Past Houses Farms & Fields

Pahrump was fun! Julie & I had a blast hanging with Pam & Billy, enjoying the company of their family and each other. Can’t say we really did a helluva lot but they were good times! A few days were stupidly hot but the week ended in beautiful weather. All-in-all, we had a great time!

Julie and I headed out from Lakeside Casino RV Park Monday late morning and an hourish later I dropped her off at McCarran airport to catch her flight back to DFW. I kept rolling, planning to spend the night in Flagstaff. Anxious Arizona changed that plan, as they had enacted a statewide nighttime curfew. With no place to hang for a brew or dinner I just kept heading east until I reached curfew time near Petrified Forest National Park.

The Great State of New Mexico’s Roads
The Great State of New Mexico’s Roads

That couple-hour mileage gain put me ahead of schedule for the next day and my original plan to reach Las Vegas, NM was completed by about 1pm so I just kept going eastbound and down, bouncing across northeast New Mexico, a corner of Oklahoma and into Kansas.

 

The unremarkable stretch of southwest Kansas into Dodge City rolled slowly by. I noticed all the grain silos were on the west side of the highway. When I mentioned this Shelley suggested it was because railway tracks were on the west side; finally made more sense than mere coincidence. After a long drive of 12.5 hours I backed into a mediocre site at the Dodge City KOA. It was good enuf for a quick overnight.

Wednesday was truly a day spent “rolling past houses, farms and fields” as I crossed Kansas on US400. Good road overall and got pretty nice winding through a few hills as I neared Missouri. With rain clouds in my mirror I pulled into the heavily wooded Springfield KOA and let them deliver a pretty decent pizza to my site. Early morning storms threatened to throw tree branches onto my rig but the ones that did fall thankfully missed me.

My eastward trek contributed through the Ozarks into western Kentucky and the pretty Kentucky and Bartley Lakes region. I overnighted at at campground I had stayed at before on the east shore of Lake Bartley. Synko got a bath but my clothes did not, as Kentucky apparently is one of the states that overreacted to corona; the campground laundry facility was closed. In the end that gained me about $25 as I griped that they had not informed me of the loss of that amenity. (I also griped about the narrow site they gave me and the flaky power that they had to fix. Management was good to honor my request and I’ll return to that nice campground,)

After a short 90 minute drive Saturday into Nashville I settled into the KOA resort near Opryland where Shelley & Brett joined me in the site next to mine. And that’s where the trip currently finds me this beautiful Sunday morning. Church online is on in 30 so I’ll sign off here and pick up in a week or so after we’ve searched out a distillery or two! Cheers!

Arizona

Getting There

As I crossed into Arizona from New Mexico on US70 I was treated to beautiful displays of pale green grasses dotted with yellow and purple flowers. God’s sky also was on full display: broken clouds, patches of blue, and many rainbows. The clouds hugged nearby mountain peaks but occasionally allowed last night’s snowfall to show through. It was a gorgeous drive! As I continued toward Apache Junction the weather vacillated between sunshine, rain showers and a patch of snow-mixed rain. US70 became US60 as I continued west. Together, these solid roads made for a wonderful drive, and I was glad I’d left early enough to miss the brunt of the wind and enjoy the last fringes of the winter storm as it blew eastward. I’m tagging this route a wonderful road! And I lifted a prayer of thanks for safe travels and for the opportunity to enjoy the Creator’s fine work.

Spring Training

The Apache Junction KOA got us by. Pretty disappointing site but not the end of the world. Brad & Jonathan joined me Wednesday night (well, at midnight!). We enjoyed good times at the Rangers/Cubs game Thursday—including the biggest bestest Chicago Dog ever. Sunday we drove miles & miles to Surprise Stadium for the Dbacks/Rangers game. ‘Twas a more interesting game but the long drive made the visit to Sloan Park a little nicer. We took a couple-hour drive into Tonto National Forest Monday before I ran the boys back to the airport across town. Nice drive; the picture credits go to Brad.

Flagstaff

Tuesday brought a nice 3-4 hour drive up I-17 and AZ 89A thru Sedona and Oak Creek Canyon. The road sign disallowed trucks over 50′ on the road north of Sedona but since I was not a “truck” per se, and measure just 53′ from bumper to bumper I fudged it and went ahead. Beautiful drive but. yep, tight turns. NTL, made it to Flagstaff and settled in for a few days at the attractive KOA on the north side of town. Some winter weather is forecast in a couple days and I’ll hang here until Saturday to catch the first couple rounds of March Madness. More later… …

It’s now “later”… A few snow showers Wednesday night & Thursday during the day. Made for pretty views outside Majerle’s sports grill where I  watched a few Madness games. I also found my newest favorite brewery—Mother Road. They’ve got an excellent lineup of IPAs, including Tower Station and Lost Highway,  plus a bourbon barrel stout which I’m going back for Friday.

Sunset Crater Volcano & Wupatki National Monuments

Gotta admit, I didn’t know these National Parks were here until I saw the road sign. They are just up the road from Flagstaff and turns out, they’re really cool. Sunset Crater Volcano is raw beauty. Stark. Powerful. Rugged. Fragile. It draws you in.

I took a couple short hikes, enjoying the lava rock trails and surrounding snow-capped mountains. As I was finishing up I encountered Eric, a parks volunteer. Nice old guy (I suppose I need to be careful how I say that!) who shared some info about the park and its geology. And he gave me a good restaurant tip for when I’m in Boulder, Utah in a week or so.

Continuing on toward Wupatki, the drive was incredible, overlooking Arizona’s Painted Desert. Not sure what I expected but the puebloan ruins were really interesting. Nice to see such old (circa 1100 A.D.) structures preserved. The day had warmed from the low 30s to the upper 40s and by the time I’d finished visiting the two parks I was ready to taste another of Flagstaff’s fine breweries.

After refilling a propane bottle (I’m blowing through them pretty quick in this long-enduring winter) I headed into historic downtown and Dark Sky Brewing where I had a flight of five tasters. The Magnum PI’s Pilsner was very good; I had my first Grisette; an interesting Kook Juice IPA featuring pineapple & coconut (good but a taster is enough); and wrapped up with their west coast Strength in Numbers and Send Me an Angel, both very good IPAs. Another favorite brewery discovered! Side note: their music comes from a vinyl LP player (Brett, that’s for you!).

Dinner was a great change of pace, visiting with my friend Maryann, who I hadn’t seen in (yikes!) about 25 years. We had a really good time chatting and catching up. Good friends, good times!

The Grand Canyon

After attending 121 “camp church” online, I headed into Williams for my ride on the Grand Canyon Railway to The Grand Canyon. I kinda feared the event would be a little skitchy but it wasn’t bad. The old west characters were actually entertaining and Annette, our purser, was great, sharing insights and some humor. The two-hour ride to Grand Canyon went by quickly.

I’d been to the Canyon before and it still impresses and amazes! Beautiful, stark, grand beauty. I walked the rim trail 3½ miles from Mojave Point to the El Tovar hotel where, given I only had about 30 minutes before needing to board the train again, I had a Tower Station IPA in the iconic lodge. The train was cool but it sure limits time at the park (about 3 hours).

I didn’t get down into the Canyon—my stupid knee would only gripe at me for the downhill. So seeing the creation from the rim had to do. (I just wish people knew how to get outta the way and walk to the right! It just ain’t that hard. All-in-all ’twas a good day topped off by an excellent Carne Chile de Molcajete at Fiesta Mexican Grill in Williams. Worth returning for that dish!

And with that, Arizona is done. Headed down the hill to Kingman then up remote US-93 to the Las Vegas area for a week. Gonna hang with Julie & Pam!

Four Corners Area

With the splendor of southern Utah in my mirrors I headed south to the Four Corners region. Snow flurries met me near Monticello but didn’t slow progress to the geo-marker that defines the intersection of four States. The monument is kinda kitschy but I wanted to get that check in the box. I would not advise driving more than 30 minutes out of your way to see this. The Navajo taco I had there filled my gut. I was glad it stayed there…

My plan was to overnight at the nearby Teec Nos Pos Trading Post but given it looked like I’d be the only RV in their parking lot, across from an interesting looking bar in the middle of nowhere, I opted to drive into Cortez where there was a legit campground—and people.

In the morning I headed over to Mesa Verde National Park, unhitched the fiver in the visitor center parking lot and headed up onto the Mesa to see the Ancestral Pueblo cliff dwellings. Gettin’ culture be ‘portant dontcha think?!

After driving, some hiking & picture taking I recoupled my home to the truck and headed a short eight miles to the Mansco Brewing Company, where I’d spend the night as a Harvest Hosts member.

HH is a member network of breweries, wineries, farms, museums and golf courses where RVers can stay free overnight (with an annual $70 fee). It’s a great gig, as you get to meet cool people and not spend much on campsites. To my delight, Mancos Brewing crafts excellent beers and serves up excellent food. Score! (Plus, my rig parked right in front was good advertising for Grand Design RVs!) I liked every beer I had at Mancos: the Dizzy Blonde pale ale, Desert Drifter rye ale, Mancos sh’Ale dark ale, Extra Dizzy IPA, and their Cherry Stout.

And with that, the Four Corners was history. After camp church I headed downhill to Albuquerque and then to Ruidoso for a couple days to visit friends before turning east and into the flats of North Texas. Leave a light on… I’m slowly headed home—for a little while!

Southwest Spring Summary

An alliteration of S’s for my spring in the southwest: stunning, superior, scenic, sensational, spectacular, striking, splendid.

From the boldness of Big Bend to the uplifted canyons of Utah to the fun of spring training and a week visiting Pam & Billy, this was an awesome six weeks! Checkout my posts for this phenomenal Southwest trip.

Trip stats:

  • Racked up a total of 5752 miles
  • The trailer hung with me for 3956 miles (69%); lots of non-towing driving in Big Bend, Death Valley, Bryce, Canyonlands)
  • Drove a total of 151 hours
  • Traveled through 7 states
  • Stayed in 21 different campsites over 44 days
  • Averaged 12 MPG in fuel consumption (that’s as good as I got last summer towing a traditional trailer that was 5 thousand pounds lighter; I’m very pleased!)
  • Used 90-100 pounds of propane for cooking, cooling, and lots of heating

I’m now back at the Vineyards Campground on Lake Grapevine until mid-May when I take off for the Rockies for the entire summer!

I appreciate God giving me this awesome opportunity and for looking over me while I traveled this region of our great land. And thanks for your prayers for safety. Love y’all. God’s best,

Mark