New Mexico - Jan 21 - 24

Only 4 days between posts?  


A.  Things have been so exciting


B.  Texas has been hit by an ice storm and we are trapped for a day inside BigCountry 

It's actually a bit of both. Our last two NM highlights deserve their own attention.

One last sunset at Rockhound state park

There were only about 25 spots at Rockhound and the kids managed to meet half of our fellow campers. It was the most "friendly" park we've visited and we are thankful for all those we met.

And since there were only 25 guests, and turn-over is about 2 per was unfortunate this happened when we went to depart and lighten our load (for those of you who travel by RV, you'll know what this picture is about!)

Even the bulls were friendly (and we are glad we didn't have a red paint job) 

We drove north to Las Cruces and through the White Sands Missile Range without incident.  

Before this trip we were not familiar with the White Sands National Monument.

It's the largest gypsum dune field in the world and was a very unique and fun place to spend an afternoon!

Another celebrity citing as we departed!!;)

We stayed the night with our friend, Walmart, in Alamogordo and departed early for a drive through Lincoln National forest on highway 82.  This included a 16 mile climb on a 2 lane highway with 6%-7% grade.  No problem as long as you don't look down at the computer generated instant MPG reading that is showing 2.5mpg....

At the highest point (around 9000 ft), there is a resort town called Cloudcroft.  It it obviously off-season but looks like it would be a fun place to visit in the summer or when there is enough snow for their ski hills.

We arrived just outside Carlsbad Cavern National Park by 2pm and rushed to get BigCountry parked at White City (about 8 miles down the mountain from the Cavern at the entrance to the National Park.) 

FWIW, we were curious as to the difference between a National Monument (White Sands) and a National Park.  There are other differences, but from what we were told, the main difference is a National Monument can be designated by a Presidential Executive Order, whereas a National Park requires Congressional action.  Carlsbad was a National Monument for 8 years before it became a National Park.

If you haven't been to Carlsbad Caverns, you should put it on your bucket list.  It's massive, amazing, and educational.  There are many different guided tours conducted by experienced Park Rangers, as well as, self guided tours.  We spent the first afternoon walking the 1 mile or so around the Big Room.  There is a 75 story elevator that takes you from the top of the mountain down into the cavern.  

Pictures (ours at least) don't do the Cavern justice. On the pic below, if you look closely, there is a large rope hanging down.  That rope is 200 feet long!!!  They attached that rope to a stalactite on the roof using balloons.  The first guy to ascend the rope had to hope it would hold!

The next morning, we took a guided tour of the Left Hand Tunnel.  We chose this tour because it's conducted via candle lanterns.  Sadly....the good camera was with us, but the battery was 8 miles down the mountain.

And we ended our visit by taking the elevator back up and walking down the 1 mile natural entrance. 

Overall, we felt our 3 different tours of the park was a perfect combination for the kids.  One interesting observation - as we were walking down the Natural Entrance (keep in mind this is after spending 4 hours below), Anna started asking "who made all this?"  At first, we thought she was referring to the walking path and stainless-steel railings.  Then we realized she was talking of the cavern itself.  After being to Disney, Sea World etc, it's probably challenging for a 6 year old to differentiate between man made and God made.  This one is certainly a wonder from God!  When we came back up the elevator and showed her the mountain we were standing on, it seemed to click.

Unfortunately, a cold-front involving sleet/ice was moving into NM and TX and we needed to high tail it.  We pulled out of the National Park at 1pm, and drove 400 miles without a stop until we reached Kerrville (again our friendly Walmart). We wanted to stay in Kerrville to wait out the weather, but the forecast was for 17F in Kerrville v. 27F in San Antonio, only an hour away.  After a quick night sleep we departed at sunrise.  Our friends Linda, Scott, Jack, and Tyler, whom we'd met in Bensen, AZ, had tipped us off that there was a nice park north of San Antonio with an indoor heated pool.  Sounded like a great place to wait out the stretch of weather.

We enjoyed a movie night with them - boys in front and girls in back:)

And sure enough, the ice did come last night. Now, we can't feel too bad for ourselves, knowing our friends and family have been enduring -20 below+ and crazy snow for months, but we did notice there is a difference in heat between the upper and lower levels in BigCountry when we use only our space heater:)

It will be warm soon and we are looking forward to visiting San Antonio.  We'll try to write more often, but with less content next time:)  God bless to all!

PS - found this pic today but it's from our time in AZ. This is the back of our friends Morris and Greta's RV.  They are a first-class couple that cracks us up!

AZ - NM - Jan 6 - 20

We spent another week enjoying Oma and Grandpa and doing things around Casa Grande/Phoenix.  One day we went to the Musical Instrument Museum (MIM) in Phoenix.  We've been to a lot of museums on our trip but this one was unique because of its use of a proximity based audio system that played music/overviews as you approach each exhibit.  The museum is organized geographically. Very cool.

This guy was a favorite - playing a "nose flute"!

Oma and Grandpa have an unheated pool and cool nights beat out the warm days when it came to pool temp - but hey, we were all born in MN and it was time for a polar plunge!!

There is a large undeveloped desert area north of their neighborhood.  We went running/biking/walking in that area on an almost daily basis.  Randomly, we'd find things on our explorations.  One day we found a butchered deer carcass....(no pics required). We brought this almost new walker back for Grandpa to use after his upcoming hip surgery. We don't want to know how it ended up in the desert....

We went shooting on three occasions. Dad and Grandpa participated in a cowboy action shooting event just north of Phoenix one day. Grandpa is much faster than Dad even with a bad hip!!

We also ventured south to Tucson and visited/attended mass at the San Xavier mission.

And enjoyed local "fry bread"

Speaking of bread, we did quite a bit of bread making using a very simple recipe from our friend Mike Pell:

13 cups flour
6 cups 100F water
3 Tbsp yeast
3 Tbsp kosher salt

Mix the yeast and salt in the warm water until cloudy, then mix in the flour.  Allow to rise until it starts to fall (2-5 hours depending on room temp).  After this, you can either store in the refrigerator until ready, or make a loaf. 

In order to make a round, cut off a piece about the size of a softball and very briefly shape into a disk shape (2"-3" high and 6" wide).  Then allow it to rise on your cooking stone/pan (this would be the second rise) for around 2 hours depending on how thick you like your "cloak". Be generous with your flour (or cornmeal) because this dough is meant to be wet.  Flour on the outside is not a problem.  After about 2 hours, dust top with flour and slash the top 1/2" with knife in criss-cross fashion. Bake at 450 for around 25-30 min on a pizza stone or pan.  Oh, and very important - place some type of pan with a 1/2" or so of water in the oven to help the bread continue to rise. You can store the remaining dough for about 2 weeks.  Currently we are experimenting by not washing our storage container between uses to create a sourdough type flavor.

Warning - this recipe will be enough for about 6 loaves. You can cut it in half.  Make sure you don't seal your containers:)

Between bread making we visited the Casa Grande Ruins. 

Mommy was so impressed with how they built the large canopy over the multistory dwelling considering their limited tools.

We had many fun visitors come by to say hello and share their time with us. 

Our favorite part of Case Grande was just hanging out with family. 

After 3 weeks of living in a home once again, it was time to get on the road and continue our adventures.

We were sad to say goodbye, but it did feel like "home" when we were parked that first night.

We drove an hour or so south of Tucson to Benson, AZ and the Butterfield RV resort. The unique aspect of this park is that the original owners put in a observatory that will seat 18 people and they have a full-time astronomer providing nightly sky tours!

The next day we finished up school and drove south to Tombstone. We walked around the dusty, small town that has been saved by Hollywood.  Took in a show and a trolly ride.

From what we can tell, there are two types of cowboys currently in Tombstone.  The tourist dressed like cowboys, and the actors trying to attract tourists to various shows and attraction. We caught a glimpse of a modern cowboy as we were leaving town.

We made a last minute decision (not that it was any different than normal operating procedure) to drive south and see the town of Bisbee, AZ.  Bisbee is just north of the border and built into a narrow canyon. It's now on our list of places we hope to visit again someday. We didn't get a good picture of the town or the full moon we witnessed coming over the desert mountains on the return trip, but they were equally impressive.

While in Tombstone, we met another fun family (2 boys) who was staying in the same RV park. We were able to meet up with them later and take advantage of the great facilities at the park.  They are following a similar route and we hope to see them again down the road.

We headed into New Mexico the next day. 

While in Case Grande, Grandpa helped us do a "once over" on the RV. In the process, he noticed an oil leak on the inside of our passenger wheel.  It appeared to be a seal leaking from the "wet bearings". So our first stop in NM was at E&M in the town of Deming. Our new best friend Mike, immediately went to work and had us in and out in only a couple hours. Mike was outstanding, educating us on both the rig and the area. 

We were hoping to get into Rockhound state park that night.  They only have 5 sites that can be reserved and the other 20 are first come, first serve.  We called twice while at E&M and on the second call were told a site had just opened up, but when we called back 5 minutes later to let them know we were on our way, they let us know it had been taken. We stayed in town in a gravel lot park with an interesting pool. Our skin still itches.

The next morning, Melissa took the jeep and two kids out to Rockhound because again a single site had opened up.  By the time she arrived, it had been taken....dashed hopes.  She waited around and ended up knocking on the door of an RV who appeared to be leaving. Sure enough, they were. She grabbed the spot.  Without a doubt, worth the wait and one of the best parks we've stayed at.

We did a little off-road and a lot of searching for various rocks. 

The view of BigCountry from the top

And the best patio sunsets you can imagine

Spoiler Alert!  We also visited a place called the Adobe Deli. If you have any plans to go to Deming, don't look at these pictures, just go and experience it for yourself.  It's awesome. While walking out another couple approached us in the parking lot saying they were from Indiana and had been told to come there, but were now having second thoughts. You must go inside.  The food is excellent.

We stayed in Rockhound for three nights and enjoyed every minute. State and local parks continue to be the very best places to stay and worth the extra effort.  We also met a number of very kind people who made our visit and memories special. 

We are off to White Sands National Monument, Carlsbad Canyon, and then the big state of Texas.  May God bless all of you and those we've met on these travels.  

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