We started out for the year in late March, which allowed us to take the more northerly I-40 route across the country instead of the southern border hugging I-10 route. We angled up through Texas, stopping in Crockett to locate the grave of my long-lost great-grandmother, and spent the night in the rich cultural milieu that is the Amarillo Walmart before heading west into New Mexico. I love it when the high plains finally breaks up and you start seeing mesas – you know you’re finally out west.
We blew through Tucumcari, headed into Albuquerque, and took a right up I-25 toward Taos to replenish our stock of sage at Taos Drum Factory. Sharon keeps a supply of sage to purify the kiva and we had run out. Then we settled in for a few days at the Rio Bravo campground at Orilla Verde Recreation area, a BLM site right on the Rio Grande at 6000 feet. Camping spots are $7 a night without hookups and $15 with electricity, and half that with a senior pass.This early in the year it’s down close to freezing at night, but the sunny afternoons were very pleasant.
We were having an aggravating problem with our Sprinter wheel speed sensors so we made an appointment at the Albuquerque Mercedes dealer, where we had actually been before for out 10,000 mile service back in 2015. It’s rare that I go back to the same dealership twice, but they were very helpful in replacing the fourth wheel speed sensor under warranty. I had replaced the other three in Florida over the winter, and the fourth one started acting up – feeling neglected, I guess. It was nice to get all these replaced here in the last few months of my five year emissions warranty. I don’t understand why wheel speed sensors are part of the emissions system, but I never argue when they put new parts on my car for free.
We were thinking about heading back up to Orilla Verde now that we had gotten this chore attended to, but a look at the forecast persuaded us otherwise – a spring front was blowing through the area, and snow was forecast in the northern mountains. With winds gusting to 50 miles an hour, we didn’t really want to drive anywhere, so we stayed at the Sandia Casino in town and rode out the storm.
Checking state park availability and the weather forecast, we decided to head downriver for a few days while the weather warmed back up. We had been to Elephant Butte State Park before, so we decided to try Caballo Lake State Park just south of there, near Truth of Consequences, NM. We camped right on the river and waited out the cold snap. It was definitely a different climate 100 miles downriver- salt cedars and cactus and sandspurs instead of sage and juniper like we had up in the mountains.
It was back up to nearly 80 degrees after four days, so once again we looked around at state parks and weather forecasts, and decided on Manzano Mountains State Park, up in the ponderosas at 7000 feet. We had spent time there in 2015 and love the place, despite the necessity to plug in since all the campsites are shaded. We lucked into one of the non-reservable sites with electricity, and ended up spending almost two weeks there in the beautiful spring weather, with only a couple of rainy days, one of which we took advantage of by heading down into the warm, sunny valley for groceries and laundry. It was 15 degrees warmer down on the river. Since I’m from Florida, this idea of changing your weather by driving for an hour is a novelty to me.
And now it’s time to head further west – we’ve been on the road for six weeks and we’re not even over the continental divide yet. We’re currently in Bluewater Lake State Park in the Zuni Mountains just south of I-40 about a hundred miles west of Albuquerque, where we’ve been coming for 12 years now, and we’re lingering again.
I should have bought a New Mexico annual camping pass– they’re $225 for out of state people, and even at $10 a night ($14 for electric sites) it adds up if you stay for more than three weeks. But I’m just the bus driver, the Campsite Selection Committee makes these decisions. Well, we are having fun and enjoying ourselves, watching the hummingbirds at our feeder and taking hikes around the area. That’s the thing about fulltiming – you gotta be somewhere, might as well appreciate the beauty of where you are. The west coast will still be there when we make it out that far. New Mexico is great in that you can dial in your preferred temperature range with only an hour or two of driving, no matter what the forecast throws your way.