Find us on Google+ Rick and JoAnne's RV Travels: April 2015

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

How Did We Get From Cibola to Santa Fe Part II

This is a continuation of our journey and some of our adventures for March and April as we traveled from Cibola to Santa Fe. Part I is here.

Stop 5 – Alamogordo

After an admittedly too short a stay in Las Cruces we headed east over the Organ Mountains and into the Tularosa Basin and Oliver Lee State Park – one of our favorite state parks in New Mexico. The last time we were here was 2013.

Oliver Lee serves as a perfect headquarters to visit White Sands National Monument, drive into the Sacramento Mountains to visit Cloudcroft and Sunspot National Solar Observatory, see the world’s largest pistachio, and of course explore the park itself.

A very special treat this time was a return visit to the Trinity Site where the first atomic bomb was tested at 5:29:45 a.m. Mountain War Time on July 16, 1945.

"clean" room where detonator was assembled

Early on Saturday April 4, we joined the caravan from Alamogordo for a two hour drive through White Sands Missile Range to the site. (It is only open two days a year – the first Saturday in April and October.)

Staging area for caravan to Trinity Site
While we had been there before, this visit was just as special. There are not many places you can visit that have had such an impact on human history.

White Sands National Monument is always beautiful but this time we joined a docent led sunset stroll. If you visit White Sands – this is a must and sunset is a great time to experience the park.

The drive into the Lincoln Forest and the Sacramento Mountains may surprise you as you quickly go from desert to thick forest. It actually felt like we were back in Colorado.

Our first stop was the Sunspot National Solar Observatory. Besides a very good and interesting visitor center, you get to walk around a ½ mile loop to see some very cool telescopes and a great view of the Tularosa Basin.

After the NSO it was a bit further up the road to Cloudcroft. Yes, Cloudcroft is “touristy” but we enjoyed the funky shops and a stop for coffee and afternoon snack. Before you get to Cloudcroft be sure to stop at the overlook of Mexican Canyon and the historic wooden train trestle. Check out JoAnne – and she does not like heights.

The last time we stayed at Oliver Lee we missed the tour of the Oliver Lee Ranch. Oliver had an interesting life filled with controversy – US Marshal, rancher, and gunfighter. If you are interested you can read more here.

I was also able to hike the Dog Canyon Trail. For you hikers this is a challenging 5 mile (one way) trek with about a 3,600 elevation gain.

Talk about coincidences… our long term friends John and Yvonne (John and I were business partners) who just started RVing last fall also ended up at Oliver Lee on their way to Chimayo for the Easter Pilgrimage. Lunch at Stella Vita (probably the best restaurant in Alamogordo) was in order.

Stop 6 – Fort Stanton, Capitan, Lincoln, Ruidoso and Valley of Fires

After leaving Alamogordo we traveled about 65 miles north to the BLM Equestrian Campground just outside of Fort Stanton. Yes, we did share the campground with several campers with horses – but that was fine with us. With our Senior Pass it was $5.00 a night for water and electric. There are plenty of free primitive sites as well.

Our time here was spent visiting the historic towns of Lincoln – made famous by Billy the Kid and the Lincoln Wars. Almost the entire town is unchanged from the way it looked in the mid-1800s. If only the walls could talk. It would be easy to blow through this town or pass it by on your way to somewhere else – don’t!

If you follow us on Facebook, you may get the impression that we do a lot of eating out – perhaps we do but sometimes eating with the locals has its rewards. In Lincoln we stopped for lunch at the historic Dolan House. We were sitting at the “community” table when a local rancher joined us. Turns out his great grandfather homesteaded in the area, knew Billy the Kid and had fought and was wounded in the Indian wars. Also, before “retiring” to the family ranch he had owned a Farm Finance/Bank and Oliver Lee III had worked for him. How cool is that? BTW – the food was great and the homemade cherry cobbler – Wow!

On the topic of meeting interesting people - on one of our drives back into the area around White Oaks (kid of a ghost town) we took a road less traveled to White Oaks Pottery and potter Ivy Heymann. Her pottery is fabulous and so is her story. She has lived alone basically out in the middle of nowhere for close to 40 years. She gave us a great tour of her studio - we purchased some pottery and gave us directions to Renee's Real Food in Capitan.  You guessed it, another great lunch with a New Orleans flair.

Fort Stanton is a State Historic Site but I am not sure why it is not National Historic Site. It is amazingly well preserved and has tons of history dating back to 1855.

Ruidoso is a ski and tourist town but it does have the Hubbard Museum of the America West a Smithsonian affiliate and operated by the city of Ruidoso Downs – Yep, the same place as the race track. This museum is mostly about horse related items. So it is quite different than many other museums in the desert Southwest.

This area has no end of horseback riding, hiking and mountain biking opportunities. We did manage a hike along the National Petroglyph Trail.

We had planned on staying longer but as it turned out the campground was the staging for a huge mountain biking rally over the weekend. So, we pulled up the jacks and headed 20 or so miles west to Valley of Fires Recreation Area and another really nice BLM campground overlooking the Malpais Lava Flow. In my opinion this is every bit as interesting as Craters of the Moon National Monument.

To be continued… next up - Albuquerque.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

How Did We Get From Cibola to Santa Fe?


We are currently in Santa Fe, NM and it has been almost two months since we left Cibola – how did we get here? What follows is a summary of our journey and some adventures along the way.

Stop 1 - Tucson

Since we were traveling with Hal and Lois Leslie (RVing buddies and friends from back home in Colorado) and since Hal is retired Navy, we were able join them as guests at the Fam Camp RV park on Davis Mountain AFB. Waking up a 7:00am to reveille was certainly a new experience.

We have camped in and around Tucson several times – here are the links to our 2014 and 2013 trips.

Yet, we had never been to the Pima Air & Space Museum or the Titan Missile Museum. So, during our short stay in Tucson we made it a point to visit both. Part of the Pima Museum is the Boneyard home to 4,000+ aircraft from the U.S. Air Force, Navy-Marine Corps, Army, and Coast Guard sit in varying degrees of storage. Since our campground was right across the street from the Boneyard we opted to take the tram tour of the 150 planes that make up the museums “outside” collection. The docent was great and provided a great narrative describing historical and human interest stories of the planes.

However, the highlight was our visit to the 390th Memorial Museum. The 390th Bombardment the group was an Eighth Air Force B-17 Flying Fortress unit during WWII. We had the good fortune to be there on a day when Richard B. Bushong, Colonel USAF Retired was “in the house”. We spent the better part of an hour listening to his personal stories of the missions he flew over Germany during WWII. Even more amazing was the fact that his last flight was in an F-4 over Viet Nam. Wow, just wow.

Next up was our trip to the Titan Missile Museum. Fascinating – and since the cold war and the threat of nuclear annihilation was such a big part or our growing up it was all the more fascinating.

Stop 2 – Silver City

This was a return visit to the funky little town. During this visit we were able to tour Historic Fort Bayard. (It was closed last time we were in town.)

As it turned out we were in Silver City over St. Patrick’s Day and had hopped to enjoy a traditional corned beef and cabbage dinner. Well, that didn't happen – we got a beef brisket and cabbage dinner instead? I guess there aren't any Irish in Silver City.

Stop 3 – Gila National Forest

After leaving Silver City we decided to spend a few days above Silver City at Mesa Campground on the shore of Lake Roberts in the Gila National Forest. Unfortunately, they had drained the lake last year to repair the spillway and the lake was only about 50% full. Yet, this was a perfect jumping off spot to visit the Gila Cliff Dwellings again.

Stop 4 – Las Cruces

Ok… Las Cruces and Old Mesilla Village were firsts for us. We also visited Dripping Springs Natural Area.

We stayed at Hacienda RV Resort. Resort – not so much. The park was average at best. Its only redeeming feature was the fact that it was within walking distance to Mesilla.

Old Mesilla it packed with history – originally part of Mexico, Butterfield Stage, and even Billy the Kid. We enjoyed roaming around and ducking in and out of the interesting shops lining the town plaza. OK, we did make a few small purchases – who can pass up chocolate covered pecans?

Basilica of San Albino anchors the plaza and is beautiful.

We did manage dinner at La Posta – which was OK but certainly didn’t live up to all the hype.

Dripping Springs was quite interesting and gave us chance to get out and do a short 3 mile hike up to the springs.

To be continued….