Monday, October 29, 2012

Mission Accomplished

Our home at Bentsen Palm Village RV Resort in Mission, TX, where we’ll be workamping for the next 5 months.


We took the Lazy Daze in to a tire shop in Del Rio on Saturday and they could not find a leak, so it appears Jim tightening the valve stem core was the answer. He didn’t want to drive to Mission if there was still a problem. We thought about leaving Monday when businesses would be open but since we had it checked and the pressure was still good, yesterday morning we decided to hit the road. Unless you’re a fisherman, Amistad Recreation Area is not very appealing. And most of the hiking trails were closed due to hunting.

It was a long drive for us, 326 miles, but other than some road construction we easily made our way through Laredo and a bunch of other small towns along the border. Not the most pleasant scenery, as we didn’t realize there were so many oil fields and RV parks full of workers along the route. We saw quite a few RV gatekeepers, and marveled that anyone would want to do that job, even though the pay is good. They sit right next to the heavily traveled highway on dusty dirt roads, and have to be there 24/7. Not our kind of job!

Jim emailed the dentist in Progresso, Mexico that started his implant in February, and made an appointment to begin the rest of the process tomorrow. He wants to get that over with as soon as possible. We also have appointments next week for our annual physicals, and I am going to start volunteering with the cats at Cinderella Pet Rescue again starting next Monday. The park activities don’t start until the middle of November when more Winter Texans arrive, but we will have to help clean the clubhouse and get things ready before then. It’s going to be a busy and hopefully fun winter here.

It’s good to be back, and this is another one of those familiar places that feels like home. We had a nice chat and lots of laughs last night with Ray and Sue, our friends who will be working with us, and met another couple who will be working in Guest Services. Also met a few other people this morning doing laundry. Now if we can just remember everyone’s names!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Amistad Recreation Area, Del Rio, TX



We just couldn’t take another day of 90’s in Big Bend with no air conditioning, so Thursday we moved on about 250 miles to Amistad National Recreation Area. Before we left Jim plugged in the Doran tire pressure monitor, and our rear passenger side outer tire was down to 47 pounds. Miles from nowhere in Big Bend is not the most ideal place to have a problem, but since Jim had aired up the tires just last week, he suspected it might be a valve issue. He tightened the valve stem, pumped the tire back up to 75, and reapplied the pressure sensor. Having the monitor sure was nice so that we didn’t have to keep stopping to check the tire pressure. Luckily it stayed equal to the others the entire trip here. He checked it again yesterday, though, and it was down about 10 pounds so we will probably take it in somewhere today to get checked. At least here we’re only about 7 miles to town, unlike Big Bend where we were 70 miles from civilization.

On our way to Big Bend in December 2008, we stayed at Seminole Canyon State Park, about 30 miles from Amistad. One day we took a drive around and remembered this as being a pretty area with lots of water. Well, that was 4 years ago. This is now another lake with very little water remaining.

Where the blacktop ends used to be the beginning of the lake. The little water that remains is home to lots of birds and ducks, though.


We had been in contact with Barney, aka The Old Fat Man, whom we met last year in New Mexico. He’s been staying here recently and told us campground 277 North was the only one with water access, and places to walk and bike. So that’s where we are, and we had a nice visit with Barney after we got set up.

There is no water or electric here but they do have clean vault toilets, covered picnic tables, and a trash can at each site. Not the most scenic place, especially since the lake is barely visible, but for $2 a night with the senior pass it’s adequate. And you get to hear the traffic noise from nearby 277. Out of the several campgrounds around the reservoir, Governor’s Landing is the only on with water and there is a dump at the main boat ramp a few miles away.

What a difference a day makes in the weather. When we got here it was in the upper 80’s, a bit cooler than Big Bend, but still pretty warm. We did run the generator legally for a couple hours to cool things off. Woke up yesterday to cloudy skies, wind and falling temperatures, and it barely got to 60! Supposed to warm into the 70’s this weekend. Much more pleasant, and I wish we could have waited it out at Big Bend, but that kind of heat gets to you after a few days.

Yesterday Debbie and I went to Del Rio to pick up some groceries at HEB. Nice store. She had never shopped at one before, and I really liked the one in Mission last winter. We also stopped at a couple thrift stores for fun. Didn’t buy anything but you never know what you might come across.

It’s obvious we’re close to the Mexican border again as we heard lots of Spanish being spoken in town, and the border patrol was just outside the campground gate last night. Guess we’d better get used to it as this is how it will be for the next 5 months.

I think we’ve decided to just make a long 350 mile drive to Mission and get there a few days early. Unless someone has any ideas of interesting places between here and there, like Laredo??? From what we can tell, it doesn’t look very inviting.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Hot on the Trails of Big Bend


Yesterday morning we drove up to the higher elevation of Chisos Basin to do a cooler hike to The Window. This is a popular trail we had done before but didn’t remember much about.  It’s around 4 miles round trip to a great view through the rocks, with lots of shade and not too much change in elevation.



There was even water in the pools.


Approaching the Window and the end of the trail. There is nowhere to go but down from here. Way down.



We stopped at the Chisos Visitor Center and asked the ranger there about some other hikes. She suggested Pine Canyon, but said the 6 mile primitive road to the trailhead requires a high clearance vehicle. All right, a chance to test the Subaru again.

So this morning we got to go both off-roading and hiking. We are getting more comfortable knowing what we can safely drive over, and love the comfortable ride we get on rough dirt roads. We definitely made the right choice of vehicle, just wish we had done it sooner.


The hike was good, too. Another 4 mile round trip that climbed gradually from a sotol grasslands to a cool forested canyon. The trail ends at a 200’ cliff with a waterfall. It must be really impressive after a good rain. We forgot the camera and took a few pictures with the phone but most of them didn’t look very good. We never saw another person the entire hike, and only passed 2 trucks on the road. Jim got a little stressed since it was a single lane road, but we stopped and they managed to get by.


Texas madrone tree with it’s scaling bark.


We had an interesting experience last night around sunset. Jim and I took a short walk down the Croton Spring trail, and when we turned back we saw a small motor home pulling in between ours and Debbie’s. At first we thought they were just turning around, but then realized they were parking. Jim went over to tell them there were only 2 sites here, but they were German and didn’t speak English very well (or at least pretended not to), and since they were just looking for a place to park overnight we let them join us. Now if they had kids with them we would have politely asked them to find another place! They’ve been traveling for almost a year now, 6 months in Australia and 5 in the US. They are heading east as they only have a 6 month visa and have to return to Germany next month. They said they liked Australia but like the States better since there is much more variety here.

There have only been a few other vehicles come down our road and turn around, but we’ve yet to see a park ranger come down to check on us. So if you run a generator in the backcountry and there is no one there to hear it, does it really make any noise???

Monday, October 22, 2012

Croton Spring Backcountry Site, Big Bend National Park, TX


Coton Spring Octobe 2012

We arrived in Big Bend National Park yesterday afternoon, and even though it’s mighty hot, we are glad we came back. When we were here in December 2008, that was our first real exposure to the vastness of the desert and we fell in love with it. We stayed at the Rio Grande Village campground on the east side, which was only partially open due to flooding from a recent hurricane. Big Bend is so expansive we spent a week hiking and exploring the Rio Grande Village area and Chisos Basin. We never made it to Santa Elena Canyon and the west side of the park, and have been wanting to return ever since.

Wanting to be more centrally located, and with Chisos Basin being restricted to smaller RVs, we decided to try one of the backcountry campsites that can accommodate RVs. Our Lazy Daze friends Chuck and Carla stayed at Croton Spring, so we went to the Panther Junction Visitor Center to inquire about it and get our pass. You can only reserve the backcountry sites 24 hours in advance (in person), so we had no idea if it was occupied, but based on the miniscule number of cars driving through the park and the heat, we figured it would be open. We bought a backcountry pass for $10 and signed up for a week, although we will probably leave sooner just because it is so hot. There are 2 sites about a half mile off the main road (118), 10 miles west of Panther Junction. We feel like we are in the middle of nowhere and the scenery and silence are wonderful. The road is a bit rough coming in, though, and if it rains we will probably have to stay until it dries!

It’s even prettier as the sun goes down.


As it cooled off last night we took a little hike down the trail behind our site to try to find Croton Spring but it appears to be dry at this time. The dried mud made for an interesting photo, and it felt like walking on potato chips, the way it crunched under our feet.


We sat outside last evening stargazing and discovering our own Marfa light toward the east. It was a bright white light that moved from side to side and up and down, and blinked off and on a few times. We’re sure it must have been a UFO, but then the imagination can run wild in the dark, especially after a night of the paranormal.

We got up early this morning to take the 30 mile Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive and a few short hikes before it got too hot.

From an overlook.


Lower Burrow Mesa Pour-off trail.


Looking up at the Pour-off.


Tuff Canyon Trail.


Our last stop was Santa Elena Canyon, along the Rio Grande. There was very little water in the Rio but the 2 mile round trip trail is quite scenic.

Canyon entrance.


Lots of vegetation and big rocks.




The low Rio Grande.


Amazingly we are able to get a slow internet connection at our primitive site using the Wilson amplifier. Now if the temperature would just drop a little bit. Upper 80’s/low 90’s is a bit hot for camping without A/C, and it is forbidden to run a generator in the "backcountry”.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Marfa, Texas



It was a long drive for us yesterday, over 250 miles to Marfa, but we are now in Texas. It was the first time we’ve driven through El Paso on I-10, and hopefully the last. Even on a Saturday the traffic was heavy and went on forever.

We spent the night at the Marfa Lights Viewing Center, basically just a rest area with bathrooms (composting toilets, no less) right on Hwy 67. Not a bad place to stay as traffic is very light on 67, but there is a surprisingly busy train track just on the other side of the road, so beware. Since it’s free I guess we shouldn’t complain.

The Marfa Mystery Lights were first reported in 1883 by a cowboy who thought they might be Apache Indian fires. To this day there is no explanation for them, although they may just be car headlights. Just as it was getting dark we walked over to the viewing area, where a small group of people from the Laredo Paranormal Society were setting up their infrared cameras and other equipment.

Restrooms and viewing area.


The group has been studying the lights, and said this was the third night in a row they had been out there. Great fun for us, since we got to look through their $9500 night vision monocular, glasses, and infrared camera. It is amazing what you can see in the dark with those! They also had a laser which shot different colored beams up to 90 miles away. They would aim it at the lights and make them go out. Of course the lights were coming off and on anyway, so we weren’t that impressed. But they did have some cool and expensive equipment.

I managed to capture a photo of one of the lights we saw, and there were many. They varied in size and brightness and would stay on for different lengths of time. Not too impressive, I know.


But it was an unusual way to spend the evening. Today we are heading for Big Bend National Park, where there should be no train or traffic noise.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Quincy Update


Discovered this morning that New Mexico sunrises can be just as pretty as the sunsets. It’s not often I open the blinds in the morning and see this.


The little boy is doing fine, in fact he has been ravenous since we brought him home last evening. The vet told us he had to pull 2 teeth and all went well. We were very impressed with the care he received and since we didn’t ask ahead of time, pleasantly surprised at the reasonable charges at the Animal Hospital of Las Cruces. Both Dr. Morrow and Dr. Johnson were very compassionate and took time to address our questions and concerns. We are so glad we found this place and would highly recommend them if you are in the Las Cruces area and in need of a veterinarian.

And now we can relax and continue our trek to Texas.


Friday, October 19, 2012

Leasburg Dam State Park, Las Cruces, NM


Overflow area.


It’s been a busy and stressful few days here. We had loads of laundry and shopping to do, and Quincy was barely eating due to his dental issues. Jim took him to a local vet 2 days ago while Debbie and I were washing 2 weeks worth of dirty clothes. He was able to scrape off a large chunk of plaque from the tooth that seems to be bothering him, gave him a steroid injection and antibiotics, and told us to call yesterday to see if he was feeling better. He was able to eat without as much discomfort but was still obviously having tooth pain. He told us to bring him back this morning and if he felt the need, they would admit him for dental cleaning and probable extraction.

So we left him there at 8 this morning, came back to the park and moved to the primitive area, since the other sites were either taken or reserved for the weekend, and went for a hike. Just as we got back this afternoon we got a call that he was out of surgery and we could pick him up at 5:45. What a relief, although we must admit we both thought it might have been best if he didn’t survive the anesthesia. That would have saved us the grief of euthanasia we know is coming one of these days. Ah, the trials and tribulations (and expense) of pet ownership!

Haven’t taken many pictures here. This is more evidence of the drought they are experiencing. In April we were here and took this photo of Leasburg Dam and the Rio Grande from the trail.


And how it looks 6 months later. The lighter shiny area is the only water left. This isn’t a great picture since we walked at sunset and it was taken with our cheapie Canon. Had to send the Nikon S9100 back for repairs again as the warranty runs out this month. Don’t buy one of these cameras!


We arrived on Tuesday, which was Jim’s birthday, so we went into town that afternoon to pick up a few things at Sam’s Club, which just happens to be conveniently located across the street from Pizzeria Uno. So Jim got his pizza and beer, and I didn’t have to fix dinner.

There is lots of hiking in the Las Cruces area, but we didn’t have time for much this visit. We walked the park trails but they aren’t very long, and this morning went down the road to Dona Ana and hiked on BLM land just north of Las Cruces. We hadn’t been there before but it’s a pretty area and there are miles of trails and dirt roads. It is so nice to be able to drive on roads we were uncomfortable driving on in the Chevy. We really like the Forester!


Yesterday we made a trip to Home Depot and Ace since we decided to make a home-made Protect-A-Tow. Our original one broke and blew off last year in New Mexico so we haven’t been using any protection for the car. Now that we have a new-to-us vehicle, we thought about replacing it but they wanted $160 just for the fabric part. We managed to find some sunshade fabric and bungee cord by the foot, and with the help of Debbie’s sewing machine made up a new one for under $30. Took almost all day but it was worth it. I’ll try to do a post on it one of these days.

If Quincy is doing well we are leaving tomorrow for a long drive to Marfa, TX, then on to Big Bend Sunday. No cell or internet there except at the Visitor Center, so we may be out of touch for awhile. In fact the first time we went to Big Bend in December 2008 our house was for sale, and we got an offer on it while we were there. We didn’t get the message until 3 days later, as our realtor was frantically trying to get in touch with us. Fortunately the deal went through and the rest is history.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Scenes From Elephant Butte and Chloride, NM



We’ve had a very pleasant week here, and with the lake level being so low we’ve been able to actually hike “in” it. Along with the grazing cattle.


This one didn’t fare so well.


No danger of any swimming or fishing here.



Late one afternoon a flock of American white pelicans came to spend the night by the water. There were so many of them it looked like a flowing kite tail in the air.


By the way, we understand those mountains across the lake are part of Ted Turner’s Armendaris Ranch.

We discovered a dirt road not far from the campground leading to North Monticello Point, where you can dry camp. Found a lovely spot where there was still some water. Had we found it sooner we would have moved there.


One day we took a ride to Chloride, a former silver mining town, now an “almost” ghost town with 11 current residents and an interesting museum. Most of the contents were found in the original buildings. Fellow bloggers at Happy Trails did an excellent post about it if you care to read more. We were fascinated by the story of former resident Cassie Hobbs. This true frontier woman designed and sewed all her family’s clothes and built all the furniture in her house.


Since it is adjacent to the Gila National Forest, we had to go off-road on an unmaintained Forest Service road into Chloride Canyon for for a couple miles to try out the Subaru again. We are amazed at how well it handles rough, rocky roads. Of course we had to hike the road a few miles, too. Found an old cabin and some nice rocks.



Our plan is to leave tomorrow for a couple days in Las Cruces for some shopping before making a beeline to Big Bend. We stalled a bit in hopes that it cools down a little by the time we get there.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Elephant Butte Lake State Park, NM


This is now the fourth or fifth time we’ve stayed here at the South Monticello Campground, which is the northernmost campground in the state park. For some reason it remains one of our favorite places. All sites have electric and water, and great views of the lake and surrounding mountains. Over the 4 years we’ve been coming here, the lake level has been gradually falling due to the drought. We are in site 22, which used to be very close to the lake.


Our view of what’s left of the lake.


Same site in January 2009.


The lake was full of water back then.


Yesterday was our anniversary, so we celebrated by going to Truth or Consequences. Debbie treated us to a great lunch at Cafe Groovy Gritz , a new restaurant in town. Our favorite place for pizza here, Cafe Bella Luca, is closed on Tuesday, so we’ll have to make another trip there later this week.

After lunch Jim wanted to try out the off-road capability of the Subaru, so we took a ride by the dam looking for roads. Didn’t find anything there but it was a nice drive.

All the green areas used to be under water.

October 2012

The Elephant Butte, where the park and lake get their names. You really have to use your imagination to see the sleeping elephant..


We then remembered there was a dirt road along the Rio Grande where we had hiked before. It’s hard to tell by the photo, but this hill was steep and rocky. We were impressed by the way the Forester handled the hill and rocks, and how comfortable it was going down the rough, washboard road. We think we made a good choice!


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Balloons Went Up



Although the forecast called for high winds on Sunday morning, the weather man was wrong again, and the balloons were able to fly. Even though we've seen them before, it was still exciting watching them soar over the sea of RVs.



Elvis was an new balloon this year.


Late Sunday afternoon the group had a wine and hors d'oeuvres happy hour.


It was surprising that several people were on vegan diets due to health issues, so there were some foods we could eat. They told us at the Morro Bay, CA Lazy Daze get- together in the spring, about half of the people there were vegans. I'm glad to see it is becoming more mainstream, due to the popularity of The China Study and Forks Over Knives. It may take awhile, but as it becomes more widespread, it's just a matter of time before more restaurants offer vegan alternatives.

That evening we walked over to the balloon field with Debbie, Robin and Lydia to see the Balloon Glow and fireworks. Although huge crowds aren't our idea of fun, walking on the field amid the sights, sounds, and heat of the inflated balloons is something not to be missed.






We really enjoyed our 3 days at the Balloon Fiesta, but moved south yesterday to Elephant Butte Lake State Park. Quincy seems to be having some teeth issues, so we took him to the vet yesterday afternoon. They had to pull 2 of his teeth a couple years ago when we were here. The vet didn't see any abscesses or mouth ulcers, just a lot of plaque, but due to his kidney disease did not want to risk anesthesia to clean his teeth. She did blood work and his kidney values were about the same as 5 months ago. Most days he is eating, playing, and interacting with us as usual, so his quality of life is still pretty good. She recommended another supplement to lower his phosphorus, so that will be 4 medicines. Good thing 3 of them are powdered and can be added to his canned food, when he feels like eating it. This is why we don't want any more cats, at least for awhile!