Ever since I wrote the Day in the Life post I’ve wanted to write another one chronicling a travel day. Week after week I kept putting it off because no travel day seemed “typical” enough. Finally, I realized that there is no typical travel day. Sometimes we drive 45 minutes, sometimes we drive 4 hours, sometimes we travel on the highway, sometimes we go way off course on a sight-seeing adventure, sometimes we have a reservation, and sometimes we don’t even have a definite destination. You get the picture. It’s different every time. So finally I decided to just go for it. Is this the most typical travel day? Probably not. Is it the most interesting? Probably not. Does it show the basics of how a travel day works for us? Probably yes.
Okay then, let’s go on a road trip!
Sunday, April 27: The Enchanted Trails RV Park, Albuquerque, NM to Oliver Lee State Park, Alamogordo, NM
I wake up around 7:30 and Tim stays in bed for almost another hour. While he dozes I work on my This Week in An Instagram post, and then make an easy breakfast of english muffins with yogurt and strawberries. Tim joins me when I’m about halfway through my breakfast.
While he munches on his toast and surfs around online, I get myself ready for the day and then began the process of preparing the Airstream for travel. We follow a pretty standard routine when it comes to getting ready to travel. I generally do the inside stuff and Tim does the outside stuff. Some people refer to these jobs as blue and pink tasks. We don’t refer to them as anything- it just works out that I’m better at making the bed and he’s better at dumping the tanks. This morning I start in the bedroom. It’s a pretty basic room so there’s not a lot to get ready back there. I make the bed, open the curtains, stow the items on the nightstand in the drawer, and make sure all clothes are in the hamper or on a hook. Finally I wipe the dust off the nightstand and windowsills. This is a never ending task that I do several times a week. The last few days had been especially windy and blowing all sorts of dust around, which means dust is on every surface.
By the time I’m done in the bedroom Tim has finished breakfast and starts to get himself ready for the day. While he is washing and dressing I tackle the kitchen. Usually I have clean dishes to put away from the night before, and sometimes I even have dirty dishes to wash from the night before. This time we had eaten out on Saturday so all I had were a few dishes from breakfast. I wash, dry and put away the dishes. Then I pile my windowsill rocks in the dish drainer, along with my jar of sea glass, and pop the plastic lid on. The cutting board goes under the counter, the windowsill gets wiped off, the window gets washed, any lingering dust on the stove top & counters is wiped away, and the sink is washed out. Kitchen done. The great thing about such a tiny kitchen is that there’s no room to accumulate clutter, which means no need to stow a lot of stuff when we travel.
While I’m working on the kitchen Tim starts on the outside tasks. This was a pretty easy day as far as outside tasks go. The 50 mph wind gusts the day before had prompted us to put away the outside chairs, table, and rugs so they didn’t blow around. That meant the only thing left to go in the back of the truck was Tim’s bike (mine was already in there). After getting the bike in, along with a little rearranging back there, he moves on to dumping the tanks. We rarely stay somewhere with full hook-ups, so our usual routine is to dump the tanks on the way out of a campground, or when we’re boondocking at the first dump station we find down the road. Having the sewer and water at the site means no risk of someone else waiting in line behind us at the dump staition, so he usually takes this opportunity to flush out the tanks really well. By the way, you’ll notice in the photo below that we don’t have a typical looking sewer hose. Our sewer hose is called a Sewer Solution. I’ll let you follow the link and read about it if you really want to know more, but basically it’s an alternative to the stinky slinky that works really well for us. The only issue is that it’s slow, and if we had bigger tanks that would probably be a pain. He also retracts the stabilizers and adds some water to the fresh water tank. We always travel with some water in our tank. Even on a short journey you never know when you might want or need water.
Back inside I do a quick pick up and clean in the bathroom. Another room with not much to put away. The three things on the counter are tucked in the upper cabinet, the sink and counter are wiped down, and the toilet gets cleaned. The shower got a good scrubbing earlier in the week, so I didn’t need to do anything in there.
The final inside area to ready for travel is the living/dining/office space. I had already picked up a few things before I remembered to take a picture, but you get the idea. Most of what tends to accumulate in this area are electronics. They all have their own spaces to live while we travel which makes it easy pick up. The fruit bowl goes on the couch arm behind the cushions, the tv is strapped in place (it’s mounted on a swing arm), and all the surfaces + windowsills are wiped clean of dust. Are you seeing a pattern here? Our table folds up and tucks under the window, but we stopped folding it up long ago. It’s crazy heavy and doesn’t budge while we drive, so there’s no reason not to leave it as is.
Finally I do a quick vacuum. I had vacuumed and washed the floor only days before, so it was really quick this time. I always vacuum before we travel because even the tiniest amount of dirt on the floor moves around a creates a big mess otherwise. My last task before exiting the Airstream is to make sure all windows are closed, fans are off and vents are closed. I also recheck all the cabinets. Our upper cabinets have interior latches and I push on the them to make sure they are closed all the way. The rest of the cabinets have these nifty push button knobs that lock the cabinet in place. They work great, but only if you remember to push them in.
Here’s what we look like all ready for travel.
Before closing the door the plant comes inside. It used to ride in the back of the truck, but then we got more water jugs and there was no room. It also got dusty back there.
When I go outside Tim is about to start the hooking up process. More often than not he does this by himself. But since I was out there I assisted with some super helpful backing up hand gestures. We have a Hensly Hitch, and since we’ve never had any other kind of hitch I don’t know the comparison. But here’s how it works for us. Tim backs the square stinger looking thing into the square hole. Two metal bars are then attached and held in place by metal pins (as you can tell I don’t know the names of any of the hitch parts), the chains are attached, the power cord is plugged in, the breakaway cable is hooked on, and the weight distribution bars are raised and tightened. In the beginning this all seemed very complicated. Now it’s super easy and takes us only a few minutes. When everything is all hooked up Tim removes the wheel chocks. Normally he would then drive forward and I would pick up the leveling blocks, but this time we didn’t have any.
We do one final walk around and make sure everything is good to go, and then we’re off.
This RV park has a propane filling station in the parking lot. We decide to stop on the way out. Tim goes to find someone to fill the tanks while I set the GPS. We have a Rand McNally RV GPS that I have a love hate relationship with. I love that it offers RV specific information and has a handy POI data base, but I hate how fussy it is about addresses, and the fact that you can’t look around your route on the screen. I also cannot stand the dude who gives the directions. He tells you like 6 times when you need to turn, which in my opinion is about 5 times too many. We usually turn the sound off and my job as the navigator is to pay attention and tell Tim when the turn is coming. I usually tell him twice, but never 6 times! It also has this annoying habit of always taking you on the interstate. You can choose the avoid interstate option, but then it always takes you on back roads. The solution is to plan the route on Google maps first, and then if the GPS tells us a different way we just ignore it. Eventually the GPS figures it out and catches up with us. That’s exactly what happened this time. Mr. GPS says to jump right on I-40 before heading south on I-25, while Google suggests that we go through the edge of town to get to I-25. The Google route is 227 miles and the GPS route is 234 miles. The GPS is better at estimating time though. I guess since it knows we are an RV.
Tim comes back and says they don’t sell propane on Sundays. Which is a bit of a pain since it means we need to stop somewhere along the way. Oh well. Finally we’re on our way and the first leg of the journey starts of with clouds and wind. Within a few miles we pass an accident that looks pretty bad. We stop for gas at the Pump-n-Save and head south toward I-25.
There was supposed to be some really strong winds today so we aren’t sure how long we want to stay on 25. The option is to follow it 55 miles and then go east on 380, or just 20 miles, then get off and take a zig zag of roads east and south. The second route is sure to be slower, but if the wind is really bad we prefer not to be on the Interstate. For the most part we don’t have a huge issue towing in the wind. I think the combination of our low profile and aerodynamic shape combined with our super stable hitch gives us an advantage over larger, boxier RVs. There has been plenty of times when we’re driving in a windy situation with no problem at all and we see other RVs around us – especially 5th wheels- swaying all over the place. I tend to worry about one of these running into us more than anything. We also don’t want to encounter any of those blowing dust storms that New Mexico is so famous for. As we approach our first possible exit we discuss the fact that that this wind is not nearly as strong as we thought it might be, so we decide to go the entire 55 miles on the Interstate.
There is not a lot to see. Mostly flat plains on both sides, with a mountain thrown in here or there. We’ve noticed that NM has lots of water towers, and most are painted. This one is obviously a tribute to the local high school. Go Eagles.
An uneventful 55 miles later we get off and head east on 380. The first town we pass is San Antonio (not that one). It’s a tiny town famous for the Owl Cafe, where they supposedly serve excellent green chili cheeseburgers. We went past too fast for me to get a photo.
Talking about the cheeseburgers makes us realize we’re hungry for lunch so we look for a place to pull over and eat. We pass a few less than suitable pull-offs before we spot one that looks big enough. There’s some sort of plaque so we hop out and take a look. Turns out this is the Trinity Site where the first nuclear bomb was tested. We’re not totally surprised since we already know that we are driving along the northern edge of the White Sands Missile Range. Lunch is a bowl of leftover pasta salad and we sit inside eating while reading the Wikipedia page on the Trinity Site. Turns out that the actual site is some miles away and this plaque is really just marking the road that goes to the site. Makes for some good lunch time conversation.
Back on the road we continue heading east. It’s a two lane road with hardly any traffic and the wind is behind us now pushing us along which makes for a nice ride. At one point we climb up past 6,600 feet and then roll back down again. It’s an absolutely gorgeous drive past mountains, fields, and one tiny cluster of buildings including an interesting looking rock shop. I used to take more photos while we drove. Way back in the beginning it was my goal to blog everyday, so if all we were doing was driving then that was what I blogged about. At some point I came to my senses and realized that I couldn’t keep up that schedule, so I stopped taking photos on drive days. Today I remembered how documenting a travel day really makes me pay attention to what is going on outside the window (as opposed to playing with my phone). But I also remembered how much of a pain it is to try and get a good shot out the window while the scenery is whizzing past.
As we approach the town of Carrizozo we drive through a lava flow area called the Valley of Fires. I try to take some photos of the shiny black rock, but none come out. We also pass a cute little BLM campground perched on a ledge above the lave flow. Looks like a nice spot to spend a day or two.
At Carrizozo we turn right and head south on 54. Carrizozo is a small, sleepy looking town.
The drive down 54 is not quite as scenic as 380. It’s very flat and there are no towns for a long time. This is when I start to get antsy. We’ve been on the road for over two and half hours now, which is normally close to our limit, but today we still have a ways to go. We eat some snacks, drive through a section of road construction, discuss the road construction, watch some blowing dust off in the distance, discuss the dust, and so on.
The first town we come to is Tularosa. Tim spots a sign for propane at a gas station so we pull in. Once again they don’t sell propane on Sundays. The propane situation is that we have two 30# tanks. Our general rule is that when one runs out we get it filled. That way we never run out completely. We use propane for the stove, hot water, furnace, and the fridge when we’re not plugged in. One tank ran out at Elephant Butte SP so we knew we wanted to get some before leaving Albuquerque. It wasn’t an emergency by any means since we’ve been plugged in for the last two weeks (meaning the fridge was on electric), and we haven’t been using the furnace, but we still wanted to get the empty tank filled.
Not long after leaving Tularosa Tim spots a sign for the World’s Largest Pistachio. I had come across this attraction on the Roadtrippers site about a month ago, but forgot we were going to be passing it. Lucky for us there was ample parking and we pulled in for a few photos. The pistachio lives at places called McGinn’s Pistachio Tree Ranch. They also have a store, but we bypassed it in favor of getting back on the road.
A few miles later we enter Alamogordo and begin to once again look for a place to get propane. After passing several shops that are closed on Sunday we end up at the KOA campground in town. While Tim gets the tanks filled I wander around and take a few photos. KOAs are really not our thing. In fact, if we’re going to stay at a private RV park we try to avoid all the chain style ones such as KOA, Thousand Trails, Carefree, Etc. I know plenty of people love these RV “resorts”, but it’s not for us. We are happy that we finally found someone to sell us some propane on a Sunday though!
Alamogordo is a really generic looking town. We drive past lots of fast food restaurants and strip malls. If there’s a better part of town we missed it. We’ll be back to explore some more later in the week, but for now we’re anxious to get to the campground.
It’s about a 20 minute drive from Alamogordo to Oliver Lee SP. On the way we make one final stop for gas. I don’t take any photos until we turn on the campground road. We made it! Five and half hours and five stops later we have arrived. All the NM state parks are self pay so we stop at the pay station and grab an envelope.
We do a quick drive around the 2 loops and settle on a no hook-ups site near the bottom of B loop. It looks great with a beautiful view, but as we get out to check it out we can see that it might be difficult to get level. The entire site slopes down and we want our door to face the view, which is on the downhill side. We know from experience that this can be a tricky situation, but we try it anyway.
Tim backs in and I check the outside level. You can’t even see the bubble. That’s not a good sign. We set up blocks on the low side and using our trusty folding shovel scrape off some dirt on the high side. This method usually works great, but this time it wasn’t enough. If we hadn’t just spent hours in the truck we probably would have tried harder. Maybe another level of blocks, maybe some more digging, but at this point we are both getting a bit testy and just don’t feel like messing around with it. So Tim drives out, I fill in the holes, and we try the next site.
It’s perfect. We don’t even need a single block and we are level. We quickly unhitch, chock the wheels and put down the stabilizers.
Inside I unpack everything that I put away before the drive and wash the dishes from lunch.
I fill out the self pay form. This is a no hook-ups site which means $10/day or free with our NM state park pass. Outside we put out the rug with lots of big rocks to ensure it doesn’t blow away. We don’t put our chairs out since we haven’t been sitting outside much lately due to the wind.
We both need to stretch our legs so we head out for a little walk around the campground. The visitor center is already closed for the day, but we check out the signs for the hiking trials and a little botanical garden. I’ll share more photos of the campground later in the week.
Back home it’s nearly time for dinner so I heat up some leftover chili and corn bread and make a salad. I had taken the leftovers out of the freezer this morning in anticipation of the long day ahead. I never feel like cooking after a long day of travel.
After dinner Tim talks to his mom on the phone in the bedroom while I pull out the couch for some lounging. This couch would be horrible for sleeping, but it’s great for evening lounging and we often put it down after dinner. I work on my latest embroidery project while Tim chats. It’s a map of the U.S. that will eventually be filled with a different color for every state that we’ve visited. I just started and still have to do the entire west. After that I will fill in each state as we go there. I guess there’s no hurry since we don’t plan to visit any new states until we get to Texas next October.
A little while later I see the sun setting and run out to take a picture. The wind has picked up and it’s a hazy looking sunset, but still pretty. We end the night by watching a little T.V. before heading to bed.
That’s it. One long, not so typical travel day.