Return to Carlsbad, NM

After the government shutdown thwarted our last attempt to go to Carlsbad Caverns, we decided to loop back around and make it happen.

We went back to Camp Washington Ranch because it was such an amazing place to stay, and this time there were no other campers or rigs, so we basically had the entire compound to ourselves for the weekend.


Saturday morning we had some fowl friends show up at our doorstep – we threw some water out the door and they must have thought it was feed because suddenly about 30 turkeys were bum rushing us in search of snacks.


We landed at the Carlsbad Caverns Visitor Center at about 9am, an hour ahead of our scheduled 10am tour time. The tour itself would meet about 750 feet under our feet and there are two options for getting down there. 1: An elevator, takes about 30-60 seconds. 2: walking through the Natural Entrance and winding your way down, takes about 45 minutes to an hour. By the time we had our tickets sorted it was 9:15; we had 30 minutes to be at the meeting spot, so of course we decided to haul ass down the Natural Entrance route.


We made it down in about 25 minutes, albeit stopping for nothing the entire way down. Our 10am tour of the King’s Palace section of the cave with Leah was mind boggling and breathtaking. This cave system started to form 265 million years ago when a horseshoe-shaped reef of mostly algae and sponges existed along the shelf of an inland sea. The reef was buried several millions of years later when tectonic shifting cut the sea off from the ocean to its west, cracks formed, rainwater seeped in, mixed with saltwater, and made Swiss cheese of it before the sea evaporated and it was filled in with salts.

Then, 15-20 million years ago, the Guadalupe Mountains were formed when additional tectonic movement started pulling the continent apart. The water table drained, and the Swiss cheese cavities filled with air and hydrogen sulfide gas. The oxidized gas crystallized on the walls, bacteria in that sulfur made sulfuric acid which turned limestone into gypsum. The gypsum dissolved in water and the Swiss cheese holes essentially grew into insanely massive chambers, which is what we see today. This entire process stopped about 2 million years ago.

The caves themselves are made up of calcite crystals (bring a flashlight if you go, you can see some extra shiny crystals if you look in the right places). The fucking bonkers assortment of speleothems started 500,000 years ago *after* the caverns had already been established, when the climate involved a lot more water dripping through the ground.

Additionally, the caves are home to tons of Brazilian free-tailed bats and you can gather at dusk to watch them mass exodus from the cave. However, being wintertime, the bats are currently roosting in Mexico or farther south and return with the warmer temperatures. So no bat show for us!


King’s Palace. Sorry, my GoPro pics all turned out pretty terrible. :/

After the tour (where, like in Mammoth Cave, our guide turned off all the lights and let us take in 100% pure, pitch black darkness), we were free to explore The Big Room, or Hall of Giants, section on our own. This was a 1.25 mile meander around the perimeter of the largest chamber which is the equivalent size of about 6 football fields. Massive columns, stalagmites, stalactites, and “lily pad” formations abound here.


This is a piece of the cave that fell when a massive rock that weighs as much as 3 Titanics, dubbed Iceberg Rock, fell from part of the cave’s roof, causing lots of other parts of the cave to fall as a result of the violent event.

After some snacks in the underground “lunch room” and visited the Goonies’ style bathrooms (yep, there are flushing turlets down there) we made the trek back up the Natural Entrance Route that we basically ran down in the beginning, at a much more leisurely pace.


Disneyland or Carlsbad?


Don’t forget to visit your underground GIFT SHOP! But actually thank god they had snacks for sale down here. This is the only area you’re allowed to eat.

I think we were the only people walking up out of the cave, but I’m really glad we did. It was pretty neat to close in on the entrance of the cave and go from the darkness (I mean, there’s tons of canned light down there so you can see the formations, but you get my drift) to the full, bright light of day. We could hear the calls of hundreds of cave swallows as we climbed back out, too. A lovely sound, but hoo-boy they do NOT smell good.

All told we spent about 5 hours exploring underground, and loved every minute of it. I couldn’t be happier we decided to go back.

On to Deming, NM!


Santa Fe, NM

We spent two weeks in Santa Fe and I completely forgot to blog about it. FAIL.

Santa Fe was downright lovely. We stayed at Santa Fe Skies RV Park about 20 minutes south of town. This is definitely one of the best RV parks we’ve been to since Beaver Dam in Maine and Berwick, Vermont. 360-degree views of the sky do not disappoint here. We shared our site with two bunnies who came around quite often because the neighbors put out lettuce and grapes for them every other day.


Love this late afternoon light.


Our rig basks in the glow of the late afternoon sun. If Maxfield Parrish painted RVs…


A dusting of early morning snow!

The park itself was scattered with some sculpture art and the main office/facilities were great: big kitchen and common area, credit-card operated laundry, solid WiFi, and a front desk that is always stocked with M&Ms.

Santa Fe reminded me a lot of Boulder, Colorado: a smallish size town situated at the base of the mountains with bitchin’ sunsets. But given the local hispanic and Native American populations, Santa Fe has Boulder beat in terms of diversity. The artistic community I’d heard so much about before coming here is indeed alive and well. More on that later.

Here’s a blow-by-blow of everything we did in Santa Fe.

Meow Wolf

We had several friends tell us about this immersive art experience before getting here so it was high on our list of things to do, and it did not disappoint. If you’ve been to Sleep No More in New York, it’s reminiscent of that but far more self-directed as there’s no live-action cast members.

The entire exhibit follows a story arc that you can learn as much or as little about as you want. We were told there are 200+ hours of reading material inside. We definitely wanted to piece together the story as much as we could and all told we spent about 4 hours exploring (and reading) this rabbit-hole style exhibit. It’s nothing short of a feast for the eyes and you should definitely go if you’re ever in Santa Fe (or Denver or Las Vegas, where they also have/are opening installations).


A mastodon bone xylophone (duh).


This guy!


So. Much. Eye. Candy.


Trippy AND beautiful.

Afterward we stuffed face at Mariscos Costa Azul and it was amazing. You should definitely eat here and NOT Tortilla Flats if you do the Meow Wolf thing.

Ten Thousand Waves

As some of you may or may not know, I personally live for hot springs, saunas, steam rooms, and so forth, especially when they are set into natural backdrops. As it was dipping into freezing temps nearly every night we were here, I had to find hot tubs to sit in, somewhere. Lucky for me, this Japanese-style spa was my personal version of heaven on earth. I loved it so much I went twice. No photos allowed, though (and who brings their phone/camera into a hot tub anyway? Except everyone at Spa Castle in Queens, that is).

The first time I was so excited that I drove all 40 minutes away to get there and showed up with my bathing suit but without my wallet. Fortunately they let me pay by giving them my credit card number. There are co-ed, private, and women’s only tubs. The cost of admission for the co-ed or women’s only tubs is $26, which includes towels, sandals, a robe, unlimited soak time, and all the hot tea you want. I spent about 3 hours doing what I like to call “The Circuit”: hot tub, sauna, cold plunge, repeat. The. Best.

Farmer’s Market & Canyon Road

Saturday morning we hit up the Farmer’s Market and the Railyard Artisan Market. We left with bellies full of garlic pesto bread and chocolate donuts, a bag full of eggs and micro greens, and almost came home with a puppy. It WAS the cutest puppy you’ve ever seen and I’m a moron for not taking a photo.

We also walked around the historic downtown area, which feels a lot like a southwestern version of Aspen — lots of high end boutiques, pedestrians, and plenty of restaurants, art galleries, coffee shops, and outdoor spaces.

Nearby Canyon Road is where most of the art galleries are. Walking along this road made me dream of being an art buyer and getting to nose out amazing works of art…on someone else’s dime. 😛

One of my favorite spaces was The Longworth Gallery. We discovered imaginary realist Robert Bissell, whose paintings of bears and butterflies are languid and dreamy, while Michael Parkes’ winged sculptures embodied art nouveau style badassery (plus, they were done in lost wax which blows my mind).

Vladimir Kush also had some very surreal and brain-stimulating pieces. My favorite was this one. It’s far less surreal than most of his work and the online version doesn’t do it justice because the colors are so perfect in person. No photography allowed inside the gallery though, so you’ll have to click the links to check it out!


Bronze otter sculpture.

I also enjoyed drooling over the designs at Rockaway Opals. Someday, I will learn the lapidary skillz!

While we weren’t exactly the buying market for this part of town, we loved seeing the wide variety of sculpture, painting, and handmade items this part of town has on display.

The Pink Adobe/Dragon Room

This place gets a 10 out of 10 for atmosphere. Right across from the San Miguel Mission, this restaurant is, of course, an adobe building with a cozy, historical ambience. After a long day of walking we popped into the Dragon Room Bar next door (part of the same establishment) for happy hour margaritas and some snacks.

We figured we’d pop into the restaurant at opening time, sans reservation, but turns out it was restaurant week, so no soup for us. It didn’t actually matter though, because all of the menus were available at the bar, so we triumphed after all. And maybe ate our weight in enchiladas.


The San Miguel Mission is considered the oldest known church in the continental U.S.


Perfect place to post up for happy hour margs.

Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument

The Tent Rocks hike was recommended to me by a local that I met while soaking at Ten Thousand Waves. While not quite as grand as Bandelier National Monument, it was less of a time commitment and a shorter drive. “Kasha-Katuwe” means “white cliffs,” in the Keresan language of the pueblo. It became a national monument in 2001 and consists of a bunch of cone-shaped rock formations.


Well snap, they DO look like tents.

These formations are the result of volcanos that erupted 6 to 7 million years ago that “left pumice, ash and tuff deposits over 1,000 feet thick. Tremendous explosions from the Jemez volcanic field spewed pyroclasts (rock fragments), while searing hot gases blasted down sloped in an incandescent avalanche called a ‘pyroclastic flow.'” There are boulder caps on top of some of the “tapering hoodoos” (ATTENTION all band members looking for a band name, look no further) that protect the softer rock material below, creating a seemingly precarious balancing act.

The hike starts through a slot canyon that winds its way back until you start ascending to the top of the plateau. At the top you can find tons of bits of obsidian (aka Apache Tears) scattered all over the ground. You’re not meant to take it but it’s really cool to see it baked into the dirt!


The slot canyon at the start of the hike. Each layer of color represents a different era of time/volcanic activity!


Looking up…!


Narrow and steep.

There’s also a shorter “Cave Loop” trail where you can see a man-made cave carved into the rock with remnants of fire smoke on the roof.


The cavate (man-made cave).


Ojo Caliente

And because Ten Thousand Waves wasn’t nearly enough hot spring action for me, I also went to Ojo Caliente about an hour away to scope out their medicinal waters. This natural hot spring area is more rustic than Ten Thousand Waves, with a much larger footprint.


Ready, Set, RELAXATION STATION. The entrance to the spa.

With a small sauna, steam room, and about 7 different pools to soak in ranging from 80 to 106ish degrees, this place is essentially built alongside a hill over a subterranean volcanic aquifer.

The various pools contain different minerals (arsenic, soda, iron, lithia), said to be beneficial for various ailments like arthritis, digestion, etc. There’s also a mud pool that you can wallow in and bake onto yourself but I got there after the sun had descended past the hillside so no mud bath for me.

The soda pool is a silent meditation pool, but wouldn’t you know both times I went in, people were talking? I mean what part about silent doesn’t make sense? Fortunately it was easy enough to find silence in other pools, too. I was able to float in a pool by myself as the stars came out and the moon came up so I consider Ojo Caliente officially unlocked. I would definitely go back for that mud bath, though.

Thanks for being awesome, Santa Fe. Onto Carlsbad Caverns…again!



Petrified National Forest, AZ

Our weekend went by so fast! We left Phoenix on Friday and posted up at our first KOA RV Park in Holbrook, AZ so that we could explore the Petrified National Forest.


I guess we didn’t need to go to the Petrified Forest after all; our RV park had their own ancient log.

We find that KOA parks tend to be on the pricier side but have also understood that they tend to be more consistent in terms of quality. That is to say, newer, cleaner facilities, reliable Wi-Fi, well-sized sites, etc. We found all of those things to be true of this site. The best part about it was that no one else was there when we rolled in, though eventually the park filled up with more rigs by the end of the day.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many rock shops with dinosaurs out front in one main street than we did in Holbrook. On the original Route 66, the street’s main town boasted 4 or 5 rock shops showcasing piles of petrified wood for sale alongside giant dinosaur statues. And that doesn’t include any of the numerous shops just in and outside of town along the highway.


Get yr kicks…


…but also get yr rocks and yr dinosaurs.

We went for an evening walk down the road from the RV park and saw a brilliant sunset on our way back before taking advantage of a reliable WiFi signal to watch Suburbicon on the projector in our living room. 😀


In the morning we drove to the Petrified Forest about half an hour away. It’s definitely a driving park – about 45 minutes to do the entire drive without really stopping much. The map points out 12 main places to stop throughout the park. Most of the stops included either overlooks, short walks, longer walks (think 2.5 miles), or singular things to see like the Painted Desert Inn National Historic Landmark (a roadside hotel from the ’30s), Newspaper Rock (rock faces covered in petroglyphs), Agate Bridge (a 110-foot petrified log spanning a gully), or ancestral Pueblo homes.


Agate Bridge, aka a petrified log across a gully. It’s reinforced underneath but as the nearby signage says, “water always has its way.” Which means eventually this thing will wash away.

We weren’t sure what to expect of this park given the seemingly desolate landscape, but I loved it. Most of the overlooks gaze out upon miles and miles of open landscape. On clear days you can see mountains that are 100 miles away; buttes 20 to 50 miles away were easy to see. We realized we are terrible judges of long distances. A hill that we both were convinced had to be 30 miles away was, in reality, a mere 5.5 miles from us. D’oh!


Looks like….75 miles away. Oh, it’s only 7? Eh, I was close.

We did a one mile walking loop at the Blue Mesa, which is the 2nd oldest geological layer that’s part of the Chinle Formation. The dirt layers show shades of grey, purple, and blue rather than the iron-laden red and orange shades seen in other areas. This layer is over the Mesa Redondo but lies beneath Sonsela, Petrified Forest, and Owl Rock layers. We also started seeing tons of petrified logs – and I’m not entirely sure why this felt so exciting, but it was for me, but I guess it was mainly because of the history of the area.


Log inspection at Blue Mesa. This used to be hot, humid, lush, green, and full of plant and animal life.

So fun fact: 200 million years ago in the Late Triassic Period, these Arizona badlands were a tropical rainforest much like modern day Costa Rica. When Pangea broke apart and the Colorado Plateau was formed, the area was lifted higher up, became much more arid, and morphed into the desert lands we see today. In addition to trees, many other fossils are found here, especially dinosaurs (okay the rock-and-dino combo is clear to me, now). Click here to see a rendering of what the Blue Mesa may have looked like 200+ million years ago.

The trees were part of a conifer forest. The area where most of petrified wood is found was part of a large river basin. Trees fell into the river and were buried in layers of silica-rich sediment. From there, oxygen was unable to decompose the wood any further and over time, minerals from the sediment and groundwater eventually replaced the organic material, eventually crystallizing into quartz.

The petrified wood comes in a rainbow of colors due to the various impurities/trace elements in the sediment. Shades of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, violet, purple, brown, black, white, and grey all come from trace elements like iron, uranium, copper, cobalt, chromium, manganese, nickel, and silicon dioxide.


It’s log, it’s log, It’s big, it’s heavy, it’s wood rock. It’s log, it’s log, it’s better than bad, it’s good.


A close up of the log in the photo above this one. You can see the texture of the tree rings in between the various agate layers.

We saw everything from random chunks of wood by themselves to tiny pieces sprayed over the ground as if spewed from a wood chopper to entire tree trunks along the ground, broken into segments that appear to have been measured and sawed by a piece of machinery. But the logs break into sections themselves over time, as the weight of the logs once they become quartz causes them to break into sections (see below photo).


Costa Rica, huh?

While we loved the park, the main drawback for us was that we spent most of it driving from place to place. So we did still get a lot of walking in, but with as much time as we spend in the car as it is we had hoped for a little less drivin’ and a little more hikin’. All told we spent about 4 hours in the park and were basically dying of starvation.

Afterward we went to Romo‘s for lunch and blissed out on enchiladas and refritos, then walked it off in some of the rock shops on the main drag. Ugh, I know I’m not supposed to collect rocks while living in the RV but I did scurry off with a piece of petrified wood. It’s illegal to collect any of it from the National Park, but there’s no shortage of it on private property and land in the area, so there’s plenty to buy if you’re in the market.


A piece of tumbled petrified wood I bought from a local rock shop/lapidary.


There’s lots of old signage, murals, and kitschy, vintage building facades in Holbrook.

After another lazy evening in, we packed up Sunday morning.

On to Santa Fe!


Phoenix, AZ + Murph is Leaking AGAIN

“Did you know people from Phoenix are called Phoenicians?” This is Travis’s favorite thing to say about Phoenix.

We spent the work week in Phoenician territory and I’ll tell you what: finding a place to stay was a task and a half. Not only are a huge portion of the RV parks here for a 55+ crowd (no exceptions from anywhere we called), but most of them were fully booked months ago. We’re in prime Snowbird territory now.

Fortunately, Travis managed to find a place in Maricopa, which is about an hour away from Phoenix proper, called the Wild West RV Resort. We loved it! The Google reviews were a little…confusing, but the park is definitely remote, which we loved and had all the amenities we needed.


The Wild West RV Resort in Maricopa, AZ

The only drawback, to be honest, was the smell at times. Being only a few miles down the highway from a massive dairy farm, there were more than a few times that the smell outside was pretty pungent. And this is coming from someone who grew up in farm country and actually appreciates the nostalgic smell of a cow farm, as long as it’s ever so faint. On the flip side, when it didn’t smell like a dairy farm, it smelled quite lovely thanks to all the dirt, Creosote bushes, and Acacia trees.


“Fuck You – The Desert”

One of the things I’ve been most excited about with respect to RV life is being able to see friendly faces in all the places. Now that we’re out west, I have a lot of old pals to track down! We started with Danny Wayman, one of Robly’s very first interns, EVER! He’s been in Phoenix for 6 months and treated us to sushi dinner. You’re the best, Danny!



We also got to catch up with my former boss Jovan from my days waiting tables and bartending at Boulder Country Club. We hadn’t seen each other in probably 15 years (WAT) and I finally got to meet his lovely wife, Katie, and whipsmart daughter, Harper. We had a blast catching up and helping Harper with her Highlights magazine. ZOMG does anyone remember Highlights? It’s still around, and it’s still awesome.


So great to see you guys! Can’t wait to babysit! 😀

We had an uneventful Valentine’s Day, which is exactly what we wanted. With all the travel planning we’re constantly doing, neither one of us had any interest in trying to pile V-Day BS on top of it all. 🙂


Our RV park’s back yard.

It rained overnight on Wednesday and in the morning I discovered some water drops inside my closet light. SON OF A. I even re-sealed the front end seams of the RV and re-taped the edges along the top front while we were in Tucson. But apparently, water is still getting in somewhere, somehow. I won’t lie: this is really f*$%ing frustrating. I’m about to go Clark Griswold and get up there with a staple gun and a big blue tarp.


Peace in the desert.

And all of a sudden, the week is over and we’re on the road again.

On to the Petrified National Forest and Santa Fe!

Tucson, AZ

We’ve had two weeks in Tucson and NOTHING HAS BROKEN OR GONE WRONG! 😀

That being said, our truck was still shifting very erratically the entire way here, allegedly due to a failed Power Control Module. We got our hands on a new one, thanks to my dad who loves sourcing all things mechanical.

I found a diesel mechanic nearby called Goldie’s Diesel Repair. Travis has been handling most of the truck maintenance, lovely husband that he is, but he had to leave for NYC to play a gig at Carnegie Hall (NBD!) so I was on my own for this one.

Goldie’s was the right choice. The owner Mike is a master Ford mechanic which is exactly what we needed. Also, when I walked in, the first thing I saw was a fully functional cabinet arcade game of Bad Dudes. I believe in good omens. My brother and I used to play this on NES 3 million years ago and I’m a sucker for nostalgia. They plugged it in and let me go ham while I waited.

90 minutes later they had tested, installed the new PCM, and fixed the problem, which turned out NOT to be the PCM (though the one we had was actually dead, it wasn’t causing the erratic shifting) but some wires that had become exposed from rubbing against a harness bracket. After re-sheathing the wires, all was well. And they only charged $90 for the whole thing…a far cry from our experience in El Paso, where we paid a solid chunk of change but didn’t solve the problem and had two tires that were put on backward. :/

$90 for a quick fix, installation of a new part, and 30 minutes of free Bad Dudes?! Thanks again to all the badass dudes of Goldie’s Diesel Repair. If you have a Ford F-anything, this is the place to go for help.

While Travis was away in New York, eating all the Calexico burritos and kicking ass at Carnegie Hall, I explored a shitload of Gem/Fossil/Mineral shows going on in the area. Tucson has always been this legendary place where late January holds more rock and mineral shows than you can shake a fossilized Orthoceras shell at. In the course of two weeks, approximately 43 separate gem/mineral shows take place here.


Bears carved into a massive slab of smoky quartz.

A lot of what you see is the same mass produced items you’ll find at any garden variety fossil or mineral store: selenite towers, polished specimens of rose quartz, septarian, labradorite, celestite, obsidian, quartz crystal points, shark teeth, ammonites, etc. Tons of jewelry, beads, loose gems, tools, and findings…I had more than a few moments of sadness that all my jewelry making stuffs are in storage at the moment.


A dinosaur skull covered in Huichol bead art.

But I had a blast sniffing out the more unique and new-to-me rocks and gems, and eyeballing every table of opal that I came across. I mean seriously, have you ever looked at an entire table of translucent opal stones before?! It’s bananas. I can’t believe what our planet contains! I had a great time talking to and learning from different vendors, everyone has been insanely friendly and willing to take time to educate if you have questions.


Mexican opals in the sunshine.

I learned all about how fake turquoise is made (reconstituted or just straight up plastic dyed with Tidy Bowl!), what stabilized means, and how to test to see if a particular piece is real, thanks to Clint and Louisa at Burtis Blue Turquoise, discovered Idaho opal over at Spencer Opal Mines, got to practice speaking Spanish with several dealers from Mexico, met someone who knows our surf instructor from Costa Rica (small world!), and met a jeweler based out of L.A. who is willing to give me an accelerated apprenticeship for jewelry making if and when I pass through. Yassss!

I also made a trip to Saguaro National Park to hike around these insanely amazing cacti. At 5 to 10 years old they’re only an inch tall, but can grow over 40 feet tall and live to be 200 years old. That is one hardcore succulent.


Look, ma! Imma cactus!

I caught a gila woodpecker while hiking and saw tons of different plants in addition to the saguaro, including creosote, mesquite, prickly pear, teddy bear cholla, barrel cacti, ocotillo, and more.


Teddy Bear Cholla. What a misleading name! Do NOT hug this thing.

While there, I saw the petroglyphs at Signal Hill. These ancient rock carvings were made by the Hohokam, the name given to the prehistoric people who lived in this area from A.D. 200 until 1450. The name means “the people who have gone.” No one knows for certain what the petroglyphs mean, guesses include religious, ceremonial, solstice markers, decorative motifs, graffiti, or clan symbols.


You can see the holes where woodpeckers have been.

The night I picked Travis up from the airport, we saw a really strange light in the sky that looked like a torpedo or slow-moving meteor. In the moment I was convinced it was a missile or a UFO…turns out it was a SpaceX solar orbit insertion burn from the upper stage of the Falcon Heavy! This was basically us the whole time:

Our last night in town we went to Kitt Peak Observatory for an evening star gazing program. The skies were cloudy the entire drive up, which took about an hour from Tucson. We were nervous that we would have another observatory fail like we did in Fort Davis.

Once we got to the top of the peak at about 6,700 feet, one of our guides, Charles, greeted us in the parking lot and covered up our headlights with red plastic for the conga line down the mountain at the end (the idea is to keep all white light to a minimum so as not interfere with ongoing astronomical research). After an introductory video inside the Visitor’s Center while the full group of participants trickled in, we ate dinner (sandwiches, chips, cookies, yaaay) before heading outside to catch a breathtaking sunset with one of our other guides, Jonathan. He told us about a few of the 26 telescopes we saw between the visitor’s center and the top of the lot.


After dark, we split into two groups. One went to the telescope in the visitor center with Jonathan while the rest of us learned to read a planisphere with Charles before doing some stargazing, locating constellations and stars. And to our immense joy the clouds had cleared, leaving us with perfectly clear skies perfect for looking at the night sky. It was windy as hell, but we didn’t care.

Then the groups switched and we took up in the telescope with Jonathan and looked at Rigel, the Orion Nebula, Andromeda Galaxy, and a globular star cluster called M79.


The spectacular Orion Nebula. This is a colorized image from Kitt Peak’s website; what we saw through the telescope had no color, but rather dark space where the colored gas is.

We were both over the moon with the experience (see what I did there) and would 100% recommend it to anyone thinking of going. Huge thanks to our pal Dave for the recommendation.

On to Phoenix!

Carlsbad & Las Cruces, New Mexico

From Fort Davis we drove to Carlsbad, New Mexico. This already seems like an eternity ago.

We found a great site called Camp Washington Ranch that only has 3 RV sites and is a popular place for weddings in New Mexico (9th in state, so I was told). Its parent organization, CARC, is a nonprofit organization that helps people with developmental disabilities. The ranch was spacious and had beautiful views of the hills on one side and trees (albeit dead due to the winter season), irrigation streams, a pond, and roaming packs of wild turkeys on the other.


Our own private Idaho in New Mexico!

We were excited for this site not only because it was fairly empty (only one other rig was in the RV area) but because it was much closer to Carlsbad Caverns than sites in the town of Carlsbad itself. We rolled in on Friday afternoon, happy for (somewhat) warmer day time temps and our cave tour of the Caverns the following morning.


Gorgeous sunsets, always.


The Land of Enchantment. Look at that new moon!

Our water hose froze again overnight (ugh, so over it) but we rolled out of camp in the morning and arrived at Carlsbad Caverns at about 9:40, only to discover that the Visitor’s Center and the caves were all closed due to the government shutdown.


No soup for you.

Carlsbad has been so high on my list of must-sees that crestfallen is probably the best word to describe my sadz. We were allowed to walk down to the entrance of the cave, which was blocked by a locked up gate, but that was as far as we could go cave-wise. Because we had to motor on to Las Cruces afterward, we decided it ultimately wasn’t worth changing our plans to stay, since we had no idea how long the shutdown would even last. Begrudgingly, we left after exploring the park for 30 minutes or so. Le sigh. First world problems.



We went over to Living Desert Zoo & Gardens State Park instead on the recommendation of a park ranger, which was great! It’s more like a zoo than anything else, with birds, reptiles, deer, bison, elk, a bear named Maggie (it just so happened to be Maggie’s birthday the day we went), bobcats, mountain lions, and more. Most of the animals are rescues or born in captivity. The property also contains lots of wild plants and landscaped areas that are labeled and informative.

We left Camp Washington Ranch the next day in 30 to 50 mph winds. The road to Las Cruces from Carlsbad is pretty desolate with little to no cell service, and our truck’s transmission has been acting up (it’s been shifting really, really erratically when it’s not supposed to). Needless to say, the drive was a bit tense. We went 40mph for the first hour and a half or so and what should have taken a few hours took more like 5 or 6.


View of El Capitan, in Guadalupe Mountain National Park, from the road.

We posted up at La Hacienda RV Resort in Las Cruces, New Mexico, but not before buying a heated hose at Camping World and some pipe insulation at Home Depot. I was getting pretty tired of the hair dryer and/or disconnect-the-water-every-night game.


No more of this bullshit.

I just hired a new guy for our team and he lives in Las Cruces, so it worked out well to be able to stop and train him in person! The best part about this RV park are the facilities – great laundry and showers and a clubhouse area, but the pièce de résistance was the hot tub. I was in that thing at least once a day, even when it was 25 degrees and windy.

The windy drive on the way over from Carlsbad ripped the plastic insulation sheet that was over one of our grey water holding tanks right off. The material itself was pretty brittle and old anyway, but that wind just did it in. It had just been reinforced around the edges with a shitload of screws in December, but as we all know, one stout gust of wind is all it takes and we had more than several. Fortunately, an on-call RV repair guy came the same day and fixed it up for a couple hundred bucks. Murph rides again.

Our truck, on the other hand, didn’t come out so lucky. $1,100 later we had a firm diagnosis and two new tires (one was chronically low each week, the other had a nail in the tire wall), but the part we needed had to be ordered and wouldn’t arrive before we left. We replaced the speed and throttle position sensors anyway, because we had hoped it would fix the issue, but apparently our power control module is dead and needs to be replaced. 😡

On a brighter note, I got to spend a lot of QT training our new team member Larry (who has a pet boa constrictor! And is learning SO fast!) and explored nearby Mesilla, a village established in 1848 that was well known for it’s cantinas and fiestas that drew the likes of Billy the Kid and Pancho Villa.


A seemingly abandoned home in Mesilla.

The roughly 7 square mile area has a central plaza with a church at one end, surrounded by small shops, cafes, restaurants, and adobe-style homes. We grabbed dinner at La Posta de Mesilla, a cavernous restaurant with indoor foliage and a collection of tropical parrots and aquariums with fish in the lobby area. Though, if I’m being honest, I just got sad about the birds. They never see the light of day and would probably be so much happier in the jungles where they came from. Nevertheless, the ambience and food are spot on and I highly recommend eating there!

One of my favorite discoveries was a market called Ristramnn Chile that grows and sells ALL THE CHILES. This open air produce and tchotchke store was like a southwestern bazaar – dirt floors, ceilings covered with hanging, dried chiles, shelves of rocks and minerals, blankets, trinkets, rosaries, artwork, statues, motley grocery items like vanilla and hot sauce, bagged spices, dreamcatchers..and the best part, 90% of it was thoroughly coated with dust. This place had mucho character and I loved it. I bought a dusty-ass rock and some vanilla extract.


Ristramnn Chile: ALL THE THINGS. Also, all the things covered in dust.

Over the weekend we went to White Sands National Monument and hiked the Dripping Springs trail in the Organ Mountains.

White Sands was a very cool stop – one that didn’t warrant a ton of time, though I do think coming for sunset or sunrise would be the best time to go if you can swing it. We drove into the park to run around on the sand, which is made of gypsum crystals. Gypsum is water soluble (like salt) so usually it breaks down and gets swept out to sea, but this magical pocket of sand dunes is a result of rainfall and snowmelt from nearby mountains that dissolve the gypsum and wash it to the basin floor where it settles at the bottom of Lake Lucero. When the water evaporates off the lake, the dissolved minerals become selenite crystals, and when the wind blows, BOOM! Dunes are made.

Pocket Size!

Most sand is made of quartz, which absorbs the sun’s energy and becomes hot in high temperatures. Gypsum sand doesn’t, so this sand also never gets hot even in the height of summer. I took my shoes off and walked around in it at the recommendation of the park ranger, and while it was cold, it felt amazing! It also doesn’t stick to your skin like other sand does – it just falls right off. Apparently sledding on the sand is a Thing people do here, but we skipped it because well…when you’ve sledded down big mountains, a wee sand dune just pales in comparison. We had more fun playing with perspective photos!

Time’s Up! Thanks to our IG followers for the caption suggestion. 😀

Time to go, honey!

After White Sands we hiked with Larry through the Dripping Springs Natural Area in the Organ Mountains right outside of town. The hike up into the rock formations was beautiful, and there are some ruins to view along the way as well as at the top of the hike of a former sanatorium and hotel.


So much fluffy yellow grass.


Hiking with Larry!


Ruins of ye olde hotel.

All vehicular issues aside, we had a great week in Las Cruces and are so happy to be encroaching on consistently warmer temperatures.

Next stop: Tucson, Arizona!



Fort Davis & Marfa, Texas – PS, It’s Friggin’ Freezing

We left soon-to-be-snowy Austin for below-freezing Fort Davis, Texas. A tiny town at an altitude of about 5,000 feet, Fort Davis had a population of 1,200 in 2010. Not sure why the Census hasn’t updated since then, but the place is overwhelmingly underpopulated, which was great. We stayed at MacMillen RV Park.


We rolled in on Monday and on Tuesday, the high temperature was 17 degrees. We had a thin layer of ice on the inside of some of our windows (because we left our thermostat too low overnight) the next morning! We had to disconnect our water supply every night because we didn’t have a way to prevent it from freezing over, so disconnecting it and thawing it out in the morning with the trusty hairdryer was our routine during the week.


Looking toward Davis Mountains State Park

We left our taps dripping during the day only to discover that one of our holding tank pulls had also frozen over. I spent about 10 or 15 minutes below the rig pointing the hair dryer at the bottom of the tank to thaw it out. Fortunately it worked and we were able to drain our galley tank, which was full from leaving the tap dripping all day. Jesus, is this what home ownership is like? Is it seriously always something?

Dealing with the frigid temps hasn’t been the worst thing in the world, but on top of that we discovered one of our propane tank valves was leaking gas, too – not exactly what you want to find when it’s the only full tank you have. We managed to get it open to a point where nothing was leaking out, fortunately, and plan on replacing said valve at our next stop.

In addition to freezing our butts off all week, we went to McDonald Observatory one evening for one of their night time “Star Party” observations, but unfortunately it was too cloudy to see anything so we took the refund, sad that we couldn’t just re-book for another day since we would be leaving before the next one came around. The night skies here are absolutely amazing when it’s clear – with very little light pollution nearby, we saw more stars in the night sky than I can actually recall seeing anywhere else. Needless to say we were bummed we couldn’t ogle the stars and planets through their bitchin’ telescope but hopefully we can find another observatory on our travels.

I managed to find a local yoga class one evening at High Desert Yoga just down the road from us. The class was tiny (3 students, yay!) and a very relaxing, low key class. I also managed to wander into a reptile “museum,” called Rattlers and Reptiles, which was really just a room full of all kinds of snakes that some herpetologist collected and kept in a big room of glass cages like what you see at the zoo…as well as a few tarantulas. Totally worth $4, though.


Albino rattlesnake!

We went to dinner in Marfa on Thursday evening at an amazing restaurant called Al Campo, which my lovely yoga instructor Maggie recommended.  I’ve been curious what this mysterious Marfa place is all about after seeing a few of those iconic photos of the Prada building seemingly in the middle of nowhere.

Here’s what Wikipedia says about Marfa: “Marfa, a small desert city in west Texas, is known as an arts hub. The Chinati Foundation, founded by artist Donald Judd, displays huge indoor and outdoor installations on an old army base. The Ballroom Marfa arts center hosts exhibitions, concerts and the Marfa Myths cultural festival. Outside town is a viewing platform from which the mysterious orbs known as the ‘Marfa Lights’ phenomenon can sometimes be seen.”


The road to Marfa. Pardon the squish on the windshield.

I do wish we’d had more time to spend exploring some of the art exhibits and museums, but we were happy enough with our amazing dinner. There were only 2 other people in the restaurant for 75% of our time spent there, and its compact size, very intentional decor, and dimly lit interior was exactly like a hip, funky eatery in the Village – without all the people. Kind of perfect, TBH. New York vibes without all the New Yorkers and smelly street surprises? Oh HELL yas! I’ll have some more Marfa, please. I ate half a smoked chicken and barely stopped to inhale it was so delicious. We also met the owner, a hella cool Chilean slash Miami-an dude named Tatanka who told us about some great trails that we should hike.


Pretty lights, plenty of wine, and NO PEOPLE. My kind of place.

On the drive back, we stopped on the side of the road to check out the night sky since there is literally no light in between Marfa and Fort Davis. It was breathtaking! And freezing! And then, suddenly, it was time to pack up and leave again.

Next stop: Carlsbad Caverns!