PASSED ON A 1995 GMC VANDURA

While in Tularosa, I pass by a house with a high top camper van in the back.  Been wondering if it runs.  Looks in good shape.

So the Sunday before we left for Conchas Lake I was passing the house when the owner was out.  I stopped and introduced myself and asked if he was interested in selling the van.  He was.  The van was in a tight place, but we were able to get inside.  It looked excellent inside.  No leaks.   Carpet was in good shape.  I can stand up in it.

He was honest about the issues.  No refrigerator.  A electrical issue which ran the battery down until he put in a cut-off switch under the hood.  A huge engine.  454 on a 3500 chassis which means you can watch the fuel gauge drop (NCLady made the pantomime of pouring out of a glass when she heard the engine size).  1995 so no OBD port.  And the same price he paid for it years ago.

There’s a small Class C parked on the side of a property nearby.  Maybe I should introduce myself there next.

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IT WAS MOSTLY CLEAR A COUPLE OF MINUTES AGO

Ya gotta be aware in the mountains.  I’ll give you an example.  At 4:30pm I decided to take HappyDog for a mile and a half hike on our almost private hiking path.  A bit away from the house I get a good 360 view of the sky.  A few clouds are building over the mountains to the east.  A small cell to the west.  Another to the northwest.  Nothing impressive.  Winds are coming from the southeast so I can ignore all but the southeast clouds.

We continue our walk.  Another 300 yards and the clouds look a little bigger.  Sure.  Sure we can get back before the possibility of rain.  The desert is right down the hill.  We get moisture falling from the sky about six times a year.  Usually the clouds build up, get my hopes up, and wastes itself within spitting distance.    What I’m trying to say is that it just doesn’t rain very often here, so I’m loath to cancel a walk when it looks like it may rain.  I’ve been disappointed too many times.

By the time we turn around, the strong southeast wind and a weak west wind are slamming together a mile or two from the house and the result is a wet angry cell.  It sweeps down the canyon towards us.   

The air temperature has dropped twenty degrees to mid 50’s.  A stiff wind is kicking up dust and pollen.  We don’t lag.  The first drops are pinging on the carport as we step onto the porch.  I run around closing windows then watch drops slam into stuff.  I catch a handful of drops.  Definitely colder than the air.  In fact, it’s not unusual to get sleet with the rain any time of the year.

So glad I wasn’t on a trail south of Cloudcroft which is much higher.  Hypothermia is no stranger to the area.  According to the Mayo Clinic, “Hypothermia is a medical emergency that occurs when your body loses heat faster than it can produce heat, causing a dangerously low body temperature. Normal body temperature is around 98.6 F (37 C). Hypothermia (hi-poe-THUR-me-uh) occurs as your body temperature falls below 95 F (35 C)”.

I was careless because I didn’t pack my rain gear.  I must repeat the following mantras fifty times, “Rains in the mountains can come quickly and from any direction” and “Carry rain gear”.

So remember when you decide to go hiking in the mountains.  Rain clouds build with amazing speed.  You don’t want to be caught in storms without the proper protection.

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BOOK REVIEW, GRANDMA GATEWOOD’S WALK

“It would be a nice lark”, said the 67-year-old grandma when asked why she was walking the Appalachian Trail in 1955.  I’d never heard of Grandma Gatewood.  Did a little research.  What a woman.  A tough woman.  A lot tougher than I will ever be.  She was the first woman to walk the Appalachian Trail from end to end and did it two more times.  Then she hiked several more long, long hikes.  All while carrying less stuff than when I go for a six mile hike.  Drank from streams, foraged, asked strangers for food, lit fires to keep wild dogs away.  Became a celebrity.

Read her story in Grandma Gatewood’s Walk by Ben Montgomery.  I’d give it a 3-1/2 out of 4.

 

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CONCHAS LAKE, NM. MAY 20, 2017

Location: Conchas Lake, Bell Pointe Campground, New Mexico.  35.428573, -104.192930, then home.

Yep, fishermen left early and we heard every one.  After being pummeled by winds for five days, it was calm.  Lucky tournament fishermen were cutting through glass calm water when we left.

We left early so we could get home early.  Were making good time when my somewhat iffy navigational skills caused us to pass the road we came in on, NM129.  Margo stepped on the brakes, the trailer electric brakes quickly slowed us too late.  Unfortunately, we were pointed northwest when we needed to go south.  The road was two lane with no shoulders and no pull offs.  Not a single place to turn around with a travel trailer.  Nothing but rolling hills and the occasional dwelling. There was nothing more to do that go forward.

When we got to Las Vegas we stopped for gas at a full service station.  You heard me right, full service.  The young man said the little old ladies were their best customers.  It’s next to the Smiling Faces Restaurant.

We plotted our next path.  No way we were going to make up lost time.  We decided to jump on IH-25 for a bit and exit at NM3.  That will pop us out below Vaughn.  About 100 yards in on NM3 there were two signs.  The first was an icon of an 18-wheeler and a double 18-wheeler and underneath, not recommended.  Uh-oh.  The next sign was Villanueva State Park.  If there is a state park down this road, how bad can it be.  It means travel trailers and RVs travel this road.  We continue.

The road meanders along the Pecos River and past tiny towns for ten miles.  It’s a narrow valley, so the irrigated plots are quite small.  However, it is beautiful as is all the land along waterways.  We power up a hill and are back in desert land.  Can’t get lost because  there are no other roads until we pass under IH-40.  The road changes.  Margo hit it spot on when she said the road looks like they just laid it on top of the ground.  And it did look that way.  No ditches.  Lots of ups and downs and torsion twisting.  Not a road to speed on.

Seven hours after leaving Conchas Lake we arrived home.  Our wayward journey had come to an end.

Home, sweet home.  Big home.  Lots of square feet.  Low wind.  A dog I don’t have to watch over when I let her out in the yard.  My big, comfortable bed.  A television with a million channels and the internet to catch up on my forums.  Big refrigerator full of yummies.  Yes, indeed, there are some nice things about a sticks n bricks home.

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CONCHAS LAKE, NM. MAY 19, 2017

Location: Conchas Lake, Bell Pointe Campground, New Mexico.  35.428573, -104.192930.

Friday, our last full day at the park.  Finally, the winds were dying down.  The drizzle woke me with a tap-tap-tapping sound on the membrane of the roof.  The sky was a low blue-gray.  Not going to go walking in that.  Snuggle deep and enjoy the pleasure of the rain.  And it is a pleasure.  I live on the edge of a desert and get to hear rain only about five times a year.  Gotta enjoy it when I can.

An hour later the winds had shoved the gray away and left high puffy clouds.  These turned into squall cells that passed by every hour or so, raising the wind and dropping the temps.  Cabin fever.  We must get out.  We took a long walk around the lake.

conchas lake lounge l 2017 may 19

The lounge/restaurant/convenience store/gas station/bait shop.

conchas lake lounge 2017 may 19

The building is quite long.

conchas lake lounge back 2017 may 19

Back of lounge.  Original stairs fell apart so more to the right.  However, they don’t reach the water either.

conchas lake marina 2017 may 19

Marina.

Don’t know if I’ve mentioned this but the young man at the Corps building said he’d been working there since December and could count the number of low wind days on three hands.  Some places are just like that, I guess.

NCLady left today heading west.  The campground is filling with RVs, bass boats and matching trucks for the weekend bass tournaments.  Very expensive boy toys.  Doesn’t anyone use a simple jon boat with a small motor anymore?  Some of them spent time on the lake pre-planning their fishing spots.

Late in the afternoon, HappyDog and I took a three mile walk past the boat ramps.  Her training is coming along nicely.  The long stay is tough for her.  So is the far away sit and stay.  She comes loping up and asks, “Whata ya want momma?”

As a bonus I found a large crank lure on the side of the road.  Barely fits my hand.  How big of a fish do they grow here that they use such a lure?  We found a smaller lure a couple of days before and Margo found a fillet knife in a sheath.  Yeah, buddy.  Walking pays off.

We go to bed knowing we’ll be awakened at 4:30 when the fishermen head out to their tournaments.

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CONCHAS LAKE, NM. MAY 18, 2017

Location: Conchas Lake, Bell Pointe Campground, New Mexico.  35.428573, -104.192930.

Ye Gods!  Woke to stinging rain and huge winds.  Whitecaps on the lake, even in the protected areas.  Squirrels yelled “Kowabunga” as they surfed across from the west side.  We stayed indoors as much as possible because we didn’t want to risk having the door ripped off the hinges.  We couldn’t even get in a walk.

I lunched at the picnic table using the astronaut method.  Sandwich in left hand.  Left edge of palm on potato chip bag.  Right hand to drink and grasp chips.  Mis-coordinated and half a bag of chips turned into frisbees.

I returned to the Corps area to recharge my introvert batteries in the peace and quiet.

We hung about in our little 176 square foot home away from home, reading, eating too much and stepping over restless dogs.  Boy, that space seemed small.  Looked out to see what others were doing.  About half get out for some sort of exercise.  A neighbor was lifting weights he brought along in his Class A RV.  A woman bicycles when the wind isn’t bad.  Walking the dog is the most popular exercise.  This is a great place to walk dogs.

Late afternoon I opened the door, stepped out and let the dogs out before properly scouting the area.  DotDog thought it prudent to launch herself at a large mastiff before I could leash her.  Numb nut.  I apologized to the couple with the well behaved big boy.  I guess the secret is to hang the leashes on the door rail.

We were pushed over to the showers.  Water was a bit on the cold side.  Hair was dry before we got back to the trailer.

The winds are supposed to go down tonight. Yay.

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CONCHAS LAKE, NM. MAY 17, 2017

Location: Conchas Lake, Bell Pointe Campground, New Mexico.  35.428573, -104.192930.

Food.  We need food.  Thirty plus miles on NM104 to Tucumcari, NM which we had never been in before.  Found the Lowe’s Grocery.  One reviewer called the store limited.  Obviously, they are used to very large grocery stores.  This one was sized to serve the community.  Wasn’t real big, but wasn’t real small either.  Found everything we needed.  NCLady’s Class C was in the parking lot when we finished shopping.  Not sure how we didn’t bump into her as we re-roamed the unfamiliar aisles.

We took a leisure drive back and were surprised to find NCLady on our tail.  She admitted she drove that Class C like a bat out of hell.

We stop at the Army Corp of Engineers property overlooking the dam, 35.407038, -104.191196.  The place is small but wonderful.  A park with picnic tables, tall trees, and real grass, an anomaly in New Mexico, A large group covered picnic area which was filled with public school kids from Tucumcari, six hole frisbee golf course, horseshoe pits, volleyball court, a small building with a large petroglyph, a 2′ wide core sample, and a small museum hosted by Michael, a knowledgeable young man.

We visited the visitor’s center and read about the construction of the dam.  It was part of the New Deal designed to put people to work.  Done with little mechanized equipment so more men could be hired.  Now we know how all those rocks got on the earthen dam.  Hard scrabble men put them there one at a time.

They also built the town that was needed for the workers.  They even had a large theater and a baseball team.  Four years later the dam was finished and the buildings were torn down to be used elsewhere.

conchas lake below dam 2017 may 18.jpg

conchas lake corps shade 2017 may 18

Shade, wonderful shade.

conchas lake corps bbq pit 2017 may 18.jpg

BBQ grill for the masses.

conchas lake corps playground 2017 may 18

The kids loved the playground.

conchas lake corps west 2017 may 18.jpg

The room with the awesome petroglyph and core sample.

conchas lake pavillion 2017 may 18.jpg

Pavilion.

In a land low on green, I knew I would return to this place again.  We fight the wind to home away from home.

I do so admire the concrete tables and enclosed shelters designed to last for a couple of centuries.  Today it became a good wind block.  Tenters had it bad.  Our neighbors in a large four-man tent said they laid down for a nap and woke up because the tent was hitting them on the head.  Tents were tied and retied on every attachment point available.  They must have done a good job because we saw no tents rolling down the roads.

We set up for dominoes.  I strapped the large picnic tablecloth down with paracord to make a smooth shuffling surface.  The dominoes wouldn’t stand upright.  NCLady brought over a pack of cool domino holders.

We taught NCLady to play straight (or counting) dominoes.  Cut my teeth on dominoes.  Many an hour watching and listening to the shuffle and slap of dominoes on tables.  Margo is a cut throat player.  “If you can’t count — cut.”  Never sit to her left because you will have to play immediately after her.  You will be crushed.  NCLady thanked us by contributing margaritas which had to be large so the wind wouldn’t blow the glasses over.

At dark we headed indoors.  We had secured the TV to the wall to get it out of the way.  All the online reviews say there is no television reception what so ever.  On a lark, Margo turned it on and bing, bing, bing — got three channels: PBS, a cartoon, and something else I can’t remember.  Thank you previous owner for putting in a bat wing looking antenna booster.   Reviewers also said there was no phone service.  Perhaps they were wrong about that too.  I started my AT&T phone.  Four bars out of four.  The device must be drunk on such strength.  I sent a text to my sister in Texas to confirm.  She replied.  We DO have cell service and strong like a bull.  I see a tower in the distance.  Must be new.  NCLady tells us her Verizon has zero bars.  She borrows Margo’s phone to try and reserve an extra day.  Nope.  All sites taken.

We have high hopes that our next visit we will have wifi.  We saw ditch digging equipment near the fire station and a big roll of plastic tubing.  If I had to make a wild a**ed guess I’d say they were putting in fiber optic lines.  Travelers expect nothing less these days.

I will mention the campers were well behaved.  No rowdy parties.  No music.  Nobody had fires going because of the wind.  Margo knew there would be a wind issue and planned all our meals to be cooked in the travel trailer.  It was even too windy to use the electric skillet on the picnic table.  I’m not sure the food would have stayed in it.

The winds strengthened.  Couldn’t go outside without getting sand in our eyes.  Shrubs near the trailer were almost laying on the ground.  The travel trailer felt like we were at sea.   So much so that we took anti-nausea pills.  Good chance of rain tonight, and tomorrow the winds will reach their max.

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