Disaster Strikes!

Tuesday, February 8: We left Jojoba Hills before 9 this morning, amidst sunny skies and warm temperatures. Our destination is Twentynine Palms and Joshua Tree National Forest, but as luck would have it, I’m updating the blog while we’re broken down on the side of the road, waiting for a tow truck.

Despite road construction, we were making good time and reminiscing (once again) about our PCT hike. We saw the snowcapped Sierra Nevada Mountains in the distance, and were chatting about Big Bear Lake and Palm Springs when our morning got exciting. Climbing a steep grade, Fester noticed the diesel was sluggish and having a tough time making it up the hill. His gauges didn’t display any issues, so we kept driving. Somewhere in between Morongo Valley and Yucca Valley on Twentynine Palms Highway, we started up a slight hill when Fester yelled to me “it looks like we’re on fire… grab the fire extinguisher.” The extinguisher was right next to my seat, so I had it and was pulling the pin as I raced down the passenger side of Zephyr. There was white smoke everywhere at the back of the coach, and I initially thought the Jeep was on fire because the brakes had locked up or something. But Fester came down the driver’s side of Zephyr and saw small flames and a lot of smoke coming from the exhaust pipe. He handed me the Jeep keys and told me to get it in gear and ready to back up while he unhooked it from the coach. Once the Jeep was backed safely away from the coach, I grabbed Sadie, along with Fester’s wallet, my purse and our phones and iPads and put everything in the Jeep. With sirens blaring and lights flashing, the fire/rescue trucks showed up in no time, thanks to a good Samaritan who pulled in behind us and made the call to 911.

Working with the folks who handle our Family Motor Coach Association’s Roadside Assistance Program, Fester was able to line up a towing service and a diesel mechanic. We were told to expect the tow truck in 60 to 90 minutes. Two hours later, we called FMCA again and explained no one showed up or called. They contacted another (local) tow company and said they’d be there in 30 minutes.

Thirty-minutes later, we were impressed as “Big Red” from Lefevres Towing approached us, and the driver expertly pulled in, turned around and backed up close to Zephyr. Once the driver, Casey, assessed the situation, he got down to the business of hooking Zephyr up to be towed. The process took about 45 minutes, and we felt very confident with Casey’s expertise and trusted he would tow our home on wheels safely. As we followed Casey to the repair shop, we saw that even with 15 speeds, Big Red struggled to pull our coach (weighing 33,ooo pounds) up two steep hills, including an 8% grade on Old Woman Springs Road.

Fortunately, Fester had called Bill’s Diesel Truck and Equipment Repair Services’ owner earlier to let him know we were running late. Bill left the truck yard gate open for us and Casey backed Zephyr into a designated space. Because it was already after hours, we told Bill we would return when they opened at 9am to figure things out. We ended up spending the night the Best Western in Yucca Valley.

Wednesday, February 9: We arrived at Bill’s truck yard around 8:30, and the gate was already open. Fester met John, the head mechanic, and they started discussing a game plan. We were told to just hang out until John had a chance to look at the turbo and access the damage. Sadie had a chance to meet Twiggy, the yard dog (I keep wanting to say junk yard, because it kind of looks that way with broken trucks and RVs all over). Little Twiggy is a scrapper and let’s you know she’s got her eye on you. We hope to eventually make friends with her, as we’ll be dry camping here while Bill works on Zephyr. It’s generous of him to let us stay, and we are happy since we’d probably be boondocking anyways.

Sadly, my first task was cleaning out the fridge and freezer. Because we were parked unevenly along side the road, we had to turn off the fridge/freezer because of the propane gas. When we arrived at the truckyard, we weren’t level, so we left if the propane off overnight, knowing everything would spoil. On the bright side, we had been “eating down” the contents of fridge and freezer so I could defrost it, so it wasn’t very full.

Sadie and I set out to explore the desert just down the road, being sure to observe any and all “No Trespassing” signs. It seems folks around here don’t want you on their land, even if that land is nothing but desert scrub. We found a nice loop path that allowed us to get some exercise and sunshine, while exploring the desert area which was scattered with Joshua Trees and Yucca plants.

Thursday: February 10: Did I mention that the truck yard gates get locked after 6pm. Until we manage to earn a key, we are destined to end our travels by 5:30 so we don’t get locked out. It is a strange feeling knowing you can’t leave.

To hurry things along with the repairs, we volunteered to take the turbo to their “turbo guy” who’s in San Bernardino, about 1.5 hours away. We dropped it off around 10:30 this morning and after a quick look, the turbo guy thought that something must have hit the air side of the turbo and damaged the fins, which induced a vibration and ultimately caused the exhaust side of the turbo to fail. The turbo guy said he would examine it further and let us know if he can do a rebuild. If so, we should be able to pick it up on Tuesday. At least we have some idea of how long we will be at Bill’s truck yard. We can plan some day trips and start working on our next destination. That was the highlight of our day. We spent the rest of it driving around town while Fester checked a few auto parts stores and Tractor Supply for some fittings. And, we did go grocery shopping to re-stock the fridge. Tomorrow we plan to visit Joshua Tree National Park.

Pacific breeze

Sunday, February 6:  Since we’ve visited San Diego and Los Angeles years ago, we set out for a day trip to Oceanside City. We did the touristy thing and made sure to visit the historic wooden pier (although we didn’t actually walk the pier because dogs are not allowed).  We watched surfers trying to catch the waves, which weren’t cooperating (and neither was my camera).  We joined many others who were walking the sidewalk that runs along the beach and sat for a spell, watching the world go by as we soaked up the sun and ocean breeze. We explored the neighborhoods, filled with charming bungalow homes (that probably cost a fortune). There’s an abundance of coffee shops, restaurants and outside patios lining the streets and it would be a neat place to spend a few days if we were so inclined.  We drove over to the New England-style harbor and enjoyed looking at all the boats filling the docks, while reminiscing about our first Zephyr (sailboat).

From Oceanside, we headed to San Clemente to check out the state park to see if we wanted to move there when our time’s up at Jojoba Hills on Tuesday morning.  On our way to/from San Clemente, we passed the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS). Fester said the plant was permanently closed by the NRC back in 2013 and is in the process of being decommissioned. We also drove past the Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton. What a pretty place for a military base. San Clemente, with its Spanish colonial-style architecture seems to have it all – the ocean, the mountains and the very nice weather.  We did find a state park that would accommodate Zephyr; however, when we saw the posting that dogs aren’t  allowed on the beach or trails, we nixed that idea.

Before we left Yuma, we filled up the propane tank and stopped for diesel fuel for Zephyr and gas for the Jeep to avoid California fuel/taxes. We had to fill up the Jeep today, and couldn’t believe the prices – $4.95 for regular and $5.09 for diesel. Crazy!

Soaking in the sun

Saturday, February 5:  This morning, we headed south, toward Temecula.  Imagine our surprise when we saw more metals sculptures line the road, just a short distance from our park. Unbeknownst to us, metal artist Ricardo Breceda has a multi-acre Gallery and Sculpture Garden just down the road from us. Although we saw plenty of Breceda’s work at Borrego Springs, we may stop by an tour his out-door gallery if we have time later.  After dinner, we enjoyed soaking in the hot tub after floating around in the pool.  Set among the mountains, Jojoba Hills has created a resort-like atmosphere with its pool and patio. Truly a relaxing experience – until you get out of the water.  Even at 75 degrees, the breeze coming off the mountains can be chilling.  That, however, didn’t stop us from buying a few Klondike ice cream bars for later.  Because it was still so pleasant out, we took Sadie for a walk at the nature conservation and enjoyed climbing the hills, looking out for wildlife.  

Zero Day

Friday, February 4:  Happy Friday!  Today is what we use to call a “zero” day. It meant that we didn’t hike at all and just chilled, either at our campsite or in town. These zero days usually took place when we were in town picking up our food drops and staying at a cheap motel with a laundromat, hot showers and a real bed. Today’s zero day simply means we’re staying put – no trips or adventures outside of the park.  We did do some chores around the coach, like defrosting the fridge/freezer.  Fester washed Zephyr’s windshield inside and out.  Sadie and I took a pleasant walk through the Riverside County Nature Conservation area, which backs this park and is accessible thru a locked gate.  Now, we’re both sitting outside enjoying the sunshine – I’m working on the blog and Fester’s surfing the net, while Sadie’s eating a chew toy.  We will probably hit the pool after dinner.  A lazy day.  We have our full hook-up site through Monday night, and we’re debating what to do next.  If we find we like the area (and weather the weather stays nice), we may move over to a dry camping site for a few days (or even check out some of the BLM land we saw yesterday).

Borrego Spring

Thursday, February 3:  Another chilly morning, but the sun was shining brightly when we set out toward our much-anticipated visit to Borrego Springs. After a bit of research, prompted by Marc & Connie’s photos, we thought we knew what to expect. We were pleasantly surprised by how much fun it was to find each metal sculpture or grouping, much like a scavenger hunt. We got a brief glimpse of the metal sculptures as we made our way to Jojoba Hills on Monday… the three wild mustangs that appear to jump across the mountain.  

While photographing sculptures, I noticed two strange looking cacti-like shapes that turned out to be sculptures by artist Tanya Aguiñiga.  According to the sign posted at the site, the Two-Spirit Earth and Hallowed Mound are totems that emerge from forms of the surrounding landscape. These large forms are designed to channel moisture, encouraging growth and transformation as they slowly decompose and return to the earth.  What a neat concept… truly living art.

Julian: On Monday’s drive to Jojoba Hills we passed signs for Warner Springs and Julian, both towns that we remember from our PCT hiking days.  Call it nostalgia, but we wanted to revisit those places that were part of our hiking adventure 16 years ago. After all this time, we still remember coming off the trail at the crossroads to Julian, where we tried to hitchhike into town.  We were hot, tired, hungry and just plain miserable and no one would stop to give us a ride.  The wait got to be so long, that I left Fester on one side of the road, crossed over to the stop sign across the street and faked a limp/injured foot as motorists passed by.  Sure enough, we ended up with a ride to Julian in the back of a pick-up truck.  As we made our way down memory lane, we were happy to find that the Julian Hotel was still thriving, having survived Covid shutdowns. We remember spending a night at the Julian Hotel and savoring a meal at their restaurant while talking to locals about the happenings in their quaint town. After a stroll through Julian with Sadie, we headed back to the crossroads and found the PCT trail marker – talk about fond memories!  It was a good day.

Jojoba Hills

Wednesday, February 2: Our first bit of business this morning was waffles! It’s a real treat to be hooked up to power again, which allows us to use our electrical appliances (griddle, Instant Pot, Ninja, microwave/convection oven, etc.) without worries of draining the batteries. Life is good!

Fester just registered us for the 61st Escapade that takes place toward the end of June at the Wilson County Fairgrounds in Lebenon, Tennessee. Of course we’ll make plans to visit Fester’s dad, Ken, in Asheville either before or after the event.

Apparently, Escapade is the largest and most extensive gathering of the Escapees Community and will be another opportunity for us to lean more about the RV lifestyle from professionals and experienced RVers. There will be a wide variety of seminars, social gatherings, and nightly entertainment during the five day event (sounds very similar to the Xscaper’s Convergence).We hope it will give us a chance to meet up friends we met at other Escapee events and on Plomosa Road in t Quartzsite.

We’re scheduled for a tour of the RV park this afternoon. Because George escorted us to our RV spot when we arrived on Monday, we requested him as our “tour guide.” George has a dry sense of humor and seems to know the park very well. George spent about 2 hours showing us the park’s many amenities and activities from the comfort of a golf cart. Imagine a Time Share sales pitch, but without the pressure. Escapee members are able to put their names on a waitlist to lease available properties at the park, as they become available. The co-op consists of 148 acres of rolling terrain terraced for spectacular views from each of its 283 RV sites. There’s a 35’ x 65’ heated pool, two spas, six ponds, a fitness center, as well as pickleball, tennis and bocce ball courts. In addition to the wood and metal workshops, there’s a pottery studio, arts center, community greenhouse, library and clubhouse. A perfect retirement community. It turns out, that even if we were interested in leasing a lot, our Zephyr is too old (20+ years).  Oh well, we’re having fun while we’re here.

California here we come!

Tuesday, February 1: Happy, Happy Birthday to our sister-in-law, Karen!!! She and my brother, Sam, own a travel trailer and have been enjoying Ohio summers at their campground, but are looking forward to some of their own travel adventures soon.  I hope we are inspiring them to “just do it.”

We left the KOFA park around 8:30 this morning, anticipating a three-hour drive to our next destination, another Escapee Co-op in California. After we crossed into California and passed a sign reading “San Diego 136 miles” we both remembered when my sister, Merrily, and my niece, Landyn, drove us to the California/Mexican border in March 2006. After dropping us off at the trailhead to the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) hike, they drove ahead of us to a part of the trail they knew we would cross and made a creative “good-luck” sign right on the trail, using rocks. It was such a touching way to send us off on our big adventure and we are still grateful for their inspiring message.

We have reservations at Jojoba Hills SKP Resort in Aguanga, California. The park is another Escapee 55+ RV Membership Cooperative Community, located in Southern California just east of Temecula. According to their website, Jojoba Hills is surrounded by beautiful mountains and high desert. Temecula is the second largest wine region in California and a short drive to the coast, ski slopes, Los Angeles or San Diego. While at the park, we’ll have a chance to visit some of the places we passed through during our PCT hike (for example, we hitch hiked to Temecula to pick up our food package and stayed over the night to shower, do laundry and eat like fools).

Parts of our drive were through a few mountain passes, with curvy roads, boulders on hillsides (and almost no shoulder). We were happy when we started seeing hardwood trees versus cacti. We passed more than a few vineyards and wineries along the way. It was exciting to come upon metal sculptures of three wild horses which appeared to jump across the road. ahead of us. These are just a preview of the many sculptures we’ll see when we go to Borrego Springs later this week. We also passed a glider airport, full of gliders in storage. Fester doesn’t think they soar during winter months, but we plan to check on it this week – maybe we can arrange a flight.

Although we’ll still have sunny skies in California, the temps will be lower due to the mountains and elevation change. Yuma’s 70+ degree days will really be missed, but we’re ready for another change. During this morning’s drive, we passed through Anza Borrego Desert State Park (which looks pretty much like the landscape we’ve been passing- desert scrub surrounded by mountains).   We passed a turnoff to Warner Springs and Borrego Springs. We’ve been to Warner Springs on our PCT hike. Our Escapee friends, Connie & Marc, spent a week at Borrego Springs after Tulsa and loved it.  We plan to go there via the Jeep during our stay (maybe camp overnight).

We arrived at Jojoba Hills SKP Resort and checked in before noon. After eating a quick lunch, we took Sadie and walked uphill to one of the two dog parks here. If today is any indication, we’ll get a lot of steps in while we’re here. Our RV site is pretty far away from both dog parks, as well as the Office, Club House and Pool. We’ll need to pump up the bike tires in the morning, as this is a large, hilly park to navigate (golf carts seem to be very popular). We’re scheduled for a park tour tomorrow and look forward to it, as there’s still a lot to see and learn. Imagine my surprise when a bobcat (yes, a bobcat) walked across the patio on the site next to us. I was washing dishes and quickly grabbed the camera – unfortunately, it was a lousy shot due to window glare and a fast moving object. I’m posting the photo anyways, because it is cool.

Since today is the start of another month on the road, here are some of our travel stats to date:

  • Nights:  97 (including tonight)
  • Months: 3 (November, December & January)
  • Miles:  3,925
  • Time Zones: 3 (currently Pacific Time)
  • States:  7 (Ohio, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona & California) Note:  We aren’t counting Illinois because it was just a one-night stopover.

I plan to update our Yuma visit soon. Please stay tuned.

Yuma, Arizona

Tuesday, January 25:  A shout out to our dear friend Weezie who celebrated her birthday today… Cheers! Although we got up early this morning for an early departure to Yuma, we decided to stick around for a bit to enjoy the 8am “Cinnabon” pancakes-Yum with a capital Y!!! We can’t believe we’ve had Boomer pancakes three times since we arrived at Quartzsite.  But… the pancakes are delicious and all donations go to the Escapees’ CARE program (a win-win). Sadly, we are really going through our stash of pure maple syrup from the Cross Brothers’ Maple family-owned farm in Madison, OH. We love their syrup and stocked up for our trip at the Willoughby Outdoor Market this fall.

We left Plomosa Road around 9:30 and got to the Escapee KOFA Ko-Op Retreat in Yuma before noon. Boy, talk about leaving the desert dust behind. Everything was greener as we got closer to Yuma, and the citrus trees lining the streets were a sight for sore eyes. Early into our trip, Fester was concerned because the air brake system wouldn’t come up to pressure which could result in the brakes locking up. As Fester watched the air pressure continue to drop, he was nervous as he backed into our assigned RV spot, afraid he would lose the brake. The brakes did lock up, but he finessed us safely into place. We weren’t sure where the air was escaping, so we walked around the coach while it was still running. I heard air hissing around the passenger side’s back wheels and, upon further inspection, Fester located the leak on the driver’s side back wheels. Fester climbed under the coach and was able to remove the faulty part. Unfortunately, while in that position, he noticed the rear axel seal was leaking fluid – another problem! Our back home friend and mechanic, John Kraus, was able to give Fester valuable insight before we headed to a truck parts store. Fester couldn’t believe his luck. Not only was he able to purchase an identical replacement part, but while at the counter he met a truck mechanic who should be able to fix the rear axel issue. Now we just have to wait for the mechanic to let us know the parts are in and we’ll head to his garage.

Because the RV Park doesn’t accept reservations, we were only able to book a full hook-up site for tonight; tomorrow we move across the street to a dry camping site (basically boondocking). Before dinner, we decided to take a swim and were happy to learn the pool was heated (87 degrees). While relaxing in the pool, we talked to a resident, John, who told us a bit about the park, and how it operates as a co-op 55+ RV community. We were intrigued by the idea of owning a site at the park and will talk to the office manager while where here to get more information.

Monday, January 24:  Happy Birthday to Fester’s dad, Ken, in Asheville, NC! Seems we have been taking turns driving off-road, and I was today’s driver.  The trail was beginner level, except for a few “dicey” areas (i.e., fun).  Fester used the “Quartzsite Arizona Off-Road Atlas” to navigate our way from Plomosa Road to the Sunkist Trail, then to Road 0077 (which shared the Arizona Peace Trail for a while).  We eventually turned onto 0077A which lead us to a “guzzler,” which is an innovate way to provide water for wildlife in the desert.  A guzzler is a rain catchment device that collects and stores rain water for all types of small wildlife to drink. Rain falls on a large flat area (typically cement) that gently slopes towards a cistern that holds the water. A ramp at the mouth of the guzzlers allows the wildlife to walk in and access the water at any water level.   I saw a few animals (probably deer) scatter away upon our approach, but other than that, we didn’t see any wildlife.

We enjoy spotting different/unique types of rigs that people call home, and we weren’t disappointed as we neared the end of Road 0077 (parallel to I-10) and came across a live-aboard large trawler parked out in the desert. Amazingly creative, the huge white trawler had a rear entrance (with latter), as well as a door cut into the blue hull. Home sweet home.

Speaking of Land Yachts

We stayed out later than planned, but it was a good day and my off-road skills (and confidence) continue to improve.  As we were driving about, we made the decision that we were ready for a change in scenery and will head to Yuma, AZ, in the morning.  We made quick work of connecting the Jeep and loading/packing up our stuff.  As luck would have it, our neighbor, David, stopped by.  This was the first time we’ve met him, and immediately we noticed his t-shirt with a white blaze down the front – a recognizable symbol from the Appalachian Trail, which he and his wife, Celia, have section-hiked.  They are full-timers and have enjoyed a lot of adventures the last 4-1/2 years.  We wish we had introduced ourselves sooner, as David shared some good information on places to explore during our travels.  Almost as soon as it got dark, we could hear the crackling fire that Shout had just built, so we wandered over to enjoy the fire and say our goodbyes to Sauce and Shout (and their sweet dogs Flag and Neptune).  It turns out they are also leaving (to Phoenix) in the morning.

Sunday, January 23:  Greetings from Quartzsite, Arizona! I’m finally taking the time to update the blog, as prompted by my father-in-law, Ken. A lot has taken place since my last post on January 11. We arrived in Quartzsite on January 17, coming from the Xscapers’ Annual “Bash” in Lake Havasu City.  Later this morning, after it warms up a bit, we’re planning an off-road adventure via the Arizona Peace Trail (AZPT).  The AZPT is a 675 mile Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) loop trail through Mohave, La Paz and Yuma Counties and is the longest off-road trail in Arizona. During our last few days in Quartzsite, we hope to visit some “tourist” destinations like the Hi Jolly National Monument, the Tyson’s Well Stage Station Museum, Celia’s Rainbow Gardens, the Indian Petroglyphs and Grinding Holes in Tyson Wash and the Bouse Fisherman (an Intaglio, also known as a geoglyph or earth figure).  

Quartzsite – BIG Tent “Card” Punched

Saturday, January 22: Finally… we’re among the many thousands of RVers destined to make the pilgrimage to the annual Quartzsite Sports, Vacation & RV Show, also known as the BIG Tent, which kicks off this morning and runs through January 30.  We arrived around 8:30, grabbed an info pack (with map) and a free shopping bag for all the “stuff” we collect along the way. Fester has been reading about the BIG Tent over the years, but we didn’t really know what to expect. Think of an RV/Boat Show on steroids with over 600 vendors hawking their wares.  We saw RV lights, batteries, solar panels, refrigeration systems, toilets and air conditioners, along with RV Resort and RV Club representatives. There were several organizations (two in Alaska) looking for work-campers during the summer months. We took a few brochures, because who knows? Aside from RV-specific wares, there were knives, pots and pans, Tupperware and cooking demonstrations. Pretty much you name it, and someone was selling it. After having only purchased some candied pecans, we can now say we’ve officially gotten our BIG Tent “card punched.” As we headed toward the Jeep, we saw that the regular vendors had opened for business and were already crowded with shoppers among the many rows of tents.

After an early lunch at Silly Al’s Pizza (yummy), we picked up Sadie for a ride down Plomosa Road to check out other camping areas.  Today turned into a chilly, gloomy day and it even started to rain a bit as we headed out. We saw some very nice BLM campsites that were way out there, providing campers with solitude and a remote camping experience in the desolate desert. While heading back home, we decided that this end of Plomosa Road would be a good training opportunity for me to get behind the wheel and drive Zephyr as we start toward our next destination (haven’t decided when/where we’re going). Other than a few “dips” and curves, the road is in great shape and is pretty straight, with very little traffic.  Considering I’ve only driven Zephyr at our local college, I can’t wait to get on a real road. We settled in for the night and while we were eating a piece of leftover pizza, we were pleasantly surprised when Jacque knocked on the door and invited us to join them at their new propane fire pit (which they purchased today at the BIG Tent).  

Below are just a few highlights of what we’ve been up to since my last post. I hope to catch up on these soon, as they were good times with great people!

Friday, January 21: Pancakes & Bacon Breakfast with the Escapee Boomers

Thursday, January 20: Cinnamon buns, Market Stalls, Beer Belly’s Adult Day Care

Wednesday, January 19:  Party at Plomosa!  Fester & Jacques fly the drone; Annual Happy Hour Hosted by Xscapers with the Status Crowes band followed by Karaoke by the fire.

Tuesday, January 18: Met Faith’s kids Karen & Greg who are boondocking at La Posa LTVA

Monday, January 17:  After laundromat we left Lake Havasu City, heading to Quartzsite; said good by to Jill & Cody’s ’04 Minnie Winnie, the “Big Taco”

Sunday, January 16: Fester & Savannah fly drone over Sara’s Park; Dinner with Savannah

Saturday, January 15:  Desert Bar  http://www.thedesertbar.com/; Cat Parade BBQ Dinner and Neon Night

Friday, January 14:  Dog Walk at Sara’s Park; the Xscapers’ official band, The Status Crowes

Thursday, January 13:  Our 2nd Off Road Group Jeep ride

Wednesday, January 12: , Seminar Building a Resume for Working on the Road; Wine Tasting; and Sandcastles; Xscapers Olympics & Unicorn Ride

Tuesday, January 11: Previously posted

Monday, January 10:  First dog walk at Sara Park – off leash Bob Ide & Grace; Debbie Powell and Pat with Black Lab Beauregard (Beau)

Off the beaten path…

Tuesday, January 11: With so many others sharing the cell towers, it seems my internet timing has been wonky, so I’m again writing the blog offline, and posting when I can (or remember to). Fester reminds me that a majority of the Xscapers at the Bash are working remotely from their RVs and need access to the cell towers more than we do.

After this morning’s group meditation, Fester and I met up with a group of folks to go four-wheeling somewhere past Parker Dam. There are three outings planned – today, Thursday and Saturday. Today’s route was considered beginner/intermediate, so Fester had me take the wheel. Amazingly, there were about 15 jeeps and/or trucks in our group. Having never participated in a group trek, we were glad for the company and expertise. There was one really rocky downhill, and one of the leaders acted as a spotter, giving the drivers signals as we made our way down. We learned that you always make sure you can see the driver behind you, in case something happens and they don’t show up, you know to turn around and see what’s up. Also, at intersections, you make sure the driver behind you can tell which way you’re turning so no one gets lost. It is very much a team thing. We had a blast. I even took a few crazy steep uphill detours (following the leader, of course), to kill time while we waited for the others. It was a wonderful way to explore the desert mountains – we were really “out there” and at times, grateful we weren’t on our own. I think I gained a lot of confidence and can’t wait to do it again. While out there, Fester and I talked about taking the Jeep to a remote off-road location while boondocking and camping out for the night. We’ve brought our tent, sleeping bags and water filter just for that reason, but really haven’t looked for the opportunity to do so. We will now. While I’m looking forward to Thursday’s session, I feel bad that we missed a few RV seminars while out driving.

After lunch and a quick nap (all that tension from driving was tiring), we headed over to Center Camp for the Mac and Cheese throw down. An annual competition where we get to be the judges. There were some delicious and creative entries, including a Thai Mac and Cheese and several with fun toppings like nachos or cheese puffs, or even jalapenos. We’re returning to Center Camp later to watch the Dueling Pianos. We will probably make it a short night.

Monday, January 10: The community-led seminars began today, and I attended a group meditation class at 7:30am, followed by a yoga class at 9. It was so nice to practice yoga with a group. My brother, Steve, and I liked to attend yoga classes together, trying out different yoga styles and studios once a month or so – something we haven’t been able to do since Covid. This past summer we did get to practice together a few times at Saturday morning classes at Point Park in Downtown Willoughby, thanks to Harmony Studios’ outdoor sessions. In the afternoon, Fester and I attend some interesting and informative seminars, presented by members of the Xscapers RV community including RVing in Canada, UV Protection for your RV, and Boondocking.

There was a Mexican food truck onsite serving lunch and dinner and another selling homemade ice cream. We skipped dinner and had ice cream instead (we’re adults and can make that decision if we want – ha!) We decided to stay up past our bedtime and play Bingo (the games were free, and an electric bike was one one of the prizes). The disclaimer, “this isn’t your grandma’s bingo,” lived up to it’s promise – there was a lot of hollering, drinking, joking and a little profanity (the game area was off limits to kids). We played six games, and neither of us got Bingo.

Sunday, January 9: We made our way down to Center Camp just as they started serving breakfast burritos and coffee at 8:30. Saturday’s Ferris wheel was already torn down, on the truck and ready to roll out of here. Breakfast was free this morning, but going forward, breakfast will be sold via a food truck. Coffee will be served every morning on a donation basis, with all proceeds going to the Escapees CARE CARE (Continuing Assistance for Retired Escapees Program. Located at the Escapees Rainbow End’s RV Park in Livingston, TX, we saw this program in action during our 8-day stay their during the Thanksgiving Day holiday. Per their website, CARE’s mission is “to provide a safe haven with professional assistance at affordable prices for members whose travels are impacted because of age or temporarily interrupted because of health problems.” Because so many RVers have given up their “bricks and sticks” homes and live on the road fulltime, CARE provides aging RVers with an alternative to assisted living or a nursing home.

Our bacon burritos were hot and delicious. Fester even went back for a second burrito a bit later in the morning. Because we get up so early (and have already enjoyed our coffee and breakfast well before 8:30), I’m not sure how often we’ll go to the food breakfast food truck, but it’s nice to know it’s there. Later in the morning, Sadie and I cut through the Rodeo ring and sat just outside Center Camp to listen to “The Border Hookups,” a husband-wife acoustic duo based in rural Minnesota. They played their original music, as well as a variety of popular songs (both country and rock). Because dogs are not allowed at Center Camp, we had to watch from the sidelines, but it was worth it.

Based on the event agenda, there will be assorted food trucks at Center Camp throughout the event, serving lunch and dinner, as well as a cash bar.

Late afternoon, into early evening, there was a “Rig Crawl” (think progressive dinner & happy hour meets open house). Basically, each section (Family, Party, General & Solar) puts out appetizers, desserts and/or beverages and folks sample and taste their way from one RV to another, while taking a tour of those RVs with open doors. Like the Tucson event, Fester and I opted not to participate in the tour (or opening our coach to tourists) due to Covid. But, Sadie and I sat outside with some chocolate granola balls & brownie bites (and dog treats) so we could at least be sociable. It was a lot of fun and we met some interesting people (some were a bit tipsy by the time they made it to our row).

The Bash Begins

Saturday, January 8: We enjoyed a very nice patio lunch with our niece, Savannah, at Rosati’s Pizza near the London Bridge. We had expected to invite her to the Bash, but learned that admittance is restricted to attendees (you must have a windshield sticker and show a wrist band). We plan to meet Savanah later this week at Small Cakes (for a yummy ice cream & cupcake splurge). We indulged in Small Cakes a few times when we last visited Savannah and still remember the “smashed cupcakes with ice cream” and the “cupcake milkshake.” After Small Cakes, we’ll meet at nearby SARA Park to hike the 5-mile Mountain Park Loop Trail to walk off some of those calories. Turns out that SARA Park is directly across from the Rodeo grounds – we can see the mountains from Zephyr II. Savannah showed us a picture of her dad (my brother, Steve) repelling down a short section of the trail during his Thanksgiving visit. Because we don’t have a back seat in the Jeep, we can’t take any passengers (except, of course Sadie), so we can’t ride together.

The RVs continued to arrive today, and the place is filling up. It has been fun just to walk the lots and meet fellow Xscapers (and, of course their pups). I’ve been tickled (and Sadie intrigued) to see people out walking their cats. A lot of small dogs and many cats like to nap (or stand guard) on the dashboard so they can watch the action while they soak up the sun.

We met Regina from Kentucky during Boot Camp (see Friday’s entry). She recently sold her home and is RVing fulltime with her two dogs. Sadie got along great with her white Schnauzer “Sugar” who reminded us so much of our Schnauzer, Ripley, who shared many, many adventures in her 14+ years with us. Sugar’s bark reminded me of Candy Cane, a precious Schnauzer we watch for Melissa and Jason (church friends/neighbors back home).

We’ve met Romeo who wears a harness and gets walked around camp a few times a day. His owner says he loves to be outside with them, and when not walking, he enjoys his own “kitty camp, ” a very creative cage, complete with a litterbox. Our across-the-row neighbors, Digger and Picker, have a cat named Olivia who loves to be outdoors, but won’t walk on a leash (she’s an escape artist), so the gals have a “kitty cart” (i.e., mini stroller) that she gets to ride around camp.

The event is sponsored by many RV-related vendors, including SYKL Power Bikes arriving all the way from Wisconsin. We visited their electric bike display yesterday, and plan to give them a test drive later this week. We’ve noticed more and more RVers travel with electric bikes, which makes perfect sense. The bikes give you the opportunity for exercise when you want it, and the option to throttle the power on if you’re going up an incline (or just feeling lazy). We’re currently “on the fence” about them and will keep researching, and thus delay our purchase. There are always considerations in regards to the purchase of toys and equipment, such as cost and additional weight. In addition to a variety of electric bikes, we’ve seen several folks using hoverboards, electric scooters, and skateboards to get around camp, and even a few golf carts. Mind you, these aren’t necessarily “young” RVers on the hoverboards – I give them credit for their bravery… or maybe they are just nuts?

The Bash officially kicked off at 4pm with a welcome session from the rodeo bleachers. We were introduced to the Xscapers new president and other club “officials,” and learned a bit more about the group in general. We get a chuckle when they describe prizes or anything of value as being “WAY less than a thousand dollars” when referring to anything money related, such as prizes. All of us newbies are called “Convirgins” since this is our first Xscapers Convergence. Shortly following the welcome, we posed for a group photo. After a quick dinner at Zephyr II, Fester donned his nautical cap as we made our way back to Center Camp to ride the Ferris wheel and dance. In keeping with tonight’s entertainment by the “Nautical by Nature” band, the theme was everything “nautical.” It was fun to watch the creative costumes some member wore, including sea captains, sailors, yacht club members, wenches, and even pirates. We returned to Zephyr II for dinner and a Sadie walk, before going back to Center Camp to ride the Ferris wheel, watch the band and mingle with fellow RVers.

Lake Havasu, AZ

Saturday, January 8: Unfortunately, our internet/cell coverage is very slow/non-existent at times. I tried to post last night, but it timed out, so I’m trying again this morning before too many people jam the cell tower.

Friday, January 7: Thanks to a friend’s comment, I realized that I never “published” (posted) my blog from January 3, so I am even further behind than I thought. Another quick “summary” of our trip so far (starting with today and working backwards).

This morning we headed off to RV Bootcamp Express from 9am – 6pm learning “everything RV” which included Basic Systems Common to all RVs, General Maintenance, Fire Safety, Weight Management (while I can certainly use it, the discussion was around RV weight, not mine), Propane Systems, Batteries and Electrical Systems. Fester is already quite knowledgeable in these areas, but it was a very good seminar for both of us and the Instructor was great. The seminar gave us a chance to meet other RV newbies. Greg and Sandra (New Year’s Escapees) were in our class, as well as our current “neighbors” Tina & Cody.

The Annual Bash doesn’t officially kick off until 4pm on Saturday. In addition to signing up for multiple seminars/classes, we’ll also have opportunities to participate in group activities like meditation, coffee group, yoga, dog walks, happy hours, and pickleball. And, did I mention… this is a party group, so there are numerous evening events such as happy hour, bands, & dancing, theme nights and more.

Leaving class, we noticed a giant Farris wheel being assembled for the bash. Based on all the gear/equipment being set up around here… this will definitely be a big deal. We understand that between now and the kick-off on Saturday, they are expecting close to 400 rigs… crazy! Fortunately, before entering the rodeo grounds, everyone has to show proof of their COVID vaccinations or negative test results. However, because of our personal Covid concerns, we plan to choose our activities and participation carefully.

Thursday, January 6: We arrived at the Lake Havasu Rodeo Grounds on Thursday afternoon (a few days early) for the Xscapers Annual Bash which runs January 8 – 16. If you missed an earlier mention on the Xscapers, here’s their moto: Xscapers is a community within Escapees RV Club created for working-aged RVers. A community with a passion for an active and free-spirited life of travel and Adventure.” Sounds just like us, huh? As mentioned below, we had recently departed the Escapees’ New Years Hangout in Tucson, and we’re anxious to see what the Xscapers are all about.

FYI, this event is boondocking/dry camping only (no hook-ups), so we’ll have 11 days without power, water or sewer. This will be an excellent test for the six solar panels Fester installed prior to our trip. Prior to arriving, we filled our fresh water tank, dumped our sewage (gray and black water tanks) at Lake Havasu State Park. We had filled our propane tanks before we left Pima Fairgrounds. We’re expecting mostly sunny and/or partly sunny days while we’re here, so the solar panels should be able to keep us powered (although we have to closely monitor our microwave/coffee pot usage since they are big draws). This is very much like living on the boat, always juggling your power supply vs. needs. Fortunately, we have a generator we can use to charge up the batteries if needed.

The Rodeo Grounds are sectioned off into areas for Solar (no generator use), Family, General (that’s us) and Partyers. Thanks to the many Xscapers’ volunteers, we were signed in and parked in the General Section in no time. Even as we were setting up camp, we started meeting fellow Xscapers. Greg and Sandra from Escapees New Year rode by on their electric bikes to say hello. Not surprisingly, Sadie is a “people magnet” and folks are drawn to her and that starts up quick conversations.

Wednesday, January 5: We arrived at Lake Havasu State Park in time for a 2pm check-in. After setting up camp and settling in, we jumped in the jeep and headed for Angelina’s Italian Kitchen for a pasta fix. They’ve been in business since 1989 and aside from the online reviews, we knew they were good when people started arriving when their doors opened at 4pm! We weren’t disappointed with our meals or the service and took home enough leftovers for at least two full meals. I think we’ll return – if for nothing else than to try their desserts which we passed on because we were stuffed. After dinner, we picked up Sadie and drove around Lake Havasu, refreshing our memories from our last visit with Savannah. BTW, we connected with Savannah and will meet for lunch or dinner on Saturday. This is a beautiful state park – we’re just a short distance to the beach and there is a very nice walking trail that leads to a beautiful native cacti garden.

January 3 :& 4: We arrived in Quartzsite, AZ after an approximate 5-hour drive from Tucson. Based on an New Years Escapee’s suggestion, we ended up at the Plomosa Road Camping Area on BLM (Bureau of Land Management) property for two nights of boondocking (free, no hook-ups). We absolutely loved it! There’s a lot more to cover about Quartzsite and its “Quirky” RV Community, but this will do for now.

Sunday, January 2: It was bitter cold when we woke up Sunday morning and we were happy to learn the day promised sunshine and temperatures in the lower 60’s. Once again, Cheryl and David chose a unique event for this morning. The group would meet at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum in time for the 10am Raptor Free Flight Show.

We attended a farewell dinner (Mexican buffet) at the Sunset Cantina at the fairgrounds. Sitting with a new group of Escapees including Jan, Jeff, Terry and Laura, we enjoyed hearing about their RV travels and their upcoming plans. Jan , aka “Glamper Jan,” is traveling in a Ford Campervan. Turns out she lives in the Sandusky, OH area in a park model trailer from April until October 1, then takes off in her campervan for the winter and has been a snowbird for about five years. Jan is a vivacious solo traveler, probably in her late 60’s/early 70’s. She runs Nomad Sewing from her van – making and repairing RV curtains, etc. Of course the other three Escapees have interesting stories as well, and I hope to provide a glimpse at a later time. When we headed back to Zephyr II for the night, it was obvious that the temperature had dropped and it was even windier than when we went to dinner. The wind was so bad, that we had a tough time falling (and staying) asleep. Since we’re such newbies, every strange noise made us wonder if something was breaking off the coach or something.

Saturday, January 1: We kicked off New Year’s Day with a Potluck Bruch, which was a lot of fun and gave us a chance to sample a lot of delicious options. Escapees posted their recipes, so I started a “go to” list with new possibilities for the next potluck (in Lake Havasu). The afternoon event was a hike/drive in nearby Saguaro National Park. We opted to skip the hike and take a nap instead. Afterwards, we took Sadie on the Fitness/Natural Trail. Because of all the rain we had Friday night, the trail was filled with puddles, but Sadie managed to keep all four boots on for the entire walk!

The Escapees evening event was the Elf’d production at the Gaslight Theatre. More on that later.

One of these days, I hope to update these posts with more details and photos… please stay tuned.

Farewell 2021 from Tucson, AZ

Geez… I’ve haven’t posted since December 20. A lot to catch up on before the start of the new year (sorry, not happening today). Hmm — Sounds like there’s a New Year’s Resolution in the making… “Keep Skunky and Fester’s Blog Updated.”

Starting this morning, and working backwards, I will bring you up to speed since my last post (basically just a brief update on dates and locations). Trust me, I’ve started many blog entries each day; however, I’m easily distracted and there you have it. Fortunately, these unfinished blogs and photos memories will help me fill in details and adventures as time permits. Sadly, knowing me and my tendency to procrastinate, it may never happen. Fester teases me because I’m always saying “Starting on Monday….” While this usually refers to dieting or exercise, in my case, you can pretty much fill in the blanks with just about anything.

Friday, December 31: Happy New Year’s Eve! Having arrived last Thursday, December 23, we’re still at The RV Park at Pima County Fairgrounds in Tucson, Arizona. We had planned to be here by December 27th for the Tucson New Year’s Hangout event, our first Escapee’s gathering. However, we decided to arrive early so we’d have a place to call home for Christmas and an opportunity to explore Tucson (about 20 minutes away) while most folks are on holiday and downtown isn’t so busy. Based on the Escapee’s Hangout Agenda, we knew we would be busy most days once the event started, so early arrival gave us a chance to catch up on chores and do our own thing for a few days.

The fairgrounds (and Tucson) are surrounded by mountains and/or mountain ranges. Regardless of how near or far (or how large or small), these surrounding mountains create a beautiful backdrop to our daily lives, especially when it comes to sunrises and sunsets.

This morning the Escapees had planned a scenic drive up Mount Lemmon, with shopping and/or dining at the quaint little village on the way up. But, we recently learned that the event was cancelled due to rain and the chance of Icey roads because of Mt. Lemmon’s high elevation (9,000+ feet). BTW, the weather guessers are predicting 10 – 12″ of snow on Mt. Lemmon overnight. Yikes! Instead of the Mt. Lemmon trip, the group is holding an informal discussion on “Best RV Trick or Tip. This will be perfect for us newbies! It is always best to learn from others’ mistakes and/or lessons learned.

Tonight, the Escapees will gather to celebrate New Year’s Eve with a BBQ buffet, adult beverages, a DJ, karaoke and dancing. Champagne will be served at midnight as we toast in 2022. Sadly, Fester and I will probably not make it for the toast. Anyone who knows us understands that we’re the “early to bed, early to rise” kind of people. Cheers!

A quick rundown on the last 10 days or so….

Thursday, December 30: Our morning Escapee’s Event was a visit to Kartchner Caverns State Park to tour the Rotunda and Throne Caverns. I will definitely provide more details later, as this was a memorable tour. Our late afternoon/ early evening event was a Rig Tour with appetizers. It was pretty cool to see member’s homes on wheels(think Open House).

Wednesday, December 29: The Escapee’s morning event was a trip to Tombstone – OK Corral, lunch and the Queen Mine Tour in Bisbee (a quaint little town near Mexican border). Because we didn’t want to leave Sadie all day, we regrettably passed on this activity and instead enjoyed a delicious lunch at the “Legendary” El Charro Restaurant(we didn’t stay for the group on Tuesday because the wait was too long.

Tuesday, December 28: The Escapee’s morning event was the “Tucson Urban Adventure Quest” interactive team game which was a blast and gave us a chance to get to know Tucson and our team members, Connie and Marc. They are recently married (they actually got married at another Escapees event). They live in their 45-foot RV and are the 2nd RV down the row from us and we’re discovering they are a fun couple and we have a lot in common. The Escapee’s evening activity was a group game of “Guesspionage” an irreverent, interactive trivia game that is played on your smartphone. Fester and I agreed it would be a fun game to play with his brothers and their wives, and nieces and nephews the next time we’re all together… they are a pretty competitive bunch!

Monday, December 27: Today was arrival day for the Escapees RV Club. We weren’t sure we would want to get together with a group of people (30 rigs), but the Escapees are demonstrating good COVID protocols and every attendee had to present their vaccination records or negative COVID test results as you checked in. The club also provided KN94 masks for everyone and requested we where them when indoors together. That evening we met in the “Green Room” for introductions, agendas and instructions on how to play Tuesday’s Adventure Quest game.

Sunday, December 26: We explored Tucson’s downtown area as well as local neighborhoods around Tucson.

Saturday, December 25: After a yummy Christmas lunch, the three of us spent a fun day driving up Mt. Lemmon. We can see this 9,000 foot+ mountain from the fairgrounds, but it’s about an hour’s drive from Tucson. There’s a ski slope on the mountain with a cute little town with shops and restaurants. We were surprised to see some private neighborhoods on the mountain and of course we had to check them out.

Friday, December 24: We checked out the large fairgrounds and RV park, as well as the surrounding area. After shopping for groceries for our Christmas meal, we ended up taking a walk along the fairground’s fitness/exercise trail (about 1.5 miles) and botanical garden.

Thursday, December 23: Arrived at The RV Park at Pima County Fairgrounds in Tucson, Arizona. This will be our destination for the Escapee’s Tucson New Year’s Hangout which begins Monday, December 27 thru Sunday, January 2.

Wednesday, December 22 & Tuesday, December 21: Roper Lake State Park in Arizona – which brings us back to my last post from Monday, December 20.


Monday, December 20: Sadly, we didn’t get to witness the anticipated star-filled sky last night and early this morning. Last night’s full moon brightened the sky too much to see many stars. It would have been a stunning setting for star gazing amongst the boulders, but it wasn’t meant to be. After Sadie and I finished a final morning walk among the boulders, we broke camp and set out for our next destination, about a 3-4 hour drive west on I-10, leaving New Mexico driving into Arizona!

We’ve set a few milestones today: 7+ weeks/54 nights on the road; 3,110 miles; 3 time zones (Easter, Central & Mountain); 7 states (Ohio, Illinois, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico & Arizona); and 16 RV Parks/State Parks/Campgrounds. We will be in Arizona for the remainder of December and most of January.

We arrived at Roper State Park in Safford, AZ, around 3pm and could already feel the warmer temperatures. We’re on a paved site, which is nice after our last sand/gravel site (a lot less dust). We’re right across from Roper Lake and a mountain view. There are ruddy ducks and grebes along the lake’s shores. Behind us, we have a stunning view of Mount Graham (elevation 10,724 feet). After setting up our site, we took Sadie for a walk around the campground, taking the Mariah Mesa Trail around the park. We were interested in an area across the lake that looked like a great place of Sadie to run off leash (trust me, she needed to get her “ya-ya’s” out). During the walk, we startled a covey of Gambel’s quail, which quickly scattered for the brush, but not before Sadie made a play at them.

After our walk and a quick dinner, we took a drive into the town of Safford to check out the lay of the land. It was nice to see homes decorated for Christmas and the town square and City Hall were beautifully decorated. It reminded me that we won’t be home for Christmas.

We had hoped to see a sky full of stars tonight since this campground is fairly dark. Instead, we got to enjoy a full, orange/yellow moon, rising over the lake. A peaceful way to end the evening.

City of Rocks, NM

This blog was reposted to include photos. Due to lack of WIFI and cellular, I wasn’t able to download any pictures while at City of Rocks.

Sunday, December 19 – We woke to a beautiful morning and enjoyed a leisurely breakfast while watching the sun rise. On our way to the Visitor’s Center, we stopped to chat with Brad, sleeping in a van, and his friend Bart (and his wife), traveling in their RV, from Wisconsin.  They have been coming to City of Rocks for many years and never tire of it.  They gave us some good advice on where to hike and also some tips on other parks and campgrounds to visit in Arizona and California during our winter travels.

We enjoyed a full day of exploring City of Rocks State Park.  The more we saw, the more amazed we were with the creative way the park incorporated the unique rock formations into private campsites. As we were checking out other campsites, we made mental notes of which ones we would request the next time we ventured this way (and we definitely want to return). The day was sunny with no clouds to speak of, and a cool 53 degrees and minimal wind. We climbed in an around boulders most of the day, enjoying the paths along the formations, leading from one rock cropping to the next. Sometimes it felt like we were on another planet. We would definitely return to this park, as we have only touched the surface – there are many more places to hike (and bike).  We hope to see an amazing night sky tonight, if we can stay awake long enough.

Saturday, December 18 – We had nice, scenic drive from Caballo State Park to City of Rocks State Park.  We passed several “wind farms” with wind turbines lined up in rows, like soldiers. This reminded us of hiking the PCT and passing thru Tehachapi, California where we walked under the turbines, with the “whop, whop” noise almost deafening. We also passed some “solar farms” with giant size solar panels lined up to face the sun. It is no wonder the resources are being used to harness the power of the sun – there is plenty of it. Driving through the quaint town of Hatch, we couldn’t believe the abundance of bags (some quite large) of dry red pepper chile for sale…at every store, shop and corner. We would have stopped to buy some if we weren’t in Zephyr, towing the Jeep (trying to park on the narrow streets would have been nuts).

We were awe struck as we made our way down the to the City of Rock’s Visitor’s Center, admiring the incredible rock structures which were formed of volcanic ash 30 million years ago and sculpted by wind and water into rows of monolithic blocks.  Our campsite (#14 Gemini) was awesome, set in front of two magnificent boulders with two small boulders wedged in between them and a young tree determined to thrive in the alter-like space. This is our first real “boondocking” experience, in that we are without electric, water or sewer hook-ups.  With the overcast sky, we may not be able to rely on our solar panels for electricity. This will give us a nice taste of things to come, as we plan to do a lot of boondocking in the Arizona desert to take advantage of free Bureau of Land Management (BLM) camping space. Sadly, it was cloudy and overcast today, and windy to boot.  It would have made an excellent star gazing opportunity due to the darkness, except for the clouds.

Friday, December 17 – We left the coach at 9am, headed for Geronimo Trail National Scenic Byway and didn’t return until after dark. The trail took us through Gila National Forest with curvy roads climbing up to elevations of 8,000 feet. The views of the ever-changing landscape were breathtaking. We were looking for Forest Road 150, which was an off-road route thru the forest.  When we arrived at the start of 150, Fester turned to me and said, “okay – you drive”.  Mind you, this was a gravel, sometimes dirt road with many hair-pin turns that dropped off into steep valleys.

Almost as soon as we started climbing, we saw a single roadrunner dart across the road in front of us. It turns out that the roadrunner is New Mexico’s state bird. From the driver’s seat window, I heard some “gobbles” and then we saw a flock of wild turkeys foraging along the hillside. According the the state’s wildlife management group, this was the Merriam’s turkey, which is predominantly a mountain and coniferous forest species, with the widest distribution and is the most numerous turkey subspecies in the state. We also saw, what we initially thought were three young feral hogs (boar). Upon further investigation, I discovered they were javelina, which are only distantly related to pigs and much smaller that boar. This is the most wildlife we’ve seen since we started our trip… all in a matter of hours.

The road was very narrow in spots, with many washboards that had us bouncing and skidding across the road. It was a blast at the wheel, and I could feel my confidence grow the further we drove.  Fortunately, we didn’t meet any oncoming traffic or it would have been a difficult situation because there was only room for one vehicle. This off-road adventure took us three hours and by the end, I was exhausted from concentrating so much and Fester was tired of holding on (LOL).   Thursday, December 16 was covered in the last blog.

Wednesday, December 15 – We took a ride to visit the Caballo State Park campground, which is just down the road from us.  The campground seemed smaller than ours, but there were a few RVs and campers parked at sites close to the lake.  While we liked the idea of being close to the lake, we are happy to be at our campground because there are more places to walk and/or ride our bikes.  As we were leaving that campground, we slowed down for a cat that ran across the road.  Fester called out to the woman walking down the road, asking if it were her cat.  With a big grin on her face, she replied “she sure is, my cat likes to bring me her treasures (mice)”.  The woman, named Susan, is the first real “nomad” we’ve met so far. In her mid-70’s, her face aged by years in the sun, Susan wasn’t wearing her dentures, but that didn’t stop her from giving us an endearing, toothless smile as she told us about herself.  She’s originally from the area and now lives in her camper van with her cat, travelling among local state parks.  She’s indeed a happy camper and very proud that she purchased an annual state park membership, so even if she doesn’t overnight at a campground (costs $), she still has access to all the facilities at these parks, including restrooms, and showers.  Susan was happy to give us advise on campgrounds and sites in the area that we should look into.  Her advice led us to make reservations at the nearby City of Rocks State Park campground, which is known for its incredible volcanic rock formations and sculptured rock columns. Susan even threw in some trivia.  She told us the origins of the name of the nearby town, “Truth or Consequences” which was originally named Hot Spring.  The change of name is credited to Ralph Edwards who hosted a radio quiz program on NBC Radio named “Truth or Consequences.” In March 1950, Ralph promised to air this show from a town that would change its name to match the name of the program.  There you have it.