~Wednesday, December 16, 2020~
Day 185 (Travel Day)
Sorry, still no photos (we're putting on the miles instead). Today is the first day of our trip that we are venturing into uncharted territory. We are headed for Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico for a few days, then onward to San Antonio, TX. Although we were just in New Mexico a little over a month ago, we’ve never been this far south. OMG…...we are actually heading east beyond the Rockies!!! Is this actually happening?
The skies were crystal clear and the air, cool and crisp. Perfect driving weather. The majority of the drive today was via Highway 10 where we saw mountains to the east and south, some with a light dusting of snow. It appears this section of mountains called the Pajarito Mountain range, divides a part of Mexico from the U.S. We also saw some familiar stone formations along the way that reminded us of the ones we saw in Joshua Tree.
While taking in the dry, desert scenery, we were trying to enjoy Christmas tunes or a little ESPN Sports radio with the frequent interruptions of the DEF warning chime about every 50 miles. DEF helps keep diesel exhaust down, thus keeping emissions to a minimum. If you don’t keep an adequate level of DEF in the tank,(not dropping below a 50 mile range) the truck will actually max out at 30 mph. We always find it’s way cheaper to take advantage of filling up with this at truck stops when filling up with diesel anyway.
While we took turns driving, one of us was researching our next week’s accommodations and finalizing bookings. We’ve decided the next 2 spots will definitely be RV parks. We were able to get 1 night at the By the River Campground in Kerrville, TX just outside of San Antonio (about 75 miles) and another 2 nights at Hidden Valley RV Park in Van Ormy, TX, also near San Antonio and both with pretty reasonable rates (around $40/night). It’s always a relief to get our short-term stays figured out but we still have so much to plan between San Antonio, New Orleans, and Florida. We don’t think we’ll really be able to relax until we get to Florida, where we’ll spend bigger chunks of time in each city. This moving around is exhausting as we’re trying to get east.
We also found out some good news from James at Ford Corporate today (we were no longer dealing with Ed). He told us our Premium Care Service Plan from the July truck debacle should FINALLY kick in early next week. We found out that Ford had, for some reason, put on a 3-year service plan when we bought the car, but we never purchased an extended service plan. So because of that, that’s why the new service plan could not get added. What we still need to find out, is what kind of premium care plan it is….75,000 miles, 100,000 miles, etc. Will find out in the next few days.
For tomorrow, we still needed to find out all of the details in touring Carlsbad Caverns…..the reason we’re here. Jeff had phoned ahead to see about reservations. We prefer to talk to a live person when inquiring about any tours since things are changing all of the time due to COVID. It appears they are not allowing reservations for the time being and are limiting the Cavern tours from 8:00 a.m. to 2:30 on a first come, first serve basis and only up to 1,000 people/day. The Visitor Center is open until 5:00. We would like to think this is a slower time of year for tourists, but you just never know these days.
On our drive, we definitely noticed a lot of border patrol cars either pulling people over or waiting on the side of the road. And as we drove on Highway 180, at nightfall, we nearly had a head on crash as someone going the opposite direction on our 2-lane highway (near El Paso), was passing someone in his lane at the very last minute. Jeff had to swerve out of the way to avoid him (not a great thing to do when towing a trailer). We didn’t see this dangerous type of driving not once, but twice as people drive like maniacs here.
After our long, 450 mile day, we finally arrived at our boondocking site off of highway 62 at Chosa Campground, a dispersed campsite, and only minutes to Carlsbad Caverns. Our general practice is to never arrive in the dark. But we knew ahead of time that this site area is pretty large, flat and open, making it fairly easy to get into, even in the dark. You just have to dodge the makeshift fire pits. It would have been nice to leave Tucson earlier, but we were already so exhausted from all of the driving this past week, that we just couldn’t get up and leave this morning by 7:30 per our original plan.
We arrived around 9:00, or was it 10:00, and weren’t sure if we had changed time zones again since we noticed the clock in the car jumped ahead an hour when we arrived in a section of Texas, only to go back an hour once we ended up back in New Mexico. It’s very strange to think this will likely be our last boondocking site until Spring or early Summer as even being in the south in the winter can be a bit chilly. Therefore, partial hookup sites would be preferred, at least for us-meaning electricity and water (we don’t need sewer necessarily). State campgrounds would be our preferred choice in the winter, with RV parks coming in second place. We’ll see what unfolds.
After being in a toasty car for hours, it was quite cold when we arrived (probably mid-30’s). The site is 1 large flat lot, with room for probably 30 RV’s. I’d say we’re sharing this area with about 7 other fellow RVer’s. Nice to know we’re not alone out here. Sadie was so happy to FINALLY be out of the car. She has been amazingly patient with all of the driving, and just goes with the flow, like her parents. While we were setting things up, we noticed a very strange thing. When we left Tucson this morning, we added fresh water to the tank to about the low end of ⅓ full. When we arrived tonight, the fresh water tank was reading “empty”. We don’t know how the gray tank can read ⅓ full when it was empty this morning and our fresh water tank is reading empty, as if they switched. Will have to investigate in the morning. We could tell something was up because it sounded like the water pump was struggling when we got here, like there was only air in the pipes, not water. Ugh! Thank goodness we have (1) 5-gallon collapsible cube filled with water to get us by until we get into downtown Carlsbad tomorrow. For now….we just need SLEEP!!! 😴