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.

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