Thursday, December 31, 2015

Boot Hill RV Resort

Tuesday, December 22 . . .

We spent the first night of our journey to Laughlin at Boot Hill RV Resort, located about halfway between Tularosa and Alamogordo, New Mexico, on the east side of US Highway 54. Boot Hill RV Resort is a good overnight stop. The employees are friendly and attentive, and sites are large and spacious. All your basic amenities -- except for cable TV -- are available, and all worked fine except for the WiFi. Restrooms and laundry were well maintained and in good working order. We paid a rate of $27 for a single night stay, but the posted weekly rate is $125 (plus electricity) while the monthly rate is $225 (plus electricity). Although the park is located right next to a US highway, traffic noise was not a problem. Few trees are located in the gravel park, but this is the desert, after all. For the realistic traveler, this is a very decent RV park with views of the mountains to the east.

Below are some pictures of this very nice RV park.

Office for Boot Hill RV Resort

Two private bathrooms are provided for the guests. They are well maintained.

Entrance to the laundry. The entrance to the showers is on the left side of this building.
Our site, #501, was long enough that we were able to stay connected. In the morning, all we had to do was disconnect the water and electric, bring in the slide, and we were on the road.

Some of the other pull thru sites waiting for travelers to pull in.

Back-in sites are located along the perimeter of the property. Those are the Sacramento Mountains in the background.
Rental cabins are also available on the property.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

On the Road: Alamogordo, NM, to Marana, AZ

December 23, 2015 . .

Today’s journey would prove to be not only the longest of our 3 days, but also the most difficult.

The day started easily enough. Because we had not unhitched the night before, it took just a few minutes to disconnect the water and electricity before hitting the road at 7:15. We took the bypass around Alamogordo and picked up US 70 on the southwest side of the city for the 70 mile drive to Las Cruces. The sun came out and the road was flat and straight with little breeze. It was good driving.

But as we climbed to the pass through the Organ Mountains just east of Las Cruces, the sun gave away, the wind picked up, and the rain came. I was glad to get through the pass. We hopped on I-25 for a few miles south to connect to I-10, then began our long trek west following this highway. We crossed the nearly dry Rio Grande, then climbed 2 long hills up from the river valley. Once out of the climb, we had a flat road ahead of us. I was able to set the cruise across this flat land, and our mpg held at just over 10. Life was good. There was a crosswind, but it really didn’t bother me much.

Donna snapped this photo of a rainbow ending next to the highway as we approached the pass through the Organ Mountains.

This photo shows the pass on the left a little better.

We stopped for gas and coffee in Deming, then continued westward through Lordsburg with another gas stop at Wilcox, Arizona. Donna had made 2 sandwiches before leaving Alamogordo, so she pulled these from the fridge and we had a bit of lunch.

I was feeling pretty good about our day. I was holding the truck to a steady 60 mph and enjoying the drive. We had just over an hour to go to reach our destination. Then, just west of Benson, our good day faded away. Without any warning, I noticed traffic was stopped ahead. There had been no signs along the road. So, we fell in line and began inching our way westward. We would stay in this traffic gridlock for 2 hours while we went only 8 miles. At first, we had no idea what the problem was, but gradually we began seeing signs that announced construction ahead. So, after nearly 2 hours, we finally reached the construction area.

So, once through the gridlock, we passed through Tucson and pulled into Valley of the Sun RV Park in the small community of Marana about 20 miles north of Tucson. I’ll review that RV park in another entry.

We were able to maintain 9.8 mpg for the trip today despite the long periods of idling in the construction zone.

Monday, December 28, 2015

On the Road: Lubbock, TX, to Alamogordo, NM

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

For our trip to Laughlin, we decided to take what we call the “Southern Route.” It would have been shorter to angle up to Interstate 40 (our “Northern Route”), then shoot across, but a winter storm was approaching the area and we did not want to take any chances, especially with areas in higher elevations like Flagstaff, Arizona. We decided to make the trip in 3 days.

Leg 1 of our journey would be the shortest leg of the journey at 291 miles. We left Lubbock about 9:30 and headed down US 62 for about 40 miles to Brownfield. This is familiar territory to us, as we lived in Wellman, a small town just outside of Brownfield, for 3 years in the mid-1980s. The short drive was down a nice 4 lane highway. The wind was blowing, but not much at the time.

At Brownfield, we turned due west on US 380, and the trip immediately became more challenging. First, we lost our nice 4-lane divided highway. Next, the wind grew stronger out of the southwest. This had 2 negative effects. It really buffeted our trailer around, causing driving to be a bit more stressful. It also reduced our gas mileage. We started the day getting nearly 12 mpg, but that figure dropped rapidly once we began heading into the strong wind.

US 380 from Brownfield to the Texas/New Mexico border has numerous passing lanes, so this helped as there is considerable traffic on this highway. Just before leaving Texas, we stopped in the small community of Plains for gas and coffee. While the drive so far had been through farm land, the country west of Plains gradually transitioned into traditional range land. With flat terrain and no trees, vistas seem endless. Yes, there are occasional dips and swells, but the land is pretty flat. The sun was out, and had it not been for the wind, the drive would have been pleasant.

For RVers who might be reading this, the small New Mexico community of Tatum has a couple of gas stations at the town’s major intersection where access is easy for big rigs.

From Brownfield to Roswell is 134 long miles of 2 lane traffic, so we were happy to reach this city on the Pecos River. But for westbound RVers, getting gas is difficult. There are few stations with room for trucks pulling trailers. We were finally able to negotiate a small 2 pump station, though. At Roswell, US 380 merges with US 70 and becomes 4 lanes.

About halfway between Roswell and Ruidoso, the highway begins following the Rio Hondo. This is really a lovely stretch, as the tree-lined river is dotted with small farms and ranches. At the town of Hondo, US 380 heads northwest following the Rio Bonito, while US 70 continues west following the Rio Ruidoso. Hills begin to close in as the road weaves through the valleys of these rivers.

As we approached Ruidoso, we began seeing snow on the mountains, especially on the northern slopes. We lost our sun and seemed to climb into the clouds, and we even passed through a few light flakes of snow as our temperature dropped from the mid 50s to the lower 30s. We crossed the summit near the Inn of the Mountain Gods and began seeing clear skies ahead. From Roswell to Ruidoso, we had gradually climbed higher and higher while our mpg had gradually decreased. And although the highway is excellent, our average speed was also greatly reduced because of the climbs, the curves, and the weather. At our lowest, we were only averaging just under 8 mpg. But once we passed the summit, conditions improved and our mpg increased.

On the east side of Ruidoso, only a little snow is visible on the upper and northern slopes.
On the west side of Ruidoso near the summit, snow was a bit more prevalent.
Soon, we were in the small village of Tularosa, where we turned south for our few remaining miles to Boot Hill RV Park. I’ll enter a review of this park in another entry. Out mpg for the day averaged at 8.8.

Friday, December 25, 2015

We Made It!

Friday, December 25, Christmas morning . . . .

First of all, Merry Christmas. How I wish the peace and love of this special season could spread across the world and calm the troubled waters out there.

After a 3 day trip, we made it to Laughlin, Nevada, yesterday afternoon. This area will be our base of operations for the next 2 or 3 months as we monitor our progress up the wait list at Rio Concho West.

We are currently staying at the Avi KOA, located next to the Avi Casino about 10 or 15 miles south of Laughlin. As soon as we arrived yesterday, I stayed at the trailer and set up while Donna took a load of clothes to the laundry room. We got all settled in yesterday, and we feel good about being in a place with which we are familiar.

Over the next couple of weeks or so, I'll post entries about our trip out here and the places where we stayed.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Trip Update

Early Tuesday morning, December 22, 2015 . . . .

If things had gone as planned, we would have been in Alamogordo, New Mexico, this morning, preparing to head to our next stop in Marana, Arizona. But things haven't gone as planned.

Last week was quite busy, but we managed to close on our house on Friday at the appointed time. We had moved all of our furniture into storage the previous day, and had spent Thursday night in our trailer at San Angelo State Park. But we were experiencing a problem with our trailer, and did not feel comfortable setting out on a lengthy out-of-state trip in it. So, we altered our plans.

We did go on to Big Spring on Friday after the closing, as planned. We spent Saturday with Courtney and her band of ruffians, and we enjoyed an early Christmas with them. But instead of remaining in Big Spring until Monday and then departing for Alamogordo, we left on Sunday and headed to Lubbock. I had made an appointment at Camping World to look at the trailer on Monday morning, and we would stay there as long as needed to make repairs.

We took the trailer in early yesterday morning and it was out by noon. Camping World does a good job. When we decided to come to Lubbock to make repairs, we planned to just spend a week here. That would give us time to make sure everything was working on the trailer, and it would get us through the Christmas weekend. But plans seem to be made to be broken.

Watching the weather the past couple of days, we see that a cold front is moving into the region on Saturday, December 26. It will bring below freezing temps at night and moisture with it, quite possibly in the form of snow. If we stay through the bad weather, then a cold system will settle along our route west for quite a while following the front, making travel in that direction a bit unpleasant for a while, thereby delaying our trip west even longer. The smart thing to do would be to pack up and head west this morning. We could arrive in Laughlin on Christmas Eve and avoid any bad weather along the way.

The problem is that I'm down in my back. I'm having trouble performing normal movements, much less movements required to get a trailer ready for travel. But I hate to miss this window of good weather before the bad moves in. I might have to get the whip out and put Miss Donna to work.

So, no telling where we will spend Christmas. In case I don't have a WiFi connection, let me wish you an early Merry Christmas.

I'll see you down the road.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Where Are We Going?

After visiting our daughter and her family in the Big Spring, Texas, area immediately following closing on our house, we will head towards Laughlin, Nevada. If you've followed our blog over the years, you know how much we enjoy that area. Laughlin has a climate comparable to San Angelo; that is, the winter temperature is roughly the same, though it is noticeably more arid in Laughlin. We plan to make Laughlin our base for the winter months, with occasional forays to Las Vegas, Death Valley, and other nearby areas.

It's a long way from Big Spring to Laughlin, roughly about 1,000 miles. By car, we usually make that trip in about 18 hours or so, normally spread over 2 days. Pulling a trailer will take us longer. We plan to take the better part of 3 days to get there. We will average about 350 miles each day. Yes, we could knuckle down and make the trip in 2 days, but pulling a trailer for a 1,000 miles is much more challenging than simply driving a car the same distance. As a rule, I try to limit trips pulling the trailer to 250 miles or less per day. I can go farther, of course, but I prefer not to. My longest day towing a trailer was about 3 years ago when we pulled our Rockwood from Laughlin, Nevada, to Santa Rosa, New Mexico, a distance of about 600 miles. But that was a long day, and one I don't care to repeat. We left Laughlin in the dark and did not get to Santa Rosa until after dark.

Several things make pulling a trailer more difficult. First, you have to stop more often for gas, and that slows you considerably. With my current trailer, I average about 11 miles per gallon. When traveling out West where distances between towns are greater, I generally try to refuel when my gauge gets to about half a tank. This can result in refueling every 2 to 3 hours or so. As a safety precaution, I always carry at least 1 spare 5 gallon tank of gasoline. In the West, I often carry 2.

Second, most trailer tires are rated for driving at 65 mph or less. You'll see people on the highways zipping along faster than that pulling their trailers, but you get careless people everywhere. As a rule, I try to keep my towing speed to 60 mph or less. Not only is it safer, but I get better mileage at a slower speed, and I enjoy the trip more. You know the old adage: "Slow down and smell the roses".

Trailer sway, especially with bumper-pull trailers like mine, can make towing a bit nerve wracking. If winds are high and especially if they are blowing crosswise into the trailer, a trip can turn into a stressful white-knuckle affair. Especially on interstates, 18 wheelers passing at high speeds can create fish-tailing on the trailer. I find that by staying alert, I can move over to the far right side of my lane when I see trucks moving up to pass and this somewhat diminishes the fish-tailing effect. I do have sway bars, and they certainly help, but they do not entirely eliminate trailer sway.

In a car, it is easy to turn on your cruise control and have a somewhat relaxing drive. You can't really use cruise control when towing as it would over-stress your engine. As you go up and down hills, you are constantly working the accelerator to build speed as needed. And on two-lane roads when cars stack up behind you, things get a bit stressful. So many drivers tend to become impatient, and they often pass in dangerous stretches. You have to be constantly alert.

When pulling a trailer, it takes time to build speed from a standing stop. So when you pass through towns and reduce your speed, stop at traffic lights, or pull off for fuel, food, or other reasons, it takes longer to return to your top cruising speed than it does when you are in a zippy car.

So, a somewhat relaxing 300 mile trip that may take 5 hours or less by car can turn into a stressful 7 hour trip or longer when pulling a trailer. And at the end of that time, I find myself to be more worn out than if I had driven the same distance in a car.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Prescribed Burn at San Angelo State Park

San Angelo State Park has been conducting a prescribed burn recently. The recent rather calm winds in the area have cooperated to create a good window for the burn. Donna and I had seen the plumes of smoke as we darted about town running errands, and the local news stations carried updates each night.

With the good weather, we decided to get out and get a bit of exercise. With all of the preparations for our move, we had been neglecting our health, and we both really wanted to get out and stretch our legs. We thought it might be interesting to walk in the park and check on the burn. However, on the particular day we picked, the burn was near the headquarters building and admittance to the park was restricted. So, we turned around and headed to the dam.

The land below the dam had already been subjected to the burn, but an occasional pillar of smoke could still be seen rising into the sky.

According to information provided on the Concho Valley Home Page, "Prescribed burns are used as a management tool in state parks to improve habitat for wildlife by restoring forest and prairie habitats on [sic] the park that were historically maintained by natural fires.  They also are conducted to reduce the amount of available fuels, such as leaf litter, fallen branches, understory growth and dead trees that accumulate naturally and from storm events.  By reducing the amount of available fuels, prescribed burns reduce the chance for a potentially destructive wildfire to occur."

About 1,000 acres were included in the burn. Below are some pictures I took from the dam.

This area had been burned in the days prior to our walk. The fire had been contained by the large rocks forming the foundation of the dam and the lake itself.

I zoomed in for this shot. The fire only burns undergrowth, leaf litter, and similar fuel. Mesquites will survive the fire. Notice the burned prickly pear cactus plants.
Most of the burn on this day was concentrated near the park headquarters. The southerly wind blew the smoke over the lake.

Previously burned area between park road and lake.

Two lone smoke pillars rise from previously burned area along base of dam.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Planning for the Move

Donna and I are busy these days getting ready for the move. We don't work as fast as we once did, nor do we work as long, but we are pretty steady. We're gradually getting there.

We are carefully coordinating the close date on the house. We officially close the morning of Friday, December 18. To make this run as smoothly as possible, we'll park the trailer at our house on Monday, December 14. We'll spend that afternoon loading the trailer. We have to pack carefully since we'll need to take everything with us we will need for the next 4 to 6 months -- or longer. We will also turn on the trailer fridge to allow it to begin cooling so that we can load items from the fridge in the house. The next day, we'll take the trailer about 2 or 3 miles down the road to our state park (San Angelo State Park) and set the trailer up there. We'll connect the electricity so the fridge will run, but we won't connect the water yet because we will still be living in the house. After all, at this time of year, we could have a freeze at any time.

Wednesday morning, we have some appointments, but later that afternoon, we'll do our final packing. The movers come early Thursday so we want everything to be ready for them. We really don't have much, so I don't expect the movers to take long. I'll then take the movers to our storage facility and help them unload our belongings there. In the meantime, Donna will be cleaning the house to get it ready for the new owners. We will spend Thursday night in the trailer. When we get there, all we'll have to do is turn on the water and we should be ready to relax a bit.

Friday morning, we meet the buyers at the title company, sign the papers, and deposit the check. We then head back to the trailer, hook up, and head on down the road on a new adventure.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Camping World, Lubbock, Texas

We returned home yesterday from Camping World in Lubbock, Texas, where we had several upgrades added to our trailer. (See "Prepping the Trailer for Our Trip"). Now, we haven't had the chance to test everything we had done to the trailer, but at this moment, we are quite pleased with the work performed and the service we received.

Throughout the process, the employees at Camping World whom we worked with kept us informed as to the progress that was being made. The work was completed at the time we had agreed upon, and when we arrived to pick up the trailer, our service advisor (Lance) and a technician (Jason) went out to the trailer with us to answer all of our questions about the work performed. Now, everything may fall apart tomorrow and nothing works, but right now, I'm quite happy with the work they performed.

One of the nice things about Camping World is that Good Sam members such as me get a 10% discount on items. And Camping World has some great items for the RV enthusiast. The place does a thriving online business. For the RV product you just can't find anywhere else, visit Camping World online and I bet you can find what you are looking for.

Additionally, work performed by Camping World is guaranteed for 1 year, and repairs can be made by any Camping World location. Since we will be traveling far and wide in the next few months, I felt that this was a smart move. If something does go wrong with any of the modifications we made, I'll just head towards the nearest Camping World and get the needed repairs done. Although Camping World does not have outlets in every city, they are conveniently located in over 85 locations around the country, including 6 locations in Texas.