Jeanne found us a spot to do a little boondocking just outside the Valley of Fire S.P. near Vegas, at lat/long 36.444454 – 114.675583. It was on a nice & wide/level gravel road on BLM land with ample numbers of “sites” for rigs of all sizes. In fact, I was able to make a U-turn on the dirt road with our 40’ MH (with toad). We had all of (4) “neighbors” that were in visual sight but scattered pretty well. After set-up, we ventured out to let Jeanne do a little Jeepin’ in the area while exploring our new back yard. The weather here was cool but clear, 50’s-60’s for highs, and the lovely cholla’s were just starting to “glow” (you know, where the little prickly pods are starting to morph into the appearance of cute, but lethal, fluffy cotton balls…ouch!). A negative here was that our closest neighbor (100 +/- yards away) ran their generator all night long. Some folks just seem to think boondocking negates RV-etiquette of maintaining some semblance of “quiet time”. Thankfully, they left the next day. I discovered an additional RV-etiquette violation by this former neighbor – they had (3) very large K-9’s which were allowed to fertilize the edge of the desert (in a very prolific manner I might add). I don’t care if you do need a backhoe, CLEAN UP AFTER YOUR %$#&*@! DOG!!!!!!
We got up the next morning, gave Woodrow Wilson a walkabout in the desert, left him to guard Rosie the Bus, then we ventured over the mountain into Valley of Fire S.P. When we boondocked out at Government Wash along Lake Mead several years ago, we managed to sight-see most of the area except for Valley of Fire S.P. This day we drove the whole park, west entrance to east entrance, then Visitor’s Center up White Domes Rd. to the White Domes Trail. Because of time (Woody back at the bus), we were not able to hit all the features of the park, but did get a couple of hikes in (White Domes & Fire Wave), then got to see Arch Rock, Atlatl Rock, Beehives, Seven Sisters, the Cabins at Lone Rock, the Clark Memorial, Elephant Rock, and a drive around the Scenic Loop Rd. I do have to say despite this Park being a very scenic experience, as far as the level on my “spectacular meter”, it is not as high as was the “Bowl of Fire” that we experienced during our first stay in the area at Government Wash. It is still worth a visit. And for all you tent campers and smaller RV types, there are a couple of campgrounds with at least some sites for smaller RV’s with W/E hookups, those campgrounds/sites wedged in between some of the beautiful red rock formations.
Our next stop was a scheduled service for the MH & the generator at the No. Las Vegas Cummins shop. We were very satisfied with their customer service and work that they had done for us when we had the malfunction with the Bakersfield Cummins shop last year, so we decided to get our yearly service done here now. And they have several sites for RV’s out front, with E hookups. After a frustrating delay waiting all day for an air filter to be delivered, we finally were able to hit the road.
We were still in the mood for more boondocking and decided on the area around the big megalopolis of Congress, AZ. We needed some hookups to prep tanks and do laundry, so we returned to the North Ranch SKP park to do just that. We also did some recon scouting up on Vulture Mine Rd., an area we had previously boondocked at. There was also a boondocking area out next to the old Congress Cemetery we checked out. That one was a little bit rough as far as the dirt roads went. After all was said and done, we decided against a repeat boondock in this area. But before we lifted jacks, we spent a day on an 8-mile hike at the Granite Mountain Hotshots State Park. The park is a memorial tribute to the local Hotshots crew who lost 19 of 20 members in what was called the Yarnell Hill Fire back in 2013. The hike traverses through the Granite Mountains with a 1,200’ elevation gain and up to 8% grades, with sweeping views of Congress, Wickenburg, and Yarnell. Along the trail they placed memorial plaques for each of the Hotshots that perished during the fire. The hike was moderate+, I wouldn’t call it strenuous but it had this 60 year old and his lovely wife “a-huffin’-and-a-puffin’”! The plus was that it was mostly uphill from the start, then once we got to the observation platform it was only about 3/4 mile down to the valley floor and the fatality site. That meant the return hike was downhill from the platform…The fatality site has a memorial built around it, a very somber, melancholic atmosphere. I can only imagine the level of grief for the families of the firefighters, now knowing and seeing just how near the crew had been to their designated “safe zone”. That would be the ranch that appeared less than 400 yards from the fatality site. The park ranger we spoke with said “the ranch” had that designation due to the wide clearing of brush from the structures, as well as the stucco construction with metal & tile roofs. Such a sad note to end our stay in Congress, AZ…
So now we were eastbound and down. Our “goal”, if you want to call it that, was to get back to the great state of Texas where I need to renew my driver’s license (in-person due to the Class B endorsement) and get our Jeep & bus safety inspected (a requirement for Texas vehicle registrations that we have been able to waive in the years we were not present in state). We hooked up to I-10 outside of Phoenix and settled in for our stop-n-go eastward journey. In Tucson we found the Desert Diamond Casino & Hotel that welcomes RVers to stay in their back parking lot (free, dry camping). I never asked the security folks I talked to about stay limits, but the casino only asks RVers to check in with them if they will be staying longer than one week. We used our time at the casino to get some shopping done, then relieved the casino of a few bucks, only to feed it back to them a little later. We also checked out one of the many local microbreweries, the Sentinel Peak Brewing Co. It was created by a trio of firefighters “moonlighting” as beer aficionados. The beers I tasted were OK, just did not give me the “WOW” factor. Jeanne found a little Mexican restaurant touted as the nation’s longest running family-owned & operated Mexican restaurant (since 1922) called El Charro Cafe. We hit them for lunch and had an excellent meal, definitely one of the best Mexican restaurants I have eaten at.
From Tucson we continued East for a return stop at the Dream Catcher SKP park in lovely Deming, NM. With not a lot for us to see that we already haven’t, we got chores and shopping caught up, got to send for supplies at amazon.com , and even squeezed in a road trip to beautiful downtown Columbus, NM, which is a bordertown neighbor to Palomas, MX. You can all pass on making Columbus, NM your top vacation destination.
The boondocking lifestyle was still calling to us. Jeanne found Sierra Vista Campground (BLM) just outside of Dripping Springs Natural Area at the base of Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks Nat’l Monument, in Las Cruces, NM. We found it to be a very small (limited spaces) improved area in the desert just 7 miles from town. There are no services/amenities, it is free, and carries a 14-day stay limit. We lucked into a site that could accomodate a 40’ beast. It is fairly popular by the way it stayed filled up while we spent 8 days there. This area had some hiking trails running off into the desert, as well as some easy Jeep trails where Jeanne got to test her skills at avoiding brush scratch on the Jeep.
We ventured up to the Dripping Springs Nature Area (sans Woodrow Wilson), where Jeanne & I took about a 7 mile walkabout to check out the springs, Van Patten Mountain Camp (ruins from days gone by), Boyd’s Sanitorium (also ruins from the past), Fillmore Falls (alas, dry as a bone at this point in time), and La Cueva.
Old Town La Mesilla boasts La Posta de Mesilla as T-H-E place to eat for Mexican fare, so we motored on over one day to partake as well as walk the tiny town area made famous by the Billy The Kid imprisonment, trial, and where he was sentenced to hang. The food was real good at La Posta, as were the margaritas.
When we were last in this area, we never happened to venture much North, so this time we wanted to check out the infamous town of Truth Or Consequences (TOC to locals). We grabbed Woody and drove the hour and a half North to find the quirky town. We walked the main drag, checked out a funky used book store called Xochi’s Book Store, found the Truth or Consequences Brewing Co. for a flight of tasters, then ate lunch at Latitude 33, a little hole in the wall Asian Fusion style eatery with very awesome food. The beers at TOC Brewing were pretty good, they brewed a Belgian Tripel that was out of this world. The townfolk we spoke with mentioned they currently have a campaign on-going regarding re-naming the town…again. We learned the town was previously named something similar to Hot Springs, but back in the day the game show host for the TV show Truth or Consequences dared the town to change its name to that of the TV show. Lo’ & behold, the townfolk up and did it! Sounds like maybe they regret the name change…
While in Las Cruces, we managed to drive into El Paso where I found one of their Departments of Public Safety (DL bureaus). Boy was I surprised that my in-n-out time was just one hour and I had my DL renewed and ready to rock! We also found an inspection station & got the Jeep safety inspected (registration requirement). Now we just gotta get Rosie inspected (the bus).
Finished with Las Cruces, it was eastbound and down into El Paso, TX for a few days of lolly-gagging. We had a bit of a hard time trying to find an RV park with hook-ups (coming off an 8-day boondock) that was not full. But we lucked into the Mission RV Park on the east side of town. More chores (massive laundry), shopping for another upcoming boondock, and a tiny bit of sight seeing at the Scenic Drive Park were in order. El Paso closes Scenic Drive on Sundays and only pedestrian/bicycle traffic is allowed. The views from the road open up to a very large panoramic viewing of the towns of El Paso TX/Juarez MX, both towns only divided by the Rio Grande River.
Before leaving El Paso, we have to stop by the local Freightliner shop to get a couple of minor issues addressed. From there, we will be heading for more boondocking, hopefully at the Guadalupe Mountains Nat’l Park area. If not, then wherever the wind blows us, we’ll let you know next blog post. Stay tuned…