Life on the Open Road (April 2006 - May 2008)

The continuing saga of a single fulltime RVer who travels the western US. This is part one of my journey, from April 2006, when the blog started, to May 2008, when the blog continues at

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I have been a full-time RVer for 18 years, primarily "boondocking," camping free without hookups, in the Western US. I am connected electronically with the world via satellite TV, phone and internet. My batteries are charged solely by solar panels. I welcome your comments and emails.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Guadalupe Mts National Park

While visiting Carlsbad and Guadalupe Mts National Parks, I stayed on BLM land at MM 5.1 in New Mexico. Texas has NO BLM LAND, so it's going to be tough going across the state. However, you can stay at picnic areas and rest areas for one night.

This is El Capitan, the landmark everyone associates with Guadalupe Mountains. To the right of it is Guadalupe peak, the highest point in Texas.

The Butterfield Overland Mail stagecoaches came through here for a short time, September 1858 to August 1859. This station, called The Pinery, was the highest in elevation of the many stations along the route.

They traveled day and night, carrying up to 9 passengers, baggage, and 12,000 letters.

They had to complete the 2700-mile journey between St. Louis and San Francisco in 25 days as promised in their contract, and they never failed. A passenger going the whole distance paid $150, and a letter cost 10 cents.

While here, I hiked the very pretty trail up McKittrick Canyon to the Pratt Cabin.

Ah, made it. This is the entrance to the cabin area.

Wallace Pratt, petroleum geologist and conservationist, built the cabin as a summer home during the depression.

"The Stone Cabin," as he called it, had stone walls, floor, and roof, made of limestone slabs. He donated the cabin and over 5000 acres of McKittrick Canyon to the National Park Service in 1961. Thanks, Wallace! I really enjoyed it.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Carlsbad Caverns

Formed 250 million years ago, the area has over 300 known caves. I did the self-guided Natural Entrance tour. This is the bat amphitheater, where you can watch thousands of Mexican Free-tailed bats exit the cave at dusk when they are in residence from April to October.

Hmmmm... Well, I guess I'm okay...

Actually, I didn't know what the big deal was. The natural entrance trail is paved and 800 feet downhill. At the end, you take an elevator back up. The entrance is 90 feet wide and 40 feet high. Here are just a few of the formations I saw.

Devil's Spring -- it's not really a spring, but is fed by dripping water.

Whale's Mouth -- made of a formation they call "Draperies."

The Green Lake Room

Now I'm in the "Big Room," 8.2 acres worth. This was a beautiful formation called the "Temple of the Sun."

And I really liked this one, the "Chinese Theater."

I don't know what this one is called, but all the guys were taking pictures of it.

About half way through the tour, I figured out how to take pictures in the Cavern. Do not use your flash! Just set the camera on the stone wall that is beside the path, try to keep the camera still, and hope for the best. A bean bag would have helped. Maybe next time...

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Moving on to Las Cruces

The old town of Mesilla has an interesting history. It was an important town in its day-- the crossroads of 2 main stagecoach lines, the Butterfield Stagecoach and the Santa Fe Trail.

San Albino Church, on Mesilla Plaza, was originally built of adobe in 1855, then rebuilt in 1906 to its present structure.

This building, which dates to 1850 once housed the capitol of Arizona and New Mexico. Later, it was the courthouse in which Billy the Kid was tried and sentenced to hang.

From my base at the Eagles in Las Cruces, I went to see White Sands National Monument.

There were a couple nice short hikes, one on a boardwalk, and one across the sand. You are allowed to walk off the trail, but they warn that it is VERY easy to get lost here.

It's tough climbing up the dunes -- sometimes you slide back more than you went up!

When I came into the park there were lots of warnings that no alcohol was allowed. I couldn't understand why this was such an issue, until I reached the end of the scenic drive.

This is a real party spot for Southern New Mexicans who want to go sledding!

Last, but certainly not least, I finally got to meet fellow blogger, WIN, and photography enthusiast, Desert Diva. I'm sorry I don't have a picture. We met at a great dancing spot in Las Cruces, Graham Central Station. Wow, I have never seen such good dancers. Thanks for inviting me, Cheryl.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

More Rocks and Silver City

After 3 1/2 months in southern Arizona, I'm heading east to Texas. My first stop in New Mexico was the LoW Hi Ranch in Deming, home of another Singles RV group, Loners on Wheels. There were lots of WINs here too, also on their way to Texas.

We took a day trip to Silver City, on the way stopping to see City of Rocks State Park.

They have 40 gorgeous boondocking sites among the pillars of volcanic rock. Some of the rocks are as high as 40 feet. That's a person up there.

Hmmmmmm... Wonder what this one's called?

I'll do just about anything for a picture.

One of the amazing things about Silver City is that Main Street was totally washed away in a flood in 1902, creating a "Big Ditch."

What the Big Ditch looks like today.

The Warren House, built in 1885, was the only house still standing on Main Street after the flood.

The St. Vincent de Paul church was built in 1874, away from Main Street.

I found some new friends in town.

The Santa Rita Copper mine is one of the oldest mines in North America. Mining goes on 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Since 1910 more than 2 billion tons of material have been moved. The pit is now more than a mile across and 1600 feet deep.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Hot Springs and Rocks

Safford, AZ is known for two things -- hot springs and rockhounding. I did a little rockhounding, and found lots of small agates. But collecting rocks is not something RVers should be doing!

So, on to the hot springs. The best one is at Hot Well Dunes, a BLM area 25 miles south of town. I have wanted to go there for a long time. The road was paved about 5 years ago, so it's an easy drive. There are two nice tubs, and I shared mine with 3 handsome guys. The one in the middle is a pole vaulter whose great-grandfather once owned the land the springs are on.

There was a lot of big rusty stuff around, which I just love.

In town, the Essence of Tranquility has 5 private and 1 open communal tub, each delightfully decorated in a different theme.

The heart room was really cute.

This one was about 5 feet deep.

We stayed out of town on the Black Hills Back Country Byway. Great scenery near the rockhounding area.

Right near where we parked was the grave of a convict who was shot in 1916.

Monday, March 17, 2008

The Noisiest Town So Far

After Sierra Vista, the WINs moved on to Willcox, AZ. We stayed at a wonderful Elks lodge with 28 hookups and additional dry camping. It was great until.....

The first train went through, right next to where we were parked. The trains blew their horns the ENTIRE way through town. And this is the same busy Southern Pacific line that goes by the VFW in Yuma! It was okay during the day, but it seemed like even more trains went through at night.

We stayed long enough to go to Chiricahua National Monument and go on the Echo Canyon loop trail.

The rocks are just fascinating, balanced precariously on each other. They began 27 million years ago with a volcanic eruption. Ash melted together, forming layers of rock called rhyolite. Weathering by ice and erosion by water washed away the weaker layers, leaving an endless variety of spires and balanced rocks.

The pictures don't really do it justice. The rocks are covered with a beautiful bright green lichen, that's hard to see in the distance shots.