There is nothing like traveling when at your destination you are really looking forward to seeing a friend or family. I felt really excited and driven to get to Phoenix to see my family and every stop was exciting because I was a bit closer. Right now we are headed through New Mexico to get to my college roomate’s house. We have that relationship where you can not talk for a long time, but then when you do it’s just like you saw each other last week. We had some good times and I am looking forward to reminiscing. We all have friends like that and Laura is one of mine. I also think Kat will have a really good time because they like to debate and get into good, deep, possibly intellectual discussions and I think Kat is ready to do that with someone other than me. And that’s ok, I am too. Really looking forward to this visit and I only hope we fit in the driveway.
We left Catalina State Park as our last stop in Arizona and headed to New Mexico on Thursday. We really wanted to stay at Big Rocks State Park about 30 miles outside of Deming and we could only get a one night reservation. We planned to stay longer, but took that reservation to ensure we had at least one night there. They have 45 unreservable sights and friends told us that we should just show up and trade for one of those if possible. I had called the ranger station and was told since it was Easter weekend they expected to be pretty full, but just to give it a shot anyway. Having no reservations always makes us a bit edgy because we like to know where we are going and not have to wing it after we arrive and nothing is available (hasn’t happened yet, but you never know). We got there about 1.30pm and things were looking pretty good except for the camper in front of us, I was really nervous he would get the very last spot for a camper of our size even though he was smaller. We got a great spot in the one right after his. It took some tricky leveling and back and forths, but we got it in the end without too much trouble. It was really worth it! We were parked right next to the rocks and on the other side we had a fantastic view of the wide open desert. We could see for miles.
I had a nice bike ride after we got setup and checked out the rest of the campground and a bit of the scenery while Kat had a short nap. The sunset was amazing and the views were incredible of both the rock formations all around and the desert. Later that night the stars felt so close it was almost like you could reach out and grab them. No light pollution anywhere close by will do that and I forgot that about New Mexico skies. It got down into the 30’s at night, but in the day the sun brought it up into the low 80’s. Perfect, except the late afternoon and evenings were windy after the first day, so we didn’t get to have a fire.
Friday we headed up to the Gila Cliff Dwellings about 2 hours away. It is not that far in miles, but the roads up the mountain from Silver City are really curvy and steep. No problem for Fat Henry and there wasn’t much traffic. Even though I lived in NM for a long time when growing up I had never been there, so it was cool to finally go. The round trip walk is only about a mile and you get to go through 4 caves that have some really interesting structures that have been nicely preserved. The drive home was a bit easier because we took a different way through Mimbres, NM. It took us longer to get there and back than it did to walk through the caves, but it was worth it. When we got back we went down to the visitor center with our coffee grinder and some beans. We forgot to grind beans before we left AZ and needed some good coffee for in the morning, so we used an outside outlet to grind our beans. We weren’t the only ones who needed a bit of electricity because we had to wait for someone else to finish using the plug to blow up an air mattress.
We really enjoyed our walks around the camp and checking out what spots were taken and by whom. There was quite a bit of turnover, so if you wanted a spot you could most likely find something if you got there at the right time. All the campsites were named after constellations, planets and stars. We were staying in the site named Crab. During our walk we checked out the original spot we had reserved and it was Uranus. We were happy not to have stayed in Uranus. Jokes about Uranus are always funny and we had quite a few laughs about it during our stay. My nephew told me while we were visiting that he thinks Kat and I combined together have maybe the mental age of a 30 year old- I don’t take that as an insult because sometimes it seems kind of true. I won’t even go into how that age gets divided. lol (Kats note – Easy: I’m 20 and Bert’s 10……)
Saturday we had planned just to take it easy and let Kat rest a bit, but we were on the fence about leaving Sunday and so decided to at least go into Deming and get fueled up. While in NM who can resist the opportunity to get good mexican food, so we decided that is what we would do for lunch while in town. Easter weekend and Irma’s is closed! Oh no. Ok, just walk around the corner and there is El Senors restaurant, which is packed. Either they were all going to Irma’s too, or it is just that good. We can’t compare, but we did really enjoy lunch and had leftovers to take home too! We made our obligatory NM state Walmart stop (Kats note – A Walmart in every state, baby! That should go into the next stats page, in 2019), got gas and went home. That park has lots of locals coming out for picnics and camping, so we got a lot of traffic passing by. We were blocked by the camper, so it was not really a big deal. We had a good evening and had decided to head to Oliver Lee state park near Alamogordo. Again, we had no reservations-we have really been living on the edge! That park was nowhere near as full and once more we were in the beautiful desert in the middle of nothing except cactus and mountains.
We got setup and went back out to get Fat Henry filled up and go see White Sands National Park. I’ve been there many times while growing up and driving by, but Kat never had. We got to use our pass, so it was free! It was busy, but I guess that can be expected on a holiday. We saw the signs as we entered that No Alcohol was allowed from February 1st to May 31st. We didn’t have any, but why would those dates be important? So, we asked the ranger and he by the grin on his face he seemed to know what Kat was going to ask as soon as she told him she had a question. Spring Break! They don’t want people having spring break parties out there. Makes sense. We took a little walk down the boardwalk path and then started driving the rest of the loop, but it was so wash-boarded out and we were bouncing around and rattling so much in Fat Henry that we stopped about half way. I am so glad we didn’t bring the camper down through here too. I went out and walked on the dunes to get some pictures and Kat joined me after a few minutes. So, we were there, we saw, we left. It would have been nice to drive the whole things, but we did enjoy what we saw. Back to camp for us to relax because we are leaving again in the morning.
After dry camping for 3 nights it was nice to have power, but we could have done without. We did watch a couple of shows we had downloaded since it got really windy outside after the sun went down. When the wind was gusting we felt the camper rocking and realized we had forgotten to put down the stabilizers. Hmmm-first time for that, but we got distracted as we set up because our electric plug had water in it and also the surge protector was showing no ground? (Kats note – Well, one side of the surge protector was showing no ground and the other was, so we’re not too sure what was going on with that. After we plugged it in, I checked the 120V outlets, and they were showing a ground, but I’m sure there’s probably some electrickery formula to work out whether it was a good idea or not……. I have no idea, but we didn’t explode or short out, so that’s good) We used it anyway after drying it out and all seems ok. With power we also got to heat up our leftover Mexican food in the microwave and enjoy that for dinner! I love leftovers, especially mexican food.
Our next stop was Brantley Lake about 15 miles outside of Carlsbad, NM. It is a pretty nice campground, but the Easter crowd left quite a mess. I really don’t understand why people would just leave all their trash (plastic Easter eggs) laying around when they leave. I guess the campground host hasn’t been through to clean up because it is a mess in some spaces. It is a pretty isolated and dry campground, but we enjoyed the quiet and views. There are lots of rabbits and Jackrabbits around. Did you know that a Jackrabbit and Hare are the same thing?
The wind didn’t let up all night, but the stars once again did not disappoint. One thing that did disappoint me and left me sleepless was my supposed Verizon unlimited data plan. While in Tucson we went to a Verizon store to find out about their unlimited data plan. I have a 16G plan and Kat has 12G and we have made do with that ok, but we have to go to Starbucks if we want to do some heavy duty downloading or it takes forever. Well, I specifically asked Zach at the Verizon store if the Jetpack was under the same rules as a Phone in terms of when you reach 10 Gigs using 4G it goes down to a 3G for the remainder. He said NO, it is only on phones that those rules apply. We were both super excited to not to have to worry about how much data we had used and we could now go online whenever for however long. You don’t really think about it when you live in a house and you have unlimited access. We always took it for granted too. Anyway, while I was getting the last of the Arizona blog done I got a text message from Verizon telling me I was about to hit my 10gb limit and get dropped from 4G to 3G. What? Yes, everything slowed down immensely after that. Did you know that 3G is 1/20th slower than 4G? That is a lot when trying to upload photos! When we researched it online the stories are all over the place with similar experiences and no resolution. I was really disappointed. Now, do I keep that plan and suffer through the slowness as much as I want or go back to fast speed internet and just be careful about how much we use? I called Verizon in the morning after going through it in my head all night and I was told: ‘”yes, that is the way the plan works with Jet-packs and if you tether a phone, sorry you were misinformed”. She gave me a 20$ credit because I told here I am paying $20 more for a lesser service. I am still unsure if I will keep this new plan, but maybe I can use my phone for another 10 and that would give us 20gb of 4G service and then it would get slow. All you Verizon users, don’t be fooled!
When I think of Carlsbad, I always think of Carlsbad Caverns and of course we had to go there and check it out. Carlsbad has a population of about 55, 000 and is known for potash mining, petroleum production and tourism. That means lots of trucks and hotels in town. I had been to the Caverns when I was young, but I wanted to go again and take Kat. We headed out early and were very happy to find it not very crowded. It is a 3.75 mile hike on a self guided tour if you take the natural entrance and go through the Big Room. There is also an 800 change in elevation. There are warnings all over that it is a strenuous hike. It was steep going down and of course back up, but the path is paved and really well done to keep people on the path. The walk down was pretty with all the formations, but when you get into the Big Room it is amazing. The formations made it seem like a cross between science fiction and fantasy, just amazing. I was thinking how nice it would be to listen to some good music to match the views. If you lived locally it would be worth it to have a membership or annual pass so you could go there and get some exercise when it was hot out. We really enjoyed it and it was really nice that it was not crowded and we had the path to ourselves in many areas. We have been to Mammoth cave in Kentucky and a couple others in South Dakota, but this was absolutely the best. If you have the chance to go, it is really worth it.
After the cave walk and listening to Kat’s stomach growl the whole time we went out to lunch at Blake’s Lotaburger. To me it seems like NM’s version of IN and OUT burger in CA and AZ. The burgers are freshly cooked and adding cheese and green chili really make the burgers extra delicious. I give it my vote for best green chili cheeseburgers! (Kats note – it was indeed delicious, however I went into the situation blind, not knowing what the options were and did not do the appropriate research beforehand. There was a choice between an ITSAburger and a LOTAburger. I naturally thought the LOTAburger was bigger, and thought it had two burgers in there, so I ordered that one. The MOST important part of a burger is the Holy Ratio. That would be the ratio between meat and bun. Too much bun:meat, then it makes for an unsatisfying experience. Too much meat:bun is not possible. The LOTAburger was a bigger burger, but only one single patty. So with the benefit of foresight, I would have gone for a smaller burger but double meat. Or triple meat. (side note – the best BigMac I ever had was the Double BigMac in Bangkok – 4 patties) Apart from the Holy Ratio being a bit off though, the green chile in there made it Delicious, with a capital D). A bit of relaxing, talking and watching the stars came while hanging out at the campground ended our evening. Another great stop in the desert. Beautiful, but very different desert from Arizona.
We leave this morning for Lubbock, Texas and are very exciting to visit Laura and Miriam since we have been talking about it and planning to be there for quite awhile. Wagons Ho! Texas here we come!