Six months ago today we headed east out of Seattle, not knowing where this journey would lead. We’re not quite home yet but today we find ourselves thinking back fondly to those first few days of our journey. We will undoubtedly spend some time reflecting and reminiscing once we get home and will share our highs and lows and what we learned along the way. Today though, we need to catch up on some blogging. So with a Starbucks non-fat vanilla latte in hand, two snoring dogs at our feet and a view of the Pacific Ocean out the window, here goes…
When last we wrote we were heading west out of Texas. We spent that Sunday driving as far as we could before nightfall and ended up overnighting at Mountain View RV Park in Van Horn, Texas. The next morning we were up before the sun and put a few more miles behind us before starting the work day.
We decided to settle down in Las Cruces, New Mexico, for a few days and happened across a great little RV park where they were more than happy to give us a spot even though it was well before check-in time. Truth be told, we called a different RV park first because it had slightly better reviews, but the surly woman who answered the phone seemed like we were putting her out and there was no way she could accommodate our request. We would just have to wait until 1pm, she said. Instead of waiting we went to our second choice and could not have been happier with our stay at Sunny Acres. We also couldn’t help noticing when we drove by the first park that they were only maybe half full. Just a reminder to anyone in the customer service business: those front line employees are crucial.
While we were in Las Cruces we took two great side trips. The first was to White Sands National Monument. We thought maybe we could incorporate a run into our visit at White Sands, like we had earlier in the week at Enchanted Rock, but between the elevation, the soft gypsum sand and the chilly air, we were lucky to complete a 2-mile out and back run. Fortunately for us it wasn’t windy and we were able to follow the trail markers but we could see how easy it would be to get disoriented out in the dunes on a windy day. Being there sometimes felt like we were on the moon and sometimes felt like we were looking out at rolling hills of snow instead of sand. And the families sledding down the sand dunes reinforced that snow feeling. It also reminded us a lot of the sandboarding we did while we were in Namibia last year for our honeymoon. After surviving our short run we enjoyed a beautiful sunset and one of us made snow – oops, sand – angels while the other took pictures. White Sands is definitely worth a visit.
Our other Las Cruces side trip was to the town of Hatch, New Mexico. Kevin had a friend in college who was from New Mexico and got him hooked on Hatch chiles. This was Kevin’s opportunity to finally visit Hatch, the self-proclaimed Chile Capital of the World. We sampled some delicious local cuisine while we were there and we stocked up on dried chile powder and a bag of fresh chiles, which Kevin has already been using to make some culinary magic. Suzanne would like to thank that college roommate, wherever he may be, for teaching Kevin the ways of the Hatch chile. Mmm…delicious.
In addition to world-famous chiles, Hatch also has some interesting characters hanging around town. Our favorites included the giant man with the evil look on his face and an RV in his hand and the other giant man who offered us a burger and an ice cream cone.
We said goodbye to our friends at Sunny Acres (and the characters we met in Hatch, NM) and headed west out of Las Cruces to Fort Huachuca, Arizona. (It’s pronounced: Wah-chew-kah) Suzanne’s mom was based atFort Huachuca before she went to Vietnam as part of the U.S. Army Nurse Corps and it’s a place Suzanne had heard her mom talk about many times before. Suzanne’s older brother, Sean, visited Fort Huachuca a few years ago and recommended that we put it on our itinerary. We spent a couple of days in the area and are glad we did. We stayed at Kartchner Caverns State Park, which is one of the best campgrounds we’ve stayed at over the last six months. We went for a beautiful trail run – which ended up being more like a trail hike or a trail crawl at some points because it was so steep – but it gave us amazing views of the valley below. We were also able to go onto the base itself and visit the museum and drive around. It was a strange feeling for Suzanne to be there, knowing that her mom had been there so many years ago and walked those same grounds. And, when a loved one dies you don’t necessarily feel their presence where they were buried or where their ashes were scattered – you often feel them in other places, places that were special to them. This area was definitely one of those places where Suzanne has most vividly felt her mom’s presence since her mom’s passing in 2005.
We continued west towards California after leaving Fort Huachuca and had to make a tough decision as we came through Tucson. When we realized a few weeks ago that we wouldn’t have time to visit Southern California and still get to Sacramento in time for Thanksgiving, we revised our plan. We bought plane tickets to fly from San Diego to Sacramento, we made plans to park the RV at our friend RaeLynn’s house and we found a great place to board the dogs thanks to recommendations from our friends Staci and Amy. Everything was all set. After Thanksgiving we’d come back and continue our trip north through the Los Angeles area and then head up the coast towards home. However, both dogs have been showing their age more and more lately, but especially Molly. She’s been having an increasingly tough time standing up and staying up and we just couldn’t stand the thought of boarding her now that she’s so fragile. Instead of taking I-8 towards San Diego we decided we would drive to Sacramento after all and we continued west across the desert. This meant missing out on visits with some of our favorite people in Southern California, but it also meant that we wouldn’t have to leave the dogs behind.
That night we camped in Quartzsite, Arizona, which Kevin likes to refer to as “Burning Man for old people.” It’s free to camp on the Bureau of Land Management areas around Quartzsite and it therefore becomes a winter destination for bargain-hunting snowbirds. In response to the throngs of snowbirds that descend upon the area, flea markets and roadside stands start to appear and it becomes its own community. Since it was still early in the season we had no trouble finding our own little piece of heaven out in the desert so we set up camp and, after enjoying a beautiful sunset, fell asleep that night to the sounds of coyotes howling in the distance.
If we had continued on our original path we would have been at our friend Molly’s home in Santa Monica today for her annual macaroni and cheese bake-off. It was also going to be where we’d go head to head with her in the U.S. State Capital competition that she challenged us to a few months ago. Unfortunately, because of our revised route, we won’t get to show her today how much we’ve learned about the state capitals but we do hope to have that face-off with her sometime in the near future and maybe enjoy a pint or two of Guinness together. It was admittedly a little sad how many state capitals we didn’t know before receiving those flash cards from her and we’re better people now because of Molly’s influence. So in her honor, we’ll end this post with a picture of Molly from her recent trip to Ireland and in our next post we will pick up where we left off at the Arizona-California border. See you on down the road!