Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Settled at home for a while

I finished cleaning out the rig.  The next task (on Friday) is to replace the ball joints which Buck's strongly suggested before I do any more extended travel.  Repeat after me ... it's only money. It's only money ...

Some reflections from this last trip: The combination of inexpensive/free camping in New Mexico state parks and low gas prices mean that I can afford to do about as much of this as I want. I'm not sure when the next trip will be.  Almost certainly not for a couple of weeks.  And while I've thought a lot about focussing on New Mexico, I might head over toward the Quartzite area for a bit, just to check that out now that the big crowds have dispersed a bit and before it gets furnace-hot over there. We'll see.

I'm also thinking about my idea of staying in one place for longer than I have previously.  Maybe spend two weeks in one place, which would be -- it just occurred to me -- the traditional length of a vacation back in the old days. If I stayed in a NM park with electricity, that would be about $56.   Food would cost what it costs at home, and there's be no gas burned.  It would shift my focus from going somewhere to being somewhere.  If I was boondocking, a few cloudy days in a row would mean that I'd need to run the generator a while each day to keep batteries up.  That would be a real change for me.  Not sure how I feel about that right now.

I do really enjoy that moment heading out down the road. It's very reminiscent of standing at a trailhead with a pack on my back. Just as with a car trip, I make a point of stopping every couple of hours to stretch my legs.  And it seems like 3-4 hours of travel a day is about right.  Something like 250 miles/day. I get up early no matter what, so that means I can get in wherever I'm going about mid-day, which should make it possible to get a good site at my destination.

I've finally figured out how to deal with getting a site at a NM park.  Each park usually has 20-30 sites for RV's, usually with electricity and water.  Some of those sites are available through the online reservation system at  It costs $8 to make an online reservation.  The remaining sites are first-come-first served, so if you get there mid-day there's a good chance of a site with no reservation charge.  For me with my annual permit, that means $4 per night.

Some parks also have dry camping sites with no utilities; these are not available on line and are somewhat confusingly called "developed" sites -- presumably because they're more or less level and have a picnic table and shelter.

Got that? Good!  There'll be a quiz!

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Headed home

I'm back at Rockhound, watching the sun set, drinking OJ and tequila, and listening to NPR's election coverage.

Soup and biscuits for dinner:

The biscuits were ... delicious!

I plan to leave here tomorrow morning, which should put me into Tucson sometime around mid day. And then I unpack.  Not my favorite part.

Friday, February 19, 2016

The Shalem (Shalam) Colony

As I drove north from Las Cruces the other day I spent time on "Shalem Colony Trail," and wondered what that meant. There was a historical roadside marker as the Trail intersected NM 185, which I  couldn't read.

It's actually pretty interesting.  Here's the lead paragraphs from an article on the New Mexico Historical Society web site:

Shalam was founded by a New York dentist and doctor named John B. Newbrough and a group of his religious followers called Faithists. Newbrough claimed to have written a new Bible, called Oahspe, while under spirit control. Contained in this Bible was "The Book of Shalam," which set forth a plan for gathering the outcast and orphaned children of the world and raising them, according to strict religious principles, to be the spiritual leaders of a new age.

Newbrough and some twenty Faithists decided to create such a place as described in "The Book of Shalam."

In 1884, Shalam Colony was finally established on the banks of the Rio Grande, one mile from the village of Doña Ana. It is generally believed that without the help of the villagers of Doña Ana, the colonists would have suffered even more than they did the first year. The villagers showed them how to cook beans and make adobe bricks, and other skills necessary to survive in this new land. Financed by a wealthy wool merchant from Boston, Andrew Howland, the colony was developed into one of the finest agricultural areas of the Southwest. Nearly a million dollars was spent to build and furnish fine buildings and maintain a herd of prize dairy cattle, build a chicken farm with heated runs, and develop a reservoir and irrigation system which was far ahead of its time.

Disaster befell the colony in 1891 when John Newbrough died of influenza.

The full article is here.  Another 19th century utopian vision!  The Amana colonies in Ohio were contemporaneous, as were the Shakers in the northeast. 

Today, The Shalem colony seems to be a community of high-priced homes. 

Later on Friday -- Leasburg Dam state park

I know you've been checking the site every few minutes, wondering what I decided to do.

Yeah, right!

I'm staying put today.  Spent the morning so far "house" cleaning: whisk broom and soapy rag on the floor, cleaning the wheels on the outside.  There were still pockets of red Utah mud/dirt from last summer!

Listening to Ella Fitzgerald the whiles.  Gonna read for a while, then either lunch or a pre-lunch nap.

Morning in New Mexico

Good morning, y'all.  (No, I'm not by any stretch of the imagination from the South.  But it's such a handy locution!)

It's cloudy, and likely to stay mostly cloudy in this stretch of country for a couple of days.   Handy that I'm not depending on the solar panel to keep me going today.

I've been considering options... stay here (paid for), go over to Texas (I know, what a thought!) and check out Franklin Mountains state park, go back to Rockhound, go east and north a bit to City of Rocks.  My plan all along has been to get back to Tucson on Sunday the 21st,  Monday at the latest.

This clearly requires more coffee.

See you down the road, wherever that is.

--- Oh, and more about this park: I didn't mention the railroad which runs a few hundred yards from where I'm camped. Or the barking dogs just across the wash.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Leasburg Dam state park

Here's what my review for had to say:

This park is about 25 miles north of Las Cruces, NM.  Coming from the south, once you leave I-10, you wander through pecan groves until you get to Radium Springs. 

It's easy to get lost getting here: my GPS app tried to take me to the day-use area, which is closed and padlocked.  I stopped at Fort Selden, just up the road from the day use area, and got directions, which were easy to follow.  All on paved roads, but still, better signage would help, New Mexico!

The Visitor Center was closed, with signs advising that you check in with the Camp Host (site 9) if you have questions.  The sites in my "neighborhood" (Cactus Patch) all have water and electricity.  There's a common holding tank dump station right by the visitor center.  I have yet to locate trash cans or a dumpster, but I haven't looked all that hard.

Map coordinates: 32°29'35" N, 106°55'10" W
Elevation 3960

The big question about this park is why it's here at all.  It is on the way from Las Cruces to Hatch and then on north to Albuquerque.  It's not all that attractive -- flat scrub as far as the eye can see, with the exception of some hill off to the east. The actual dam and the Rio Grande isn't visible from the park. It does have a really cool playground for kids, right by the visitor center, and lots of little trails and cactus gardens to explore.  

I reserved and pre-paid 2 nights here.  Knowing what I now know, this place rates a one-night stopover.  It makes Rockhound, where I was the last couple of days, look much more attractive. I said I wouldn't stay here again, not because there's anything really wrong, but because Rockhound and City of Rocks are much more attractive options in this part of New Mexico.

The crescent rolls were delicious:

Moving on

I'll be back.  (Said with a deep German-ish accent)

This park is a keeper.  Nothing spectacular, just pleasant (I've used that word a lot, I know.)  It's a candidate for the "just go live for a while" list. For the first time, I've had some good conversations with fellow campers: my next door neighbor with the big white dog, who's full-timing in a little Casitas travel trailer.  Navy vet, originally from Colorado.  A guy from up near Taos.  And the usual polite nods to people out walking their dogs.

There are a couple of other nearby NM parks I want to check out on this trip... so today I'm headed up to Leasburg Dam north of Las Cruces for a couple of  nights.  It's lower and flatter with a nearby canal -- I did make a reservation and I'll have electricity over there.  The fact that I could get a reservation suggests that it's not as sought-after.  I'll write a review for Campendium, and cross-post here for y'all, whoever you are!

Here's where I'm headed. My reserved campsite is circled:

Photo from Google Earth

After that, I don't know.  I need to be back in Tucson Tuesday afternoon for an appointment.

The pancakes were delicious:

I'm enjoying this cooking thing.  Had soup and salad and fresh-baked crescent rolls for dinner last night.  And just a taste of gelato.

It takes a while to get into the rhythm of living in the rig.  Quicker now that I have some experience.  I've stopped checking the battery every 5 minutes ... I shouldn't say this "out loud" but I now know how long I can go and that my regular use pattern in the evening is sustainable without using the generator.  Gotta say how smug I am watching the little solar panel pump juice into the batteries.  I'd like to get some more batteries and more solar ...

I'll stop in Deming on the way over to Leasburg Dam to pick up some stuff I didn't pack, despite all those lists!  Would you believe that the only soap I have is some of that foamy hand-washing soap? And no towels of any kind?  And no broom!?

More later from Leasburg St Park.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Where I am now

That's my site.

32°11'12" N
107°36'43" W

4600 ft elevation

Here's a wider view of the whole area:

From now on I'm going to try to remember to post similar information about places I stay.


The tricky part is that my little catalytic heater Buddy has decided not to light up.  It's about as cold as it's gonna get for the night, and I'm fine in my sweats, so not big problem.  It would be nice to have that as an option, again ... gonna work on that later.  When it's warmer. I was wondering what to have for breakfast ... something hot sounds like a good idea. Maybe pancakes, now that I'm on this cooking binge.  The cookies were delicious.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016


I said I was going to cook more. This is the first product of the oven. I'd read that RV ovens take a lonooog time to come to temperature, but this was pretty quick. 

Another day here and then a short drive over to Leasburg Dam state park for a couple of days. Water!

Outside Deming, New Mexico

Rockhound State Park. Arrived at noon. All sites with electric were full. So I'm boondocking. No charge cuz I have a NM annual pass. 

It's a more than pleasant quiet place.  My neighbor is from Colorado. He has a giant white fluff ball of a dog named. Moose. 

Gonna be chilly tonight!

Monday, February 15, 2016

Outtahere tomorrow!

I'm almost done packing things and putting them in the rig. Maybe it's just because the weather is so pleasant, but I'm actually enjoying this getting-ready-to-go process. I'm experimenting with sleeping arrangements this trip: the couch isn't long enough for me to stretch out, but since I never sleep that way, perhaps this is worth a shot. The area over the cab is biggest, but climbing up and down is a nuisance. I've been converting the "dinette" into a sleeping area, which is comfortable and doesn't involve climbing around. But it does involve some awkward fiddling with the table and benches.  We'll see.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Headed out ...

I don't think the flowers will look like this just yet ... 

At last.  Headed first for Rockhound State Park near Deming, leaving Tuesday. I only have a week or so right now, so I may just hunker down there for a few days and collect rocks. (They let you!)   There's a couple more NM state parks nearby: one is down near the border: Pancho Villa, and the other I've been to before, City of Rocks.  Pancho Villa looks and sounds pretty unattractive; I guess the major appeal is that it's 3 miles from the border and walking across and back is simple and fast.  City of Rocks is cool!

I have my bright shiny new New Mexico state parks sticker, which means that I can dry camp for "free" at any of the NM parks, and a site with electricity is $4.  These parks are all part of the NM online reservation system, but only a fraction of the RV sites are available through the system.  The rest are all first-come-first-served. I talked to the manager at Rockhound, and he said it's a busy time of year for them. I plan to arrive about mid-day, and in the worst case I'll spend one night in a "dry" site and then move over to one with electricity.  If I want.  It's sunny and warm over there right now, just like it is here in Tucson, so the little solar panel will probably do a good job of keeping the lights on and the electronics humming.

Image lifted from Bucks' web site

The Beast went in to Buck's for an oil change and general pre-trip checkover.  The big bad news is it needs new ball joints before longer trips this summer.

Cost at Buck's will be about $1000, and then an alignment at one of the few places in Tucson that can do alignments for RV's.  Oh, well: what are income tax refunds for, anyway?

It's things like this that make me glad I have a mechanic I trust. I've said it before: these guys have been in business here for years and years.  They have a solid reputation, and I trust that when they say something needs doing, I do it.  This piece of maintenance should help me get more miles on the tires: I'm expecting that a new set of tires will be one of the major expenses in the next couple years. Yeah, ouch!

I've been making lists.  Actually, making up a whole sheaf of departure checklists, so I can avoid forgetting something.  Yeah, right.  Well, it's been a way to amuse myself while I wait for a long enough stretch of free time to get away.

Next bulletin should be from over there.  And I'll tell you what I forgot.