Monday, May 21, 2012

From South Carolina to New Mexico

On a bright and sunny May 10, 2012, we left Sun City with the canoe on the roof of the Fit, our tow car, and our two bikes on the back of it. From there until we hit Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico, we drove on an average of 250 to 300 miles a day. With driving at 55 mph, we were on the road about 6 hours a day. We stayed in State parks along the way: John Tanner in Georgia, Caney Lakes in Louisiana, Lake Mineral Wells in Texas, Lake Colorado City in Texas, and Brantley Lakes in New Mexico. Even though we were near the lakes every evening, the canoe never came off the car. Usually, by the time we arrived at the parks, it was late afternoon and almost time for dinner. But the views were wonderful and the campsites large and well cared for. The weather along the way has been wonderful.. 70s to 80s during the day and cool at night. We saw oil wells in Texas and New Mexico and our first sighting of a Roadrunner..much smaller than we thought it woule be.

We had several issues with the RV which also slowed our travels a bit. First, the gas heater wouldn't work so we stopped at one dealer in Lousianna and sure enough when they tried it, it came on with no problem. However, it still wouldn't work that evening. So, we then stopped at an RV dealer in Texas. Lo and behold.. a mud dobber (bee) nest almost the size of a tennis ball was inside next to the burner.   While we were at the RV dealer in Texas, we had them put in a new solenoid in our Living Room/Kitchen slide out as it kept creeping in and the old solenoid was leaking. With those two items being remedied we moved on to New Mexico.

We arrived at Carlsbad Caverns around 1pm on May 15th. Carlsbad Caverns was discovered by a 16 year old boy around 1898 by the name of Jim White.  He was a ranch hand at a local ranch and every evening he would see bats fly out of the hills and he who wondered where they were all coming from. Upon exploring the hills, he found a cave and decided to descend and see for himself what was below. Over time, he discovered 17 of the hundreds of caves that make up the Carlsbad Caverns realm. Just him with a rope and a candle! He talked about these caverns to anyone who would listen for years. In 1915, he took a photographer down a rope ladder so that he could document what he had been talking about. The pictures caused a stir and the he started touring people through the caves. The pictures ended up in the New York Times and somehow landed on President Coolidge's desk. It was then  in 1923 that the park was named a National Monument.  We took a tour that afternoon of what they call the "Big Room"  which is aptly named. It is the size of four football fields and immensely high with absolutely gorgeous stalagmites and stalactites. There is a paved walking path and hand rails that keep you on the well marked paths. It is also artistically lit so that you can see the beauty of it without washing it out. We booked 2 guided tours for the next day, the 16th. One for the "King's Palace" in the morning and a "Lantern Tour" for the afternoon. They did not disappoint. The Rangers did a wonderful job explaining the formation and pointing out various landmarks used in the early days so they could find their way out of the dark recesses of the caverns. I'm sure you've heard the phrase, " It was so dark I couldn't see my hand in front of my face." Well, when they turned the lights off to demonstrate exactly that, it was a bit intimidating.

The Lantern Tour was very different from the other two that we took. For this one, we went to the Natural Opening in the rock and started to descend on a 20 degree slope. Once we hit the dark, we lit our lanterns and for the rest of the 820 foot descent that was all the light we had. This walk was hard on the knees trying to hold back and not slip on the moist surface. Those hand rails really came in handy! This tour gave you a small idea of how this young man roamed through the caves for years before  it became the National Monument that it is today.

 That evening, we returned at sunset to see the bats fly out of that same Natural Opening that we entered through that very afternoon. The bats come and go through this opening, but they go to a side cave where visitors are not welcome during the day. At sunset, they fly out in groups thousands at a time and they will return there at sunrise. Amazing sight to see.

The Caverns are a "must see" for anyone going through New Mexico.

On May 17th, we headed to Albuquerque. However, we had another RV stop to make before we made it to our destination. The gas heater was not working again and both of our fog lights on the Fit were broken by rocks spitting up from the road. We found a dealer in Albuquerque who took us right away. They took the heater apart and found more mud and small rocks next to the fan. They cleaned it out and it seemed to do the trick since it is now working beautifully. We also had them put on a big panel on the tow bar in front of the lights so we wouldn't be doing that all summer. We now look like we are towing an armored vehicle! Tim found one light at a dealer and is trying to find another one now. Hopefully, once he does, that will be the end of our RV issues.
We finished at the dealer at 5pm just in time for rush hour through Albuquerque to my cousin Ann's house. We stayed in Ann and Keith's yard plugged in for two nights. What a wonderful a time we had. Visiting and catching up with them and their children was great. Waking to the sound of their rooster and hearing the goats bleating during the day really made you feel you were out in the country when, in fact, we were in the outskirts of the city. Tim and I explored Old Town in the afternoon and soaked in the local charm. We all went to the patio wine tasting at their son Michael's restaurant called "Vernons." This is a very unique place. It has a VIP lounge where people pay monthly to be allowed into this lounge. The theme is a speakeasy and you need a password to enter it. It has Al Capone pictures and history all around you. The artist is an art student at the University and works at the restaurant as well. Wonderful work. Between the setting, the wine tasting, the appetizers, the company, and the great singing voice of a young lady,  the evening was lovely. A great visit!

We visited with Ann and Keith again in the  morning of the 19th and then hooked up the car, said our goodbyes and we were on our way. This time the distance wasn't that far. We camped at Cochiti Lake Corp Campground about 50 miles north of Albuquerque. From here we toured Santa Fe and Taos. Sante Fe being just a half an hour away and Taos being an all day trip.

From our camp site, we look down onto the lake and have views of the mountains all around us. the hills are mostly brown with sporadic green vegetation.. the high desert at over 5000 feet. When we arrived here and started to put out the bedroom slide, we heard a crunch and found that the slide stop had broken off. Fortunately, Tim the Toolman was able to fix the broken off bolts with a drill tap extractor and a trip to Lowes in Santa Fe for new bolts.

Our day trip to Taos in the car brought exceptional mountain views. We took the "High Road" that the fellow in the visitor center recommended. Wonderful choice over the more traveled highway. The most memorable place we visited was the Santuario de Chimayo church. This is a place where visitors can take a handful of dirt from the "pocito" (well) believed to have been blessed with miraculous qualities. Thousands of pilgrims have come here to be healed. There are crutches and casts left behind. There is also a small chapel dedicated to Saint Nino where the walls are lined with infant shoes and pictures of children to be prayed for. The walls in the prayer room at the church were also lined with photos of people to be prayed for including one whole wall of military folks.
The church itself is such a tourist stop that the mass was being held outside with the views of the mountains and a beautiful breeze. Communion was given out not only by the priest but also a fellow in a Harley Davidson  T-shirt, a long grey beard, sunglasses and biker boots! As we traveled further  north, we had panoramic views of snow capped mountains and deep valleys. It took us a little longer going this route, but it was well worth it. Once in Taos, we had lunch and toured the art galleries and shops and finished our tour with the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge. Spectacular sight. We did take the more traveled road home.
Today is a down day for us... gives us time to relax, write the blog, and canoe in the lake before we head out again tomorrow for Mesa Verde in Colorado.


  1. Great blog, we enjoyed your very short visit and met our Turken(half turkey half chicken) rooster and the 4 goats. Blazer really misses you Tim and your RV. So glad you took the high road to Taos as it indeed the more senic route. Have a safe and enjoyable summer trip. Ann & Keith Los Ranchos, NM

  2. Jan and Jim WestonMay 23, 2012 at 4:49 AM

    OMG! I can't believe you went to Chimayo ... there is the best restaurant there too! My mother worked in Chimayo for a year in a small bi-lingual school, and my brother owns Santa Fe Stoneworks... I hope I told you about him before you left!

  3. Hopefully I'll be successful with the blog this time. Other must be having my problems too or I think you'd have dozens of comments.����

  4. Roadrunners are a surprise, aren't they? Seems like they were huge in cartoons years ago. We're gearing up for our Sunday departure. Somehow we'll squeeze two weeks of preparation into the next three days, but you remember how that is!
    Allen is putting on the new awnings today, and repairing the ripped up roof, but that's another "Camping World" story! We've both seemingly laid out twice as many clothese as now comes the chore of putting half of them back in the closet! Drive safely.........Jill and Bob

  5. Glad all is well and your RV problems have been fixable in a short amount of time. We are looking forward to our trip to start, leave
    for New England 6/8. See you in August,

    Dale & Paula