Tuesday, October 30, 2018

On the Road to Arches National Park

So, as I mentioned in the last post, we had full tanks and an almost empty fresh water tank. As we left Albuquerque heading north on US 550, we were gaining altitude and since it was raining, the rain turned to SNOW! It was a light dusting and before long we were descending and the snow was gone.
As we drove, we searched for a place to dump our tanks. We used a website to find a place on our route, but the one we wanted to use in Shiprock, New Mexico, was closed!

We continued into Utah and decided we could go one more night without a problem.
 Our stop for the night was one of our favorites--Goosenecks State Park overlooking the goosenecks in the San Juan River. The closest small town is Mexican Hat named for the rock formation that looks like....a Mexican hat!

The park has changed since we first stopped here in 2008. Now there are ramadas (covers over picnic tables) and the price has increased from $0 to $5 (2011) to $10. It is still a bargain, even without hookups.
The view of the goosenecks in the river is still breathtaking! This is just one of the goosenecks you see from the campground.
The San Juan River meanders through the goosenecks to go 1.5 miles west, however the goosenecks extend the journey to over 6 miles! Occasionally, you see rafters in the river, but not this day.
There was one spot where you could descend a few hundred feet toward the river, but we decided not to go down.
The following morning we drove Moki Dugway. It is a hard packed gravel road that goes from the bottom of the mesa to the top. At the top, if you turn left, the road takes you to Mulee Point which overlooks Monument Valley. The other road takes you to Natural Bridges National Monument. We chose Mulee Point since we needed to get back on the road with Sol.

Here is a view of Monument Valley from Mulee Point.
 Yes, it was cold at Mulee Point, but at least the wind wasn't howling like our last visit!

 As we descended Moki Dugway, we stopped at a pullout to get a picture of the road below.
 Once back to Sol, we packed up and were on our way to Blanding, Utah. There is a convenience store/campground there that charges $5 to dump and fill with fresh water. We were able to dump our tanks, fill with water and continue on our way. Next stop: Ken's Lake, Spanish Valley, Utah.

Albuquerque Fun Continues

 The Boomers are a very social group. During the Fiesta we had Happy Hour every day to find out about the happenings the following day. Another event was the CARE Auction. People donated items to be auctioned with all the proceeds going to Escapee's CARE in Livingston, Texas. It is a place for RVers to go if they need rehab from surgery or they can't be on the road any more. Our auction raised over $5000 dollars! That was a hefty amount for 47 rigs! 

Another perk of being an Escapee Boomer is having a front row RV site at the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta. Another perk is crewing for a balloon. Our pilot and his crew had to leave early so Bob and I were able to stay in Sol and watch the balloons drift over the RV parking area one morning toward the end of the Fiesta. The water tank is in front of Sol!

 Bob and I enjoyed watching the balloons drift over the RVs. Some came pretty close, but none landed on an RV. There is an empty field in the middle of the RVs where some came down. A few went into the cemetery west of the RV Park.

Later that morning, Bob and I went for a drive up to Sandia Crest. We took Cibola National Forest road 165 from Placitas. The road started as a narrow paved road but quickly turned into a hard packed gravel road with many ruts. The views from the road were great when we had them, but the clouds moved around the mountain changing our views.
 Once at the top we went to the overlook to see Albuquerque.
 But the clouds moved in once again!
 It was cold at the peak, but there was 2-mile Cafe and Gift Shop we were able to go in to get warm.
When we went down the mountain, we drove NM 536 down to I-40. Since we were close to Kirtland AFB, we made a stop at the commissary for a few things before returning to Sol.

It was time for a night glow with the special shapes balloons so we walked to Fiesta Park with a group of Boomers to take in the experience. We enjoyed walking around the field as the balloons were being inflated. Then is was 'fire in the hole!' and everything glowed!

While we were waiting for all to be inflated, there was a gorgeous sunset!
After the glow, we all wanted pizza! The Fiesta vendors were extremely crowded so Bob, Jade, Nancy and I drove to Blaze Pizza. You create your own pizza and it was very good. Unfortunately, on our back to our rvs, we couldn't find an open street. The police had everything blocked for the Fiesta traffic. It took us 45 minutes to get back when it was only a 10 minute drive! No, no one delivered to the RV parking area--we tried!

Our last night in Albuquerque four of us helped a Boomer celebrate her birthday at Bosque Brewing Company. Debby told us about a campground on BLM land southeast of Moab--our next destination.

Bob and I had a great time at the Balloon Fiesta--we were there for 15 days! It was time to move on as we had full grey and black tanks and we also had reservations at Arches National Park for the following weekend! Time for more adventures!

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta!

Due to slow Internet and travel days, I am behind on posting. Bob and I had a great time at the Balloon Fiesta. No, we did not get to fly, but we did crew for 6 days.

After leaving Heron Lake, we decided to drive straight through to Albuquerque--our space was available a day early. We got set up next to Sol's bigger sister who is owned by the Boomer hosts for the fiesta.
The Friday before the Balloon Fiesta begins is Albuquerque Aloft---pilots and crews take their balloons to local schools to show students what ballooning involves. Bob and I went with a group to a local elementary school. There were 2 balloons at this school. PTA sold coffee and doughnuts for the parents and it was a HUGE event. We arrived at the school at 6 a.m. to get started setting up our balloon. No, the inflated one is not ours. Ours is still zip-tied on the ground. First step after laying out the balloon is removing the straps.
Once the straps are removed, two people hold the throat of the balloon open so a big fan can blow cold air into the balloon. That is me on the left, the lines are really pulling as the fan inflates the balloon.
 When the pilot determines there is enough cold air, he cuts the fan and gives it a blast of hot air--

If conditions are right, and they were, the balloon lifts into the air and off it goes, complete with the school's principal. Time for the chase team to start its journey trying to determine where the balloon will land. Our balloon landed in a neighborhood on the southeast side of Albuquerque. In fact, it landed in the middle of the street! Bob practiced 'weight on' to keep the balloon from going up again. We were waiting for the van with the balloon bags before laying the balloon on the street.
A woman and her son came out of their house---turns out she knows the pilot and they haven't seen each other in years. It was quite the reunion. In fact, the woman, Patricia, is in the Guinness World Book of Records for the longest belly dance in a hot air balloon!
Once the van arrived, it was time to lay it down and start the packing procedure.
That was the only time during fiesta that Bob and I got to chase. The pilot we were with for the remainder of the fiesta was very conservative about flying---his balloon is hand painted and he didn't want to take chances with wind or rain.

That afternoon, Bob and I went for a walk around Fiesta Field. It was empty!
The following morning we had to be at the field at 6 a.m. to help our pilot, Mark Whiting, with his balloon 'Big Top'. While waiting for him to arrive from the pilots' meeting, we were able to watch Dawn Patrol inflate and take off.
Then, it was time for all the other balloons to inflate! What a sight!
Of course, Bob and I had to get to work! It was not all fun and games. We helped spread a tarp on the wet ground before the pilot took the balloon out of the bag. Then we had to stretch it out and take off the straps. Next step was to make sure the lines weren't crooked and the crown was hooked to the top correctly.
 Bob and I were each on the throat, so no pictures of 'Fire in the Hole!'
 The circus scene is hand painted, it took 1000 hours to complete.

Yes, we got to practice 'weight on' while the pilot stayed static (didn't fly). He enjoyed talking to the kids and letting them get in the balloon. Each pilot is given trading cards which they give to people who come by the balloon. Mark gives out red noses if a child can tell him how many animals are on the balloon.
While he was doing this, I was able to get pictures of other balloons as they inflated and lifted off....
 After we took 'Big Top' down, Mark took us all to breakfast at his favorite local restaurant. So, to get an idea of what we did for the balloon fiesta repeat the above for 6 days and add night glows to the mix--we had to be at the field at 5 p.m. to ready the balloon for a static night glow. We had a blast working with Mark and his crew--Vickie and Richard. But that was not all we did while at Balloon Fiesta so I will save the rest for the next post!

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Heron Lake State Park: Base for More Adventures

Next stop, Heron Lake State Park south of Chama, New Mexico. Heron was a convenient stop for us to park and leave Sol so we could meet friends in Pagosa Springs, Colorado. When we arrived at Heron Lake, our first activity was to dump tanks as we hadn't dumped since Amarillo, Texas. The parks we visited in New Mexico either didn't have dump stations or were not convenient for us. While Bob took care of the tanks, I drove through the campground to find a site. The host informed me that his loop was the only on that would remain open beyond Sunday--we planned to stay until Tuesday. I found one site that would fit Sol and put our bicycles near the picnic table so I could let Bob know which site we had. It was a pull-through site, but we had to back Sol because it was a tight eyebrow with some low hanging trees. All worked out as the site was excellent for solar!
 The car fit nicely to the side.
We walked the nature trail near our site, then drove through the campground loop that was closing---the sites there were HUGE and good for solar.

Bright and early Saturday morning we set out to meet Connie and Larry in Pagosa Springs, Colorado. The planning for this trip began while we were in Siloam Springs! Bob and I visited Creekside Taproom and saw a sticker on their refrigerator room door that advertised Riff Raff Brewery in Pagosa Springs. I took a picture and texted it to Connie---Bob and I are Riff and Raff when we are with Larry and Connie.

She immediately texted back that they could make it to Pagosa Springs in two weeks if we could meet them. We checked our calendar and it was a GO! Originally Bob and I were going to drive to Pagosa for the day, but then we decided we would rather stay overnight. Connie found a place that had a 2 bedroom bunkhouse with kitchen and sitting room at Healing Waters Resort and Spa that was perfect for all of us.

So on Saturday morning Bob and I set off for Pagosa Springs, Colorado. We arrived before Larry and Connie so we decided to do a little exploring since we couldn't check in to our hotel. We found that the spring at Pagosa Springs is the deepest according to Guinness World Book of Records.
The spring reminded us of the hot springs at Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone National Park.

Bob and I walked along the river. There were several places where the springs flowed into the river and people were enjoying a soak.
Once Connie and Larry arrived, it was off to Riff Raff Brewing Company for lunch and a couple of brewskis!
After lunch, it was time to check in at Healing Waters. Bob and I took the room with the queen size bed and Larry and Connie took the room with the king. Our room also had bunk beds. Bob tried the top bunk, but the head clearance was a little short.
After checking in, we went walking to The Springs. It was a nice area with lots of activities.
There was even an outdoor chess set that I think our grandson would have enjoyed!
Back at the hotel, we decided to go in the hot tub. It was extra hot so we didn't stay long. We went back to the bunkhouse and played 'pegs and jokers.' Of course, the gals won 2-0. Then it was time to go soak in the pool. The temperature wasn't quite as hot as the hot tub so we spent most of the evening in the pool.

The next morning, it was time to say goodbye and go back to our motorhomes. Once again, we enjoyed our time with Larry and Connie. We are looking forward to our next adventure with them....wherever it may be!
 Bob and I drove back to Heron Lake and decided to spend just one more night. Then it was on to Albuquerque for the Balloon Fiesta!

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Eagle Nest and the Enchanted Circle

Our drive to Eagle Nest Lake State Park was a pleasant one. The road construction didn't delay us. When we arrived, we had our choice of several lakefront sites. After filling with water, we parked and walked to the visitor center. Unfortunately, it was closed.
 So, it was back to Sol to get the car and go south to Angel Fire to visit Vietnam Memorial State Park. This is a quilt that was on display in the museum.
 The chapel had a unique shape overlooking the area where a columbariam is planned.
 After visiting the memorial, we drove around Angel Fire, seeing the ski area and all the lodges for winter sports.

Back at Sol, we looked at our New Mexico Gazetteer to decided where we wanted to go the next day. We decided to drive Enchanted Circle. We drove north to Red River, going over Bobcat Pass which is 9800+ feet in elevation. After walking around the winter ski town, we continued on to Taos, New Mexico. We were disappointed with Taos as it was crowded, dusty and traffic was terrible! Once we made it out of Taos, we drove east on US 64 to see if it was the way we wanted to drive with Sol when we left Eagle Nest. IT WAS NOT a road for Sol. It was extremely narrow with guard rails and sharp turns.

Once back in Eagle Nest, we decided to find Comanche Creek Brewing Company. It was an adventure following the signs directing us to the brewery. We traveled about 2.5 miles down a dirt road. After passing several homesteads, we came upon a log cabin at the end of the road. Yes, it was the brewery and yes, it was open!
The inside of the cabin houses the brewery and all seating is outdoors. There was a port-a-potty behind the cabin. We each enjoyed a brew before returning to Sol.
I have to say during our day of exploring Enchanted Circle, we did see some color changes in the mountains and they were a nice contrast to the green of the pines and firs.
 After two nights at Eagle Nest, it was time to move on to Heron Lake State Park where we would leave Sol for a night and go on an adventure with our friends Larry and Connie.