the tubes along with any other adventurous plans we had when I contracted food poisoning.  My search for the perfect fish taco has come to an end for a while.  And that’s all I’ll say about that.

We did mange to do some laundry here and two very important cleaning tasks.  First there was the refrigerator treasure hunt for whatever died in there and stunk up the coach every time you opened the door.  Just so you know, black beans don’t keep in a baggie for over a week without serious consequences.  Then there was the stink in the sink.  It smelled almost as bad in the bathroom sink as the fridge, and we took to keeping it stoppered.  It is amazing what copious amounts of hot water and Dawn dish soap will do.  Yes, we do live the high life.


It’s going to be hard to top the last four days, but it’s time to move on.  We’re excited, truly, to hit the road to make our two-week reservations in Albuquerque.  Not so fast, says mother nature.  The forecast for our travel day called for winds increasing throughout the day.  We only had 150 miles to go, so figured we’d be settled in before it got too bad.

It wasn’t looking good on the highway and we’d only made it about halfway.  On we pressed, but the winds were hitting us completely broadside.  The gusts made a horrible racket with the slide toppers on the side of the coach, and Pat was obviously fighting to hold Lucy in the road.  Between the groaning toppers and the rumble on the highway shoulder as we got pushed over with each gust, Jackson was a mess.  He practically climbed into my seat and no amount of hugging and consoling would help.  Should we pull off?  I figure whenever we ask ourselves that question the answer should probably be a resounding yes.  An exit came up and we took it.

A check of the weather confirmed the winds were to continue until 1 am, with gusting up to 70 mph.  We found a campground just a few miles away and took their very last spot.  A mere 50 miles from our destination and we are sidelined.


I sat and talked to a friend on the phone and watched the clouds roll by.  Once the worst had past, it wasn’t a bad view from our spot in Belen, NM.  Another camper told us that just down the highway, several semis were blown over in the winds.

When we did finally make it to Albuquerque the next day, our campground neighbors told their similar tale.  They went farther down the highway than we did until the point where they could no longer see to drive.  The dust was that bad.  They ended up at a rest stop for the night.  So glad we stopped when we did.

Next up: Albuquerque and putting my city driving pants back on.  See you on the way!


White Sands

March 9 – 13

I’ve heard of White Sands all my life and wanted to see the place firsthand.  It turned out to be a logical next step for us after Carlsbad, and we’re so glad we spent time there.  We like Alamogordo and especially Oliver Lee Memorial State Park at the foot of the Sacramento Mountains.

Oliver Lee Memorial State Park & More New Friends

You know how we were wanting to see some trees after our last stop.  Well, we were fortunate to drive through the Lincoln National Forest on the way to our next stop, Oliver Lee Memorial State Park.  We were both delighted to see towering fir trees and so much green!  Unfortunately, this was short-lived and as soon as we came off the mountain, we were right back in the Chihuahuan Desert again.  In fact, once we turned off the main road outside of Alamogordo headed to the park, we were really disappointed.  This was not looking promising for an interesting next stop.  Mountains, yes, but still desert-y and kinda run-down looking.


Let’s just say we got over it pretty fast.  Here’s the view of where we camped from up a nearby hiking trail.  There’s Lucy, Bitsy and a teeny tiny Pat & Jackson sitting out front.  Stunning 360 degree views with White Sands way in the distance.


Here’s the view the other direction looking at the Sacramento Mountains.  Not many trees, but we’ll live.

Actually the park itself turned out to be a great place to walk Jackson and get a little hiking in.  Signs of Spring were everywhere with the hum of bees in the budding trees and little green leaf buds on things we thought were dead.


The cholla cactus here had bright yellow segments at the ends and I managed to get this little birdy in the shot.  Not sure what he is.


More green stuff popping up near the flowing stream.  Such a nice surprise to hear running water again.


Any birders out there can correct me if I’m wrong.  I think this might be a Ruby-Crowned Kinglet.  The bright red spot on the head caught my eye.


Lots of birds and views from Oliver Lee.  We’d definitely come back here.

This was another good stop for meeting new friends.  Barbara & Bud were our camp hosts and also RVillagers.  We connected online right away and got together twice to sit and visit.  They were so easy to talk to and we had some good laughs.  We received some good restaurant and campground advice from them and will be keeping in touch.

White Sands National Monument

The main goal for this trip was to see White Sands National Monument.  We were able to make use of our yearly National Park Pass and visit twice.  The first time was in the afternoon and it was a little cloudy.  It turned out to be a spectacular time to visit, with nice cool breezes.


A favorite showcasing the pristine sand and a single set of footprints.


Pat says someone got footy prints all over his desert.  Actually we were surprised at how quickly our footprints were being erased by the wind.  By the time we retraced our steps, they were already smoothing out, soon to be gone completely.


Snow-covered Sierra Blanca Peak in the distance at almost 12,000 feet.  Such a contrast.  White Sands was like a huge beach with no ocean, surrounded by mountains.


Like frosting in the distance.  We were in shade and the little sliver of bright white was the sand in the sunlight.

A nice young man that reminded us of Ethan came along and offered to take our picture.  He was visiting from Kentucky and clearly taken by the views, too.  We returned the favor and did a little photo shoot for him.  Some visitors were also trying to sled down the dunes.  They didn’t do too many trip down since the hike back up is pretty tough.  A shot of the boardwalk and a few other favorites from the day.

Sunset Stroll


A few days later we went on the sunset stroll with one of the rangers.  Light and shadows made for different lovely views.  According to the ranger, this is the world’s largest gypsum dunefield.  It’s unlike the beach sand we’re used to.  Gypsum is a soft mineral and doesn’t get hot under the desert sun.  If you get some of this sand in your eyes, blinking will dissolve it.  Velvety soft sand, and there’s moisture just under the surface.

The sun is slipping away quickly as the ranger tells us about the plants and animals living here.  The yucca plants adapt with 30 foot stalks, the depth of some of the sand dunes.  Other plants build pedestals for themselves with their roots and the sand.  Of course the dunes move and cover spots while uncovering others, constantly moving and changing.


Lower and lower it goes….


The Scramento Mountains glowed a ruby red in the background.  Our campground is way over that direction.

The purples and pinks remain my favorite.


Day is done. Gone the sun.  Loved, loved White Sands and all its moods.

Cloudcroft & the Lincoln National Forest

We just had to get another look at those fabulous trees just 30 minutes away up the mountain.  At an elevation of 8,668 feet, the town of Cloudcroft had snow while we were down in White Sands in our shorts.


Truthfully, we only found these piles at the ranger station when we got up there, but it was chilly and windy.  Almost 20 degrees colder that just a few miles down the road.


We had big plans to hike on this rails to trails section, but we just weren’t dressed for the wind up here.

I walked out onto the trestle overlook just as another tourist says “there’s nothing holding that up!”  “Now you tell me”, I say.  We all had a good laugh and got back into our warm cars.  The road from Cloudcroft drops about 4000 ft in elevation during the 12 miles into Alamogordo.  Very steep grades with runaway truck ramps, if you can make it that far.  Pat & Jackson posed with the forest service elk.  Yep, we were pretty high!  Remind me to tell you that joke sometime.

Pistachio Farm

Imagine our surprise when we drove from Carlsbad to here and encountered fields and fields of trees.  We’re can’t figure this out given the fact that trees don’t seem to make it here naturally.  Apparently pecan and pistachio trees don’t require much water and love it in this area.  You know we love a good factory or farm tour, so we signed on for one at the Heart of the Desert Eagle Ranch.


This place is home to more than 13,000 pistachio trees and 24,000 grapevines.  Pistachio trees are interesting with one male tree for every 12-16 female trees.  The winds around here do the pollinating with the male trees planted upwind.  The male trees are a little beefier looking that the female trees, so you can tell them apart pretty easily.  We bought some Riesling wine and salted pistachios for the road.


The world’s largest pistachio is just down the road at another orchard, so we had to go there, too.

Big Booms, The Blog & Other Tales

You may or may not know the other thing for which this area is famous.  The White Sands Missile Range.  On our first evening we heard a few booms that you could feel in your chest.  Our brave little toaster, Jackson, is horribly afraid of loud noises, so we were worried that this would be a rough stop for him.  Turns out we only had a few other booms, so all was well.


The main road leading to Las Cruces is even closed when they conduct some of the tests.  Fortunately we weren’t set to travel on one of those days.


Now those are some tumbleweeds in the making.  And this is also why we thought the area leading to the state park seemed rundown.  Abandoned more like.

Pat celebrated a birthday at this stop.  I didn’t bake him a cake, but did make him some pretty good homemade mac and cheese in the instant pot.  Have I told you that’s the best gadget ever?  And Pat got to read all day which makes him pretty happy.


Spotted this cactus on our Sunday morning stroll.  Easter is almost here!

Also, I’ve added a new feature to the blog.  Since there’s always a little lag between posts and our next destination, you’ll now find a spot titled “Where in the world are the Iversons”.  (Thanks Catherine for that idea)  I’ll do my best to keep that current so you’ll know where we are even if the blog hasn’t quite caught up.  Let me know how you like it.


Finally our super genius dog learned the hard way about cattle guards.  We walked up to this one in the park, merely to take a look down the road.  Jackson pauses for just a few seconds and then leaps onto this thing.  Picture a 100 pound lab with all four legs dangling through the bars.  Luckily he didn’t get hurt, so we could laugh about it.


They are so mean telling tales on me…..

Next up – Truth or Consequences and the tour that was a big bust.  See you on the way!

Carlsbad & More Chihuahuan Desert

March 3 – 8

Our first stop in New Mexico!  We’re happy to add a new state to the camping map, and also happy that we’ll have almost two whole months to explore New Mexico.  A great way to kick off our Wild West travels for 2018.

Brantley Lake State Park

Brantley Lake State Park is our first foray into New Mexico and boasts the Southern-most lake in the state.  It served our purpose as a home base to see Carlsbad Caverns, but we decided that this part of New Mexico has most of its beauty underground.


Not to hurt the feelings of anyone from in this area of New Mexico, but we’re seriously missing our trees.  This is the first lake we’ve been to with really none to speak of.  That scraggly thing in the picture is about the closest you get here.  Of course it’s a lake made by that dam in the photo.  Apparently the Chihuahuan Desert wins out, and there’s just not enough moisture to support tree life.  Sigh.  We miss them so.


We just didn’t realize how much Chihuahuan Desert there is and that we’d be in it so long.


Jackson did like the road that ends in water.  It was a chance for him to get a drink.  In keeping with the desert, we couldn’t smell the water until we were practically right on top of it.  So very dry here.

Carlsbad Caverns

The main event was fortunately not the state park, but the deepest limestone cave in the United States and New Mexico’s only National Park.  At a constant 56 degrees and 90% humidity, it’s a contrast to the temps topside.  I needed my little cap on for this tour.


We opted for a self-guided tour this time since we’d already toured two other caverns recently.  The first part was the hike in using the natural entrance, taking you 1.25 miles down, or the equivalent of walking down a 75 story building.  Pretty steep.


There’s Pat giving me the wave to come on down.


Here’s a look down the pathway with that snaking walkway and very important handrails.  I learned the hard way on the last two tours that you have to keep really still to get any pictures that aren’t blurry.  I managed a few clear ones this time, especially since we practically had the place to ourselves and could take all the time we wanted.


Once you reach the bottom, the next tour area is the Big Room.  The formations in this place are HUGE and my favorites are the draperies.  They look just like delicate hanging fabric.  We learned from our handy audio tour that initially the cave was used by people to “mine” bat guano.  Early visitors had to enter the cavern in guano buckets.  No thank you.  Very happy for the walking trail down and the elevator back up.


Hall of the Giants – and my attempt to recreate the picture that the National Park Service used for the collector’s stamp.  The ranger told us where to stand for this shot.


Fairy Land – truly magical with all the delicate stalactites on the ceiling.


The Chinese Theater.  Can’t you just see that Oriental man in the middle?  We also liked the Lion’s Tale.


The best part of this cave is the fact that it’s still active and growing almost everywhere.  Since it wasn’t crowded on our visit, we could stop and hear the water dripping.  A drop hit me smack on the top of my head and ran down into my eyes.  This water pool in the Big Room was beautiful with formations that looked like brain coral.


The model of the caverns in the visitor’s center was amazing.  Pat’s pointing to the building we’re standing in, and that angled section beneath it shows the Natural Entrance walkway.  From there you can see the bottom layer and the many vast sections of caves.  We only saw a small fraction of what’s underground.  Simply a marvel.


Don’t I look like a spelunker?  Fortunately there aren’t any small confined spaces to crawl through.  I’m not sure I could really do that.

Motorhome Dinner Party

Our new friends Henry & Linda were just a few spots down in the Brantley Lake Campground and we made a plan for dinner during our stay.  I made chicken fajitas in my Instant Pot and our guests made homemade flour tortillas.  I think they had the harder task to be honest.  (I can’t stop raving about my Instant Pot and how handy it is for cooking in our teensy kitchen.)  Anyway, we swapped beers, dipped chips, and sampled their frijoles and Mexican cookies.  Add a few hours of getting to know each other better, and we’re fast friends with an invitation to visit them in Maine when we finally head East again.

Living Desert Zoo and Gardens State Park

Before we both departed going out separate ways, we made a plan to meet Linda & Henry at the Living Desert State Park.  At $5 admission each, it was a bargain and a nice way to spend the afternoon.

Spring is really on the way and we saw some new blooms and happy desert plants.  Finally a Yucca with living blossoms.  Not sure what the yellow flower is.  And I just like the symmetry of the succulents.

We had the most fun with the animals.  Linda & Henry are avid birders and helped us identify a few locals who showed up in trees, and gave us some good info on the resident eagles and owls.

Honestly, who doesn’t love a good prairie dog town?  So comical with their waving tails on high intruder alert.


So serene.  This elk was not on any kind of alert when we came by.


I was nose to nose with this guy through the fence.  He was so curious and sniffed my nose, my hand, and my camera.  And then he lumbered off with not a graceful bone in his body.


Pat hams it up with the bat display.

Unfortunately it’s time to say goodbye to our new buddies.  Linda & Henry had to make tracks the next day headed back in the direction of Maine, while we were set to move on to our next New Mexico adventure.  I’m sure we’ll see them again in our travels.

One Scenic View & The Rabbits


To be fair, we did find some scenic views in this part of the country.  This shot is from the parking lot at Carlsbad Caverns.  You do a good bit of climbing on the road to get to the top only to descend below ground.

And there were rabbits.  We drove back to the campground that’s about four miles off the highway, one night after dark.  Other than desert scrub, there’s nothing out there on this winding narrow road.  Well nothing other than the rabbits running wildly across the road both ways.  And I do mean running.  We counted at least 20 criss-crossing our path, but then there was this one.  He or she ran right for Bitsy’s wheels.  I attribute this to too much Bugs Bunny cartoons as children, since we both start singing like Elmer Fudd.  “Killed a WAbbit, killed a WAbbit!”  I don’t think I hit it, or at least that’s what I tell myself.

Time to move on once again.  Next up – White Sands National Monument and more new friends.

Hueco Tanks

February 28 – March 2

Another stop and another state park.  Just as we like it.  Hueco Tanks State Park and Historic Site has an interesting mix of visitors, mainly because of it’s two very different claims to fame – rock climbing and ancient rock art.  We came to get a taste of both.  But first, the journey.

 Tumbleweeds, Blimps & Other Delights

We left Davis Mountains State Park and knew we’d have a pretty easy drive, but didn’t realize how eventful it would be.  Lots to see on the way.


First off, it was sooooo windy.  The kind that sends gusts to push us onto the shoulder.  The kind that blows honest-to-goodness tumblin’ tumbleweeds right into our path.  These suckers are pretty big and Pat does his best to swerve around to miss them.  He’s concerned about the stiff stems making it to the radiator.  Well, he managed to miss all but one.  We found dents and tumbleweed remains in the fine mesh Pat put over the front of the grill to protect Lucy’s radiator in Alaska.  Glad we still had it installed.  Onward to Marfa, TX.


We didn’t see the famed lights outside of Marfa, but we did see this Tethered Aerostat Radar System (TARS).  We played the “what is that” game for miles until we got close enough to see that it was indeed a blimp.  A moored helium balloon to be exact.  Turns out that US Customs & Border Patrol has eight of these at strategic border points to detect suspicious low-flying aircraft.  They fly these like kites and the radar has a range of 200 miles.  On this day they are definitely grounded due to the high winds.

Gas isn’t on our agenda for this travel day, but lunch is.  I see there’s a Flying J truck stop in Van Horn and it has a Wendy’s.  Do you know how long it’s been since we’ve even seen a Wendy’s?  That’d be three MONTHS!  Yes, we’ve been off the beaten path for quite a while where even fast-food is non-existent.  We happily park in a rough gravel lot next to the truck stop and indulge.  Jackson is promised french fries, so he doesn’t complain too much.

Our driving route after lunch takes us due North and gives us a grand view of the Guadalupe Mountains in the National Park.


When we get excited, Jackson gets up to take a look, too.  He’s gazing upon the road most likely, but there’s the highest point in Texas ahead – Guadalupe Peak at 8,749 feet.

After we make the turn West towards El Paso and our Hueco Tanks destination, Pat ends up leading a parade.  We’re pretty slow compared to the rest of the traffic, rarely doing more than 58-ish miles per hour.  Once a line forms, Pat likes to find a pull-off if it’s a difficult place for people to pass.  He pulls into a roadside picnic area and it turns out to be a fantastic impromptu stop.


For his courteous driving, we’re rewarded with this view of the Guadalupe Mountain range.  This is the Western Escarpment and according to the roadside sign, “one of the best exposed geologic rock sections in the world”, and “one of the best examples of a fossil reef anywhere in the world”.

A few more shots from my roadside photo shoot.  I call that first one “Boot on a Fencepost”.

The Huecos & The Tanks

Hueco (pronounced Waco) Tanks State Park is named for the two things it provides this desert area.  “Huecos” are natural basins, and you can find bowl, bathtub and pond-sized indentations in the rocks.  “Tanks” are the natural water pools from the collection of rain-water in the huecos.  Together they provide water for a wide variety of plants, animals, and also supported the ancient people who visited.


The drive into the park takes you around the North Mountain rock face.  I really do see a face in it – something sunning itself with eyes closed.  Maybe a frog or a lizard, with a bit of a smile.  The rocks in the park are really unique compared to what’s around in the area.  Essentially Hueco Tanks is four hills of stone made from molten rock that cooled underneath sandstone millions of years ago.  The limestone wore away to reveal the lumpy rocks, filled with huecos.


Here’s a look at one of the larger “tanks” surrounded by that bumpy rock.


Our first night here was beautiful.  The moon rose over the surrounding mountains that were aglow from the setting sun.  I stood right on Lucy’s steps to take this picture.

Rock Climbing & Rock Art

The park is filled with ancient pictographs, so they don’t let you hike about without a pass.  We reserved ours months ago so we could be sure to explore the area.  On one of the mountains, you can do a self-guided hike, and that’s where we got our taste of mountain “climbing”.  Actually we did what what is referred to as “bouldering”.  That’s where you climb over the face of small rocks or boulders using only natural handholds.


Mostly we just scrambled over and around rocks, but we’re counting is as bouldering.  The “real” climbing fanatics come in by the van load, each with their own crash pad.  This is essentially a big square foam mattress folded in half.  They wear them on their backs like backpacks until they get to their climbing spot.  From there, they lay them down on the ground as a landing spot when they fall.  We talked to a group of enthusiastic young people who assured us that you need a crash pad for when, not if, you fall.

This is the face of North Mountain head on.  We’re on our way past and look up since Pat hears a noise.  This is when we get to watch the real mountain climbing.


In the shady spot, about a third of the way up the cliff face, is this climber.  We find that we just can’t tear our eyes away.

The climber swung over to get another rope, swung back and kept climbing.  Almost at the top, and finally standing on top coiling up the ropes.  It was worth the whole stop to watch that feat, which was about a 200 foot vertical climb.

The other mountains in the park are closed to visitors unless you go on a guided hike.  We booked one to see the rock art.  Our guides, Tish and Dar, took us on quite a hike and one that really involved some bouldering.  At one point we were on a nice little ledge and I just didn’t look down.


We visited several caves with pictographs and petroglyphs that are estimated to date back to 1000 A.D.  Several different groups came to the area including the Apache, but who came here, and exactly when, is unknown.  There are estimated to be as many as 5,000 pictographs in the caves, with more being discovered each season.  Tish and Dar have been living in the park in a tent for over a year, and spend their spare time bouldering and cataloging new pictograph sites.  Now that’s camping!


Tish knew all about the plants and pointed out the yucca.  Their sharp points and stringy parts made a perfect needle and thread for the original people passing through.

More huecos, tanks and scenic views from our pictograph hike.

We’re Not Stalkers

When we first arrived and got set up in our camping spot, I noticed something in the spot next door.  I tell Pat, “Look!  It’s those people again”.  I say again, since we noticed this same white truck with Maine plates and  green kayaks mounted on top at Maverick Ranch, Davis Mountains State Park, and now here.  Truthfully there aren’t a lot of different routes out of Big Bend, but seeing the same people in these same state parks seemed unusual.  We knew that meant they must like the same kinds of places that we do, so we kept an eye out to finally meet them.  We also wanted to make sure they knew we weren’t stalking them.  It was grand to finally meet Henry and Linda, and they even went on the same pictograph hike with us.

Farewell Lone Star State

We’ve seen all we came to see, and we’re ready to leave Texas.  It’s been a great four months of wintering, but we need to add some new states to our camping map.  Some back-tracking was required on our travel day and we knew from experience, there was precious little on the route.  There was the Cornuda Cafe and that was absolutely it for any food along the way.  Looked quirkly and our new friends Linda and Henry were going to stop there, so we decided to give it a try.


All the tables had real legs, complete with jeans and cowboy boots.


My leg and our table leg.

Fantastic burgers and homemade french fries.  I had the World Famous Cornuda Burger with Green Chiles and Cheese.  Pat had a regular cheeseburger and we were both delighted.  And the guy playing guitar and harmonica wished us safe travels when we left.


This drive gave me one more chance to photograph Guadalupe Peak and a chance to drive past the National Park.  Texas has two national parks and we were fortunate enough to see both of them.

Next up: Guess where Linda and Henry are headed?  They have reservations in the same New Mexico state park that we do.  So stay tuned for Carlsbad Caverns and our first motorhome dinner party.

Davis Mountains

February 14-27

We were soooo glad to be somewhere else after a month-long stay in Big Bend.  Don’t get me wrong.  We loved Big Bend, but a month just about anyplace is too long for us.  Davis Mountains State Park outside of Fort Davis, TX was just the change we needed.  A little bit cooler and glorious trees!

Davis Mountains State Park

We’re learning a thing or two about full-timing RVing.  One of them is that we need to pick some places for wintering that aren’t quite so remote for long periods of time.  As you recall, for cell service, church and groceries, we had to drive 50 miles one way from Lajitas.  That was quite an investment, so we only did it once a week.  Well, it turns out that Davis Mountains State Park is in a valley and you can get cell service only if you drive to one of the overlooks.  The good news is that is only a few miles up the steep hill and we can at least do that every day during our two week stay.


A little windy and cold sometimes, but there is indeed cell service and we can use our hot spot at the overlook.  Our place for dueling computers.

The views from Skyline Drive are pretty good, so we really don’t mind making the trek each day.

Star Parties

There’s hiking at the park, too, giving us our first glimpse of the McDonald Observatory.  That’s the main draw for this area which is home to some of the darkest skies in the country.


Way off in the distance you can see the research telescope domes on top of Mt. Locke


And the close up.  These domes are at the observatory about 13 miles away from the state park.

The researchers host “star parties” several times a week and we were able to attend the “Twilight Party” and the “Star Party”.  At the Twilight party, we saw a superb demonstration of the phases of the moon and learned about the moon’s surface geology.  The Star Party was a great follow up with seven different telescopes set up to see both far and close moon views, the Orion Nebula and a few other star clusters.  And yet, I can still only identify the constellation Orion without help.

The Davis Mountains


The 75 mile scenic loop drive gave us a great view of the surrounding Davis Mountains made from rhyolite lava lows 35 million years ago.  These rocks look so different than what we saw in Big Bend.


This is a good representation of the column-like formations and is a backdrop behind the real fort in Fort Davis.

A few more shots from our hikes around the park.

Dog Bowl In The Desert

The park also had two bird viewing areas.  They put out seed and something that looked like peanut butter twice a day to attract the throngs of birds.  I enjoyed looking through the window views, but found out we had the best views of all right from Lucy’s front windows.  Jackson’s dog bowl was a favorite spot for all different kinds of birds.  Put out a water bowl in the desert and they will come.


I think this guy is a Scrub Jay and he’s about to be ousted from the preferred water perch by this bully.  Yes, I think the Acorn Woodpeckers are pretty, but they are kinda mean to the other birds.


These two seemed to be getting along pretty well.  The other bully?  That would be the brilliant red cardinal.  All the other birds came and went without squabbling until woodpeckers or cardinals came on the scene.  And when it was time to leave, we picked up the bowl only to find a nice little ring of bird droppings in the shape of the water bowl.  Hopefully those birds will find another watering hole now that we’ve departed.

Two weeks was more than enough time here, but I did manage to get my teeth cleaned and I got a great haircut from Flora.  Of course we couldn’t do any of this in Fort Davis.  Nope, all that civilized stuff required a drive 30 miles back down the road to Alpine.  Also the place for laundry.  So, let this be a lesson to us.  Next year, we’re spending our winter downtime in a tad bigger place where we can be on the grid the entire time, and enjoy a few amenities close by.

Next up – our last stop in Texas at Hueco Tanks State Park and Historic Site.  See you on the way!