Wednesday, March 31, 2004


31 March, 2004. El Paso is no fun to drive through. The closer you get to the border, the more it feels like you're already in Mexico. Just as you cross into El Paso from New Mexico, there is a great Welcome Center with hundreds of pamphlets and booklets detailing a large portion of Texas. We appreciate the frontage roads that run along the interstates in Texas cities since our microbus doesn't like to go over 60 mph. We almost stayed at the Franklin Mountains State Park but they wanted $3 per person just to enter the park and $8 to camp with no clean water available. Apparently, it's not much fun camping there anyway. But we were also told that it's a great place for bicyclists. So, instead of paying a total of $14 to camp there, we found the Robin Hood RV Park with full hookups for $15.


31 March, 2004. Robin Hood is also a trailer park community. We were the smallest camping vehicle there. They have a recreation / game room, hot tub, sauna and pool (the pool wasn't open but it looked pretty nice). On my first trip into the rec room, a woman invited me to play penny poker with them. They played every Wednesday and were trying to get their Saturday games going again. One of the men who was there boldly advised me the she "sucked at poker." He was just having fun but I thought it was pretty rude. Overall, they semed like a fun group but I was tired and politely declined their offer. We also had an old friend visit our little driveway-sized space and had lots of fun that night. The bathrooms were inside the rec center and the doors were locked at 11 pm. I was still drinking beer so I had to improvise. Granted, most people have bathrooms in their RV, but a simple bathroom should be available in any RV Park. Even the most primitive campsites offer at least an outhouse. The streets in the park were named things like Little John Lane, etc. It was friendly and fun.

Tuesday, March 30, 2004


30 March, 2004. Caballo Lake State Park offers great views and remote, lakeside primitive campsites as well as sites with electricity. We decided on a primitive lakeside site and it was quite enjoyable. In fact, we found that New Mexico State Parks are among the nicest we've encountered. They have showers, modern plumbing and are well maintained. Prices average $8 for primitive, $10 for developed and $14 for electric sites.


30 March, 2004. Hatch is a cool little town with only one motel ($50 per night). We picked up some chili peppers ($13.95 for an 18-inch bunch) to send to our families in Illinois. Apparently, there hasn't been a new crop of chilis in 2 years and they don't expect a crop next year either. We were told by a disgruntled chili store owner that several of the shops are actually getting their chilis from Mexico and that nearly all of the family-owned chili farms there were in peril due to immigrant Mexican workers replacing the traditional family workers. She also told us that Hatch chilis are the best because of the unique, rich soil in the area. We met some bicyclists from England who were put up at the motel by a local church. They were heading east to California and then flying to Hawaii. They averaged 50 miles per day and said that riding through El Paso was the most dangerous part of their journey because they had no choice but to ride along the interstate (I-10). We also got some more postcards to wallpaper the microbus.

Monday, March 29, 2004


29 March, 2004. More wind. From City of Rocks State Park, we took highway 61 to highway 152 over the Mimbres Mountains. The road is well paved and reaches over 8,200 feet at Emory Pass. The drive is well worth the effort with mountain forests and superb views. We encountered tiny patches of snow on the mountain and by 3 p.m., we were on the beach with our shirts off. It's nice to hear water crashing against the shore again at Elephant Butte, even if it is the Rio Grande. The water level is very low here too (as was Lake Mead), but it gave us a chance to camp out on Rattlesnake Island Beach. We got full bars on both the phone and internet. This park is just off I-25 near Truth or Consequences, NM. It is our first reminder that with water, come bugs. It was nice to have our own little beachfront property for $8 per night (checkout is 9 p.m. the following day!). The wind really picked up overnight and it got fairly cold but once the sun comes up, you're back to a warm beach setting. You can camp practically anywhere along the beach and there were many people fishing and eating the fish (not sure if I would recommend eating the fish out of here). There is a modern visitors center and 2 showers in the main bathroom.

Sunday, March 28, 2004


28 March, 2004. We've been forgetting to date our entries but we began our trip at Lake Mead, NV on March 1, 2004. We'll try to keep the entries dated from now on. City of Rocks State Park was a nice surprise. In the middle of nowhere lies this outcropping of rocks. Wind and weather have carved the volcanic rocks into rows of massive monoliths (approximately 20 to 50 feet high). There are 52 campsites (10 of which are electric- the most boring in the park). Most of the other 42 sites are embedded within the rocks. If you like to climb around on rocks- this is the place. You can walk up into the rock and travel from one end of the park to the other with little effort. There are lots of little passages and balancing rocks throughout the park. There is a visitors center and the very friendly host there will insist that you sign the guestbook. There was a guy making arrowheads at the time and there's even a hands-on display of some antlers, bones, etc. They offer a free video about the park but we didn't watch it because we were too tired fighting the wind on the way in. New Mexico is Very Windy, and our microbus does not like the wind. There were apparently rattlesnakes abound but fortunately, we didn't encounter any here either. There is also a short scenic drive that overlooks the park. It got really cold at night but we encounter that almost everywhere we stay in the desert. No phone or internet signal.

Saturday, March 27, 2004


(27 March, 2004) This campground was fairly boring as well. However, you can find (quoted from the AAA Guide) "agate, jasper, opal, chalcedony, quartz crystals and carnelian- and amethyst filled geodes in the rhyolitic matrix." We found some crystals. There is a shower but you have to push the button several times before it gets hot. The showers are in a modern bathroom with sinks and there is one other outhouse at the other end. There are also electric sites. The view west is pretty nice (very flat, aside from the small Florida Mountain Range) and there are a lot of barrel cacti that are also pretty cool. There is also a trail up the small mountain that borders the park. We didn't see any rattlesnakes but apparently they were there. We got a cell phone signal but no wireless internet.

Friday, March 26, 2004


(26 March, 2004) We stayed in a little motel called the Hacienda Motel. It was $22 per night for 2 people (exactly $24 with tax). Apparently room #20 had the best Television set. We were very impressed with the cable (Comedy Channel, History Channel, Discovery Channel, etc.)- better than some of the $60-$80 motels we stayed in. There was only one small bed but for the money, we were pretty happy with it. We even got the manager to give us a remote control for the TV with no deposit. The shower and tub were also cleaner than many of the more expensive motels we've stayed in over the past month. Deming has many of the small, cheap motels that we've been looking for, without success, throughout the southwest. We got a good signal, both phone and internet in Deming.

Thursday, March 25, 2004


(24 to 25 March, 2004) Be prepared to be bored! As far as historical entertainment, plan on about 20 minutes, maybe. This is where Poncho Villa crossed the Mexican border with about 1000 bandits and ran amok, killing a few amercans and getting a couple hundred of his own men killed. There is a visitors center, some restored relics and some remaining buildings from Camp Furlong. The Campground is on the site of Camp Furlong just accross the street from town. You could walk accross the town in less than 5 minutes. When we arrived, the main well for the town was down, and they were on their secondary pump. We were able to get a shower and some water the first day. The second day there was no water in the bathrooms, no shower, but the spigots worked. When the shower worked, it was awesome- it's handicapped accessible, you can sit down in the shower! We stopped and talked to the campground host who suggested that if we didn't need electric, to stay in the primitive tent area and save the 2 bucks for the developed sites, which come with their very own picnic table. So we spent $8 a day. Well worth it for the shower alone. The second day, we met a German couple biking there way from Florida to LA. They gave us a lot of good info on where to go in Texas, and we gave them a lot of good info on Arizona (and several maps). We had planned to stay longer, but without a shower, it was time to move on. We got a good phone and wireless internet signal here.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004


(23 March, 2004) Very cool rock formations here! It's called the "Land of the Standing-Up Rocks" and "Wonderland of Rocks." There are towering rock spires, massive stone columns, and balanced rocks weighing hundreds of tons. Getting there from Cochise Stronghold was easy, it was a short drive and we needed a break. We stayed in the campground at Bonita Canyon. There is a road up Bonita Canyon to Massai point, 6870 ft. There is a great view from there, well worth the mountain drive. You can see for miles, and the rocks go on forever. We weren't adventurous enough to hike down. They have free van service from the campground up to the top each morning and several trails down. The campground has water, no showers. No Verizon service at all. We also ran into another campmobile, early '80's. Dorthy and Glenn were from Michigan and traveling with two large dogs. We first met them in Coshise Stronghold, they chased us to Chiricahua. They were a lot of fun.

Monday, March 22, 2004


(22 March, 2004) Get a really good map. We lucked out, I think. There are several miles of unpaved roads to get here. Nearing the campground, you cross four or five streams. The campground hosts had a large RV in there, but I have no idea how it got there! The bathrooms are outhouses, but there is potable water. This was the hiding place of the famous Apache leader and chief, Cochise. Again, a popular place for climbers, filled with a younger crowd in the unimproved campground.

Sunday, March 21, 2004


(21 March, 2004) We had just a ball at this campgound! First, on the road up there, there is a sign for camping that sends you down a dirt road and over a creek to...well, nowhere. We found some other people who told us that the campgound was just up the paved road we just got off. We headed that way only to find the "campground full" sign. So we cruised around to the host to beg. He said that there was someone who just left and we took that space. About an hour later, a family walked up and asked if they could share our spot! The campground host had sent them our way because we had the VW Pop-Up and were not going to use the tent space anyway. They were great. She was from Austrailia, He was from France, and the two girls had attributes of both. So another hour goes by and yet another carload of campers come up to ask if they could share. Even later that evening, a moterhome rolls up to share! We were one big happy family. Before all this, we had met the nicest lady from Hawaii. She is an attorney and when she comes to the mainland, feels the need to drive and drive. It was all just a hoot! The campground is primitive with outhouses- got a signal, no internet, phone worked. The sunset from just below the campground at the information pull-off is worth the wait, and the views of the mountains are just pristine. Here, the scare was all about Black Bears. This place is for bird nerds! I also saw the brightest meteor of my life.

Saturday, March 20, 2004


(20 March, 2004) Most of the forest was closed due to mountain lions stalking humans. The campground was the only one open at the time. They were improving and adding new campsites while we were there. The bathrooms are still outhouses and there is no water, except for the stream. At just over 4000 feet, the saguaro cacti end and the campground is just above that. The road going up there is fillled with pull-offs for the views, and well worth checking out. We stayed in a brand new campsite that was wheelchair accessible. We didn't know it when we pulled in, but it was so new they hadn't put up the signs yet. We weren't able to get internet access, but the phone worked!

Friday, March 19, 2004


(18 to 19 March, 2004) In search of a cheap motel in Tucson, we drove all over the city. Here is a hint: they are all on Oracle Rd. The first night we stayed in what can only be descirbed as a crack motel. There are four or five within a three block area- the sothernmost ones look better. The next night we stayed in a different motel, and it was not quite as bad, but still not safe and not clean.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004


(15 to 17 March, 2004) Just east of Phoenix lies Tortilla Flat, Arizona. The campground at Tortilla Flat is hosted by Kathy and Jim who have been here for 7 years. They are, like so many campground hosts we've encountered, very friendly and a lot of fun.

Tortilla Flat lies on the old Apache Trail. The USDA Forest Service campground is right across the street. Over 100 years ago, it was a stagecoach stop and hasn't grown since; population. 6. There is a General Store, Resturant / Bar (highly recomended for a beer or two and their world class Chili) and there's even a post office. The campground has no showers and they lock the gate at dark. It's closed from May 1 to October, but I would advise not to go during April- that's when the rattlesnakes start to appear! If you have ever wanted to experience the old west and maybe search for the Lost Dutchman's gold, this is the place.

Closer to Apache Junction is a State Park. Across the street from there is an old mining town- we did'nt go, looks like a tourist trap, but may be worth checking out.

We installed the Wilson Trucker Antenna here. The campground Host said there was no chance for a signal, and considering the terrain we didn't think so either. BUT, we were able to get a signal. We had to drive up the road a bit to actually make a call, but the signal is there and makes the antenna worth the cash. We were able to find it at a truck stop in Kingston, AZ, They had the adapter for the StarTac Phone, but not the Verizon Aircard. No Verizon service. We ended up going into Apache Junction to get a signal, very shaky, lots and lots of username errors. If you dont keep the conection alive, you will be dropped.

We also tried out the solar shower for the first time. It sounded like a dumb idea at the time, but glad we have it! At least we can wash our hair! We recommend baby wipes also!

Monday, March 15, 2004


(15 March, 2004) We only drove through, and regret not stopping for longer. It looks like a very quaint little town, for being an intersection of two Interstate Hwy's. From there we went south to Phoenix. We pulled off just north in Black Canyon, AZ. We ate lunch at the Four Bee's Resturant. It opens early and closes at 2pm. It's well worth pulling off the highway. If you are looking for a hotel in the Phoenix area, try the little hotel just south of the Four Bee's. They quoted us $40 a night. The cheapest thing we could find in Phoenix was the Best Western for $80. Our Verizon service was off and on at the hotel- we got a lot of username errors, but it did work.

Sunday, March 14, 2004


(14 March, 2004) Everything you have heard about The Grand Canyon is true. Now to plan your trip, drive in, take a look and move on. There are lots of places close enough to stop and get up close and personal with nature, without all the tourists. The signal there was off and on. We really didn't stay long enough to check it out. We gave up on staying in the campground because of the snow. March 8, 2004. We stayed in the Holiday Inn Express and after getting a full refund, we still felt ripped off! Lots of problems at that Hotel, something Holiday Inn should look into. Yes, we do have our comment card ready to send off. We left The Grand Canyon and took Hwy 180 into Flagstaff. The drive is awesome.

Saturday, March 13, 2004


(12 to 13 March, 2004) We stayed at the National Parks Campground at the marina just east of Searchlight, AZ. There are pay showers located in the RV park. Not really worth staying more than a few days. No Verizon service.

Thursday, March 11, 2004


(9 to 11 March, 2004) This place is way primitive. The bathrooms are outhouses. The place is very well maintained with the most friendly campground host you will ever meet. The main attraction is the 13 mile drive loop around Red Rocks. Stop at the visitors center and see the desert tortoise habitat. Probably your only chance to see one. The campground is about two miles east, towards Vegas, from Red Rocks. Most of the campers are there to climb the rocks. Lots of young men with ropes, etc. This makes the campground almost empty during the day. No showers. No Verizon service.

Monday, March 08, 2004


(1 to 8 March, 2004) We stayed at three of the campgounds. Boulder Beach is more family friendly, it's mostly filled with the large rigs and a long stretch of beach. This is the closest campground to Hoover Dam. No showers. No Verizon service.

Las Vegas Bay campground is more secluded, especially since the water level has dropped 60 to 90 feet in Lake Mead. The Las Vegas Marina has moved. staying here, you will get a lot closer to the coyotes at night and some great hikes just a few steps away during the day. No showers. We did get a shaky Cell and Internet Verizon service.

The third campground was Callville Bay. We met some great folks there, but the campground host and some of the campers were not friendly, to say the least. Here they do have showers and laundry up by the overpriced store. No Verizon service.