Our next frontier: traveling to the Southwest
During our first 4 months on the road, Phil and I didn’t really visit any place new. We spent our time in states we had already been in visiting places we had already been. It worked out well, we had resources (ie friends and family) who let us park (or stay) at their house. This was great when Phil needed to make upgrades to the camper and it saved us tons of money. (RV parks/campgrounds aren’t actually free, in case you were wondering. We had someone suggest that recently, so thought I’d make that clear!)
The first day of our 5th month - December 1st - we made our way to New Mexico. A place I had visited half my lifetime ago and a state Phil had never been to.
We had an 8 or 9 hour driving day ahead of us - the longest driving day we had ever attempted with the camper - but we were excited to begin this exciting new part of the trip.
We had to use our space heater the morning of our departure to melt ice off the canvas corners of the camper. We were literally thawing out. The ice storm over Thanksgiving had frozen Lil’ Poppy (even later in the morning we realized we had ice flying off the roof of the camper - we stopped to move off the large chunks still hanging on). It was definitely the coldest morning we had ever experienced packing up the camper.
We said goodbye to Phil’s mom and stepdad, loaded Emmy into the 4Runner and we were on our way - ready to charter new (to us) territory.
We had already decided we would not be staying in Northern New Mexico long. I had hoped to be somewhere in the Santa Fe or Albuquerque area for the first two weeks of December but we realized our current setup (pop up camper+space heater) wasn’t quite enough for freezing temps. The lows in northern New Mexico for at least the 10 day forecast were below 32 degrees. I was excited to explore this part of New Mexico but we’d have to return (next year?) when it was warmer or when we had a different camper or heater.
Our route from Central Kansas to Santa Rosa, New Mexico took us along the Santa Fe Trail and even a bit of Route 66. Heading west, we got an "extra" hour with the time change and more sunlight then if we had been heading north or south (or east!) but by the time we sat down to dinner, after 9 hours on the road, we were exhausted. But our trip - besides the 30 minutes we were driving directly into the setting sun - was exhilarating and exciting - I think for a lot of reasons:
- the sun! We hadn’t seen the sun for more than 5 days - before Thanksgiving - and we are people that NEED the sun to stay a little sane. And the sun was out and shining the whole day. It made such a difference in our attitudes.
- We were driving on a two lane road and going through towns in southwest Kansas, the Oklahoma panhandle and that north part of Texas - all places we’d never seen before. Seeing new things - even from the highway - is just exciting (reason #1 why we’re traveling!)
- The landscape changed pretty dramatically in just over 400 miles. I’m a geography fan and I love thinking about how landscapes were formed millions of years ago.
- Emmy was almost the PERFECT travel cat. She’s progressed SO MUCH in the 4 months since we’ve started. She just meowed a little bit and event got out at a picnic area and got her feet wet (really!) She used the litter box almost immediately after we got the camper set up - she had to hold it for so long!
Our dollar tacos at the diner on Route 66 just down the street from our camper in Santa Rosa wasn’t that impressive. But it was cheap. Eating on the road can be rough.
We considered briefly just getting a hotel room in Santa Rosa since we would be getting up the next day and doing this all. over. again. But when you can pay less than $40 for a camp spot, even $75 for a hotel room seems silly. We decided to just bite the bullet.
Santa Rosa wasn’t much warmer that night than Bushton had been. And after several nights breathing in very cold air, my kind of sore throat turned into a kind of nasty cough. After hearing my cough -without saying anything -Phil got up and started the 4Runner. He informed me I was to get in the 4Runner where it was warm while he packed up the camper. I didn’t feel bad, other than the cough, but I didn’t want it to get worse so I sat in the 4Runner and watched Phil pack up the camper. It didn’t take long. We hadn’t unpacked anything we didn’t need - we didn’t even hook up water or sewer (which we couldn't have anyway since it was cold enough they would have froze). I helped Phil with the last few things on the camper. We then went to find coffee. (Phil doing anything before his coffee is impressive so him packing up the camper pre-coffee is a feat.) We stopped at a gas station where I got hot water for my tea and Phil had to settle on a sweetened cappuccino (I don't think he drank much).
We stopped for lunch and had more mediocre Mexican food (surely we would eventually find decent Mexican food in the southwest, right?!)
Our travel time to Las Cruces was going to be shorter than the day before- less than 5 hours - but we were tired. And we realized we probably wouldn’t be staying in Las Cruces for more than a night. We needed to move farther west where the highs were more likely to be above freezing.
We found an RV park we could get for $18 per night (thanks Passport America) that was right off Interstate 10 which we would take to head west into Arizona.
While the park was fine, the bathrooms were the worst we’d been to. The RV park was right next to a motel and the men’s and women’s bathrooms were just motel rooms they had emptied out. Since we were in the city (and I guess not in a great neighborhood?) we had to have keys to get into the bathrooms. We had really been looking forward to our first shower in two days but it was just not great. The cherry on top of all of it was I still hadn’t replaced my shower sandals I’d thrown away weeks before. (Hindsight tells us we REALLY should have showered at the campground in Santa Rosa, but cest la vie).
I still had my cough but I was feeling pretty good otherwise. We find a pizza place not too far away and had some slices and a glass of wine. The pizza wasn’t great (we have high standards when it comes to pizza and tacos) but I’d try it again - Phil really liked his.
It wasn’t quite as cold that night in Las Cruces - the hot toddies probably helped - and we woke up to the sun shining. I had spotted a Starbucks close by so I went and got us coffee and breakfast while Phil packed up the camper.
So we were about to being our 3rd driving day in a row. The driving itself isn’t so bad. It’s the: 1)tear down/pack up 2) drive and figure out food, etc. and 3) find where we’re going and set up/unpack.
Thankfully, there was a few bright sides to three travel days in a row. ONE: At this point, Emmy got in the 4Runner like she had done it everyday of her life. She even spent a lot of the day in her basket which she had barely used any other travel day. She has become so acclimated to being in the car, she now WANTS to get in the car sometimes JUST TO HANG OUT. Her progression in 5 months has been amazing. It’s made travel days SO MUCH less stressful. TWO: We decided on our way into Arizona after leaving Las Cruces - we still weren’t sure where we we’d be heading - that we would stay somewhere for a month since monthly rates at RV parks are crazy affordable and we needed some time to just BE.
Which is how we came to stay in Tucson through the new year.
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