New Mexico and Texas, January 22nd till February 4th 2018
I am already looking for our next destination and working on different things when Dick sits quietly in a chair and reflects. He concludes that our diving suits are between the double floors of our RV. It doesn’t sound strange to me because I remember that, 9 months ago I stored something in between, so probably, when we look there we’ll find our diving suits. It’s a fuss to do it right now because then we have to remove our carpet, so when we clean it thoroughly (with slightly warmer weather) we will look.
After a quiet night, the storm decreases during the night and there is almost nobody on BLM land with the “shut down”, we leave in the morning and pass a huge lava field. Next to it, on July 16, 1945, the first atomic bomb was detonated. Then we arrive in Alamogordo. We spend the night at Walmart but first it’s time to find a laundromat. After 9 days we really have to wash. When all our clothes are clean and stored away we enjoy a milkshake at Sonic before we go to the visitor center. Unfortunately you can visit “Trinity”, the place where the Atomic bomb exploded, only twice a year, the first Saturday in April and October so we have to come back another time. At Walmart we do some administrative work. We really need to write to Sea Bridge so they can ship our RV back end of April and Dick has to publish on the website. At 6 pm we walk to a Thai restaurant nearby but it’s closed on Mondays so we have a burger, not as tasty but it’s nourishing. After a cold night without frost, we leave Alamogordo on Tuesday morning and visit White Sands National Park.
I think this park is very special because of the intense white sands. It’s like driving through a snow-covered landscape. Of course we cannot resist climbing the sand dunes, running down and up like playing kids and taking pictures. Unfortunately at some point Dick says it’s enough so after two hours, we continue our journey, and after Las Cruces we arrive at Leasburg Dam state park. It’s not easy to find an empty spot, but after some searching we find one without electricity. But with a steel blue sky and shining sun we don’t need electricity; our solar panels provide enough power to work on our computers. We walk around in the area and then I start my translation. Unfortunately, it directly cools down when the sun sets behind the hills at 5 pm. Dick prepares delicious filet on the grill but we eat inside. At night it’s far below freezing and the sky is clear, filled with stars. In the morning we find long icicles at our RV. After filling up with water and dumping our grey and black water we leave Leasburg Dam on Wednesday January 24th. On our way to Hatch, NM we have to pass a checkpoint of the border patrol (we are about 60 miles from the Mexican border).
Our passports and visas are in order so we may proceed and in Hatch, the Chili Capital of the world, we enjoy the many Chili ‘s hanging around town. The ranger told us that Rock Hound State Park, near Deming, is very nice so we drive there. There are some empty places (it’s before noon) although the sign at the entrance says that the campground is full. After having a coffee and taking water we walk to the trail. In this State Park you may keep the special stones you find and everywhere on the mountain you see people collecting stones. When we find out that the trail is not going over the mountain but turns below the top we say goodbye to each other. Dick continues the trail and I climb up the rocks that dominate the landscape. From an early age I always want to climb to the top of a mountain. It is difficult because the mountain is steep and full of yuccas and cacti but finally I make it and am on top of the highest rock. Far below me is the campground and I can see the plains all the way to Mexico. It is awesome to be here. Dick already finished the trail and tries to see me but because of the many boulders he cannot. I have to make a walking stick out of the Yucca flower before I can descend the mountain. It’s really steep and a lot of stones are not stable and loose. I cannot get off the mountain without a scratch so when I’m back at 3 pm, Dick has to remove a lot of prickly’s (from the prickly pear cactus) from different parts of my body.
I collected them while descending. Fortunately we have a good pair of tweezers and Dick is patient so after 15 minutes he gets rid of them. For safety’s sake we put our insulation blanket in front of the windshield when, in an orange glow, the sun sets behind the mountains and it’s getting cold, freezing cold. Like every day we wake up when the sun appears from behind the mountain. After having a shower on the campground and breakfast with eggs, Dick prepares them delicious, we drive over a large, barren plain to Columbus, a border town with Mexico. There we stay overnight at Pancho Villa state park.
While Dick is publishing the English text on our website I walk around and find out that it is nice to cross the border with Mexico and look around. It’s just noon so we have plenty of time. Dick interrupts his activities and gets our bikes and not much later we drive the 5 miles to Palomas in Mexico. Everyone parks his car on the American side of the border but we take our bikes across the border and arrive in the very poor village of Palomas. It consists of a few stores and shabby buildings. There are many cars, more wrecks, filled with Mexicans, looking at us and observing. We attach our bikes in the middle of the road to a light and when a Mexican, loitering around, says he will watch for it, I agree. We walk around town, go into shops and look for our 1st Mexican cache. It’s some searching because this cache is hidden somewhere in a store full of tourist junk but finally Dick find the pink ammo box standing against a pink wall in the “pink shop”. We buy a handmade mug and then bike through the village. Our Mexican bicycle Guard did his job and took care of our bikes; he is happy with the money we pay. Crossing the border back to America is no problem at all and before the twilight falls we are back at Pancho Villa campground, 5 mile away. It was nice to look around in this Mexican border town but I was shocked because of the poverty in this area. We’re lucky that we still have sunlight when we ride back to the campground because the moment the sun sets it is directly much colder and we didn’t bring jackets. The next morning, Friday, January 26th, we leave Columbus and drive parallel on the border to El Paso in Texas.
Again over an endless plain. In the distance we see a high fence, the border with Mexico. Next to the road is a sandy road that is made smooth by pulling tires, so it’s visible when people cross this road.
Border Patrol cars inspect the side of the road and you see them regularly on a lookout. In El Paso we stop at the Border Patrol museum. It is fascinating to see what is done to protect the UNITED STATES. Next to confiscated cars and boats we see different climbing materials used for crossing the existing walls with Mexico. Of course, in the war against drugs and illegals there are frequently victims.
We let the following text sink in:
I never dreamed it would be me.
My name for all eternity,
recorded here at this hallowed place.
“In the line of duty” I hear them say,
my family now the price to pay.
My folded flag, stained with their tears,
we only had those few short years.
The badge no longer on my chest.
I sleep now in eternal rest.
My sword I pass to those behind and pray
they keep this thought in mind.
I never dreamed, it would be me
and with a heavy heart and bended knee,
I ask for all here from the past…
Dear God, let my name be the last.
Full of impressions, but without a nice border patrol shirt (there were no good ones) we leave. Illogical for anyone except for us, but we take the road to the North and arrive at 3 pm in Alamogordo, NM where again, we spend a night at Walmart. Now we can have dinner at the Thai restaurant nearby. The food tastes good and is really Thai but it’s less refined than dinner at the “Royal Thai” in Washington, Utah. After a cold and freezing night we wake up at 8 am. We closed our shutters because of the bright Walmart lights above us but as there is no light at all in the RV we don’t wake up and don’t notice that the sun is already awake. I know I never want to sleep in a dark room. After some shopping we drive to the mountains, to Apalache country, higher and higher until 7606 feet. This time of the year Apalache Mountain, is busy with skiing, but now, with the lack of snow, there is nobody.
After descending through the big nothing we arrive in Roswell, in Bottomless State Park. Unlike other New Mexico State Parks here is plenty of space and we can pick a nice spot. Although it is cold outside, only 50 degrees, the sun is shining and the sky is steel blue so of course we sit outside. End of the afternoon we are startled by loud voices. At first we think that neighbors have a loud TV but soon we find out that next to the campground is a CSI scene. Sheriffs and policemen with drawn gun approach a car. Unfortunately, one of the suspects already fled and despite a search of the car, they even approach the trunk with riffles, one is gone. We are told to stay inside because the escaped man is armed and dangerous.
We do as said but of course Dick has first to prepare our meat on the grill and that’s outside. I look around or I see something suspicious.
People who want to return to the campground are unlucky because they are not allowed to proceed and have to go back to Roswell. The whole area is closed and combed out, on the ground and with helicopters. We don’t have TV but we are in a life scene! Of course with the current temperatures, it’s still below freezing, we fix our insulation in front of our windows. This insulation is one of our best purchases.
Sunday, January 28th we drive to Roswell. On our way we see real cowboys on horsebacks driving herds of cows. We do our laundry (I don’t understand how often we have to do laundry) and go to the UFO-museum because I will buy another Alien T-shirt. Size XL (youth) is present and matches perfectly so, as happy as a child, I leave with my Alien shirt. Slowly we drive back to the State Park, with regularly stops to search for a cache and in the park we even find a very nice cache. We are third to find.
We talk about geocaching with Jim, an 88-year-old ranger, still at the office in the state park and then we go back to our site. There the sheriff tells us that there is no risk anymore on the campground. The man on the run from the police left this place but will be busted one of these days. He’s not very clever. Just when we want to go inside (it’s getting colder) ranger Jim arrives with a GPS.
He doesn’t use this anymore (he cannot hardly walk) and would like to give it to us. We even get a manual. Monday morning, before leaving, we give Jim some Dutch cookies and a keychain (wooden shoes) for the GPS. He don’t want to have anything for it and after hugging and a promise to come back to visit him again, we drive to Carlsbad, NM. We already have seen the caves a few times so we go to Walmart but not for long because the parking is filled with idling trucks so quickly we drive back to the North, to Brantley Lake state park where it is quiet and we enjoy the many road runners.
With a fleece and behind a wall we can sit outside until sunset, then the temperature immediately drops to 40 degrees. After a good night rest I skype with auntie Ank and then we drive to Pecos in Texas. New Mexico we will no longer visit you on this trip. The road is anything but scenic, very dusty and overloaded with trucks. We drive along vast fields with oil refineries. We definitely are arrived in Texas. In Balmorhea, we want to stay at a State Park with a large hot spring, but unfortunately, the State Park is now under construction and not accessible so we head to Fort Davis.
This State Park is very expensive and we continue again, now to Marfa. The site “iOverlander” says that it’s allowed to overnight at the viewpoint in Marfa. We arrive there at 5 pm and are not the only ones to spend the night. The viewpoint overlooks a plain where mysterious lights appear, dancing around. But not tonight. The Moon is full and bright and we don’t see a mysterious light on the horizon. But we sleep very well and wake up when the sun rises above the horizon on this last day of January. We drive further south. Unlike yesterday the landscape is mountainous. That’s why the town we pass is called “Alpine” Texas. Around noon we arrive in Terlingua, a Ghost Town near Big Bend National park. It’s beautiful weather, nice and warm, the temperature rises even above 70 degrees and we want to stay. Just outside Terlingua is a dusty campground, but the spot is good and I also can do my laundry so we don’t hesitate and stay here.
The advantage of this campground is that tonight we can walk to the ancient theatre of Terlingua, less than 2 mile, and have dinner.
The rest of the afternoon we stay outside, it’s warm, 78 degrees and after the freezing weather of the last few weeks we absorb the Sun’s rays. Our jeans are quickly replaced by a pair of shorts. At half past 5, the sun is still shining, we walk to the Starlight Theatre. 3 Years ago we went here with Riley and Karen and had dinner, the food was good and it was a nice place to be. When we arrive at 6 pm it is not busy and we get a nice table next to the live music. Soon we enjoy a beer (Dick a Golden Ale from the Big Bend Brewery and I have a Bud Light) and both we have a huge burger.
Meanwhile, three musicians play western music. J.Michael Combs, the lead singer, even uses a Dulcimer. This is the instrument I got to know in Alaska and would learn to play. The food is delicious and the atmosphere is great too. Though we miss Karen and Riley, they had to be here. Unfortunately, they are too far away, in Page, Arizona. The music is great, Dick enjoys and sings too, this western music fits in this ghost town. We leave at 8 pm and over a dark road we walk back to the campground. Despite the fact that it’s full moon, there are a lot of clouds and it’s good that we have head lights. Thursday, February 1st we get up early because before heading to Big Bend, I want to Skype with auntie Ank. Unfortunately we are unable to get a connection so early in the morning we drive to the National Park. At the entrance we are told that the campground was completely full yesterday so, without stopping, we drive to Rio Grande Village.
There are some spots available but it is good that we are early in the day, because soon every place is full. Just after noon another European RV arrives, Gerhard and Beate from Germany.
The rest of the afternoon we spend time together and we tell each other about our experiences. Like us, they are almost 9 months on the road in North America. We’re lucky because it’s warm, almost 80 degrees and we can sit outside, enjoy our coffee and soda’s. At 5 pm a strong wind is rising and directly it’s a lot cooler so we say goodbye to each other. During the night the storm rages on and the RV is acting like a ship in huge waves but we stay good in the wind. Luckily Friday morning the wind calms. However, the temperature dropped and it’s cold with only 58 degrees. I talk to Beate and Gerhard. Tomorrow, when it getting warmer we will go to Mexico instead of today. Of course we talk and talk and talk and I hang around their RV, according to Dick too long, because he is waiting for me. It’s because we have to tell each other so much. Around 11 am I am back at our RV and we walk to the Visitor Center to get a stamp in my park passport and to the store to read our mail. There is Wi-Fi at the park store. Funny, because now people come from all sides to sit on the balustrade of the shop and checking their mail.
Also a Roadrunner visit us, he doesn’t mind there are so many people around. He starts to parade in front of us all and wants us to make pictures, but, as Gerhard says, he also expects a tip. Unfortunately, feeding of wild life is not allowed in a National Park, so we deny the tip, but enjoy this magnificent bird. In the afternoon the sun penetrate through the clouds, but it’s too little to rise the temperature. Oh well, we enjoy our RV, write and make Apple sauce. Although the Sun doesn’t break through I cannot resist walking the nature trail late afternoon. It leads to a hilltop from where you have a magnificent view on the Rio Grande, the mountains in the distance and the Mexican village of Boquillas del Carmen. Beate and Gerhard had the same idea because I see them standing on the top and later below me.
Like everywhere along the Mexican border there is some Mexican tourist stuff on the rocks. Although they are nicely made, mostly creatures of iron wire and Yucca made walking sticks, it is illegal to buy this stuff. At 6pm Dick prepares our meat on the grill. We will eat it tonight because first we go to the ranger program, it’s about the Protection of Big Bend National Park. It turns out to be more about the protection of nature and what you can and cannot do in a National Park, but the ranger has a fascinating story. Just when the program is finished it starts to rain so we are a bit wet when we are back at our RV but it’s not really cold. Saturday morning, February 3rd Beate and Gerhard arrive at their bikes at 10 am. After admiring Beate’s E-bike, we bike to the border crossing about 3 miles away. It is not really hot but the sun shines in a steel blue sky.
There is no customs at the border but the ranger of Big Bend tells us what we should know when crossing into Mexico. We have to be back at 5 pm otherwise the US border gate is closed and we have to stay in Mexico.
We walk a sandy path down to the Rio Grande where the International Ferry “Your Ride to the Other Side”, a rowing boat, is waiting for us and all four of us are transferred to the other river bank. On the Mexican side are burros and trucks. Beate and Dick decide to ride a burro to town. Gerhard and I walk next to them and take pictures.
There are no roads, only a hilly sandy track and the distance to the village is 0.8 mile. From this town to the nearest town in Mexico you have to drive 160 miles, so this village, with its simple square houses, relies on the tourists from Big Bend National Park.
Dick and Beate enjoy the ride on the back of their burros and actually, I regret that I walked instead of riding a burro too. The next time I take a burro, for sure. In the village is a white container where we have to fill out customs forms and after paying $ 2,-per person (for the Mexican National Park), our passports are stamped and we walk on. The sun has much more power and we are thirsty. So after finding our second Mexican cache we take a table in one of the two Mexican restaurants here and order some food and drinks. There is not much choice but the food is tasty and the Tamales are very, very Mexican. In the afternoon we walk around the village, looking at souvenirs. Near every house is the same tourist stuff for sale, critters made of thread, embroidered bags and towels and sometimes we see a T-shirt.
Gerhard and Dick cannot resist a T shirt “No Wall” and they both buy it and pose for a piece of wall. Not Trumps Wall but it’s not clear why it’s there, standing alone. It is now 80 degrees and we reach the end of the village. This weather makes thirsty so when we are back in the middle of town we choose the terrace of the second restaurant to have a drink. And then, it’s already 4 pm, we have to go back to the ferry (after visiting the Mexican customs and let our passports stamped again). The International Ferry is still there and moments later we scan our passports at the USA border. There is no customs here but we are photographed and talk through a direct telephone line with customs in El Paso. We did not bring anything with us except for a t shirt and a hat so all four of us are quickly checked in and we ride back on our bicycles to the campground. We had a great and fun day together in this village in Mexico.
Unlike the big border towns this is a great place to visit and a must. We will definitely visit here again, and then we’ll also take a look at the Hot Springs in Mexico. We enjoy the sunset and drink a lot of water. It was a hot, but awesome day