December 23, Friday
It’s been a while since I visited a Camping World to snoop around inside RVs. No, I’m sticking with my Casita thank you very much, but it’s fun to see what else is out there. Misty lives within a block of one, and today we walk down to have a look.
The designs don’t seem to have changed a lot. We peek in 17 foot trailers up to 40 foot toy haulers. Said toy hauler did have a nifty kids loft sleeping area overlooking the kitchen which was fun to climb in (I’m a child at heart), and wins my award for most amusing RV toured.
December 24, Saturday
Also not far from Misty’s house is Martin Luther King Jr. biking trail. I picked up a bike in September to use for transport while my truck was in the shop and haven’t touched it since getting Bertha back. What I miss when Misty explains the trail’s existence to me is that it is a mountain biking trail. So I’m wearing sandals when we arrive.
What she didn’t count on is that it is a true mountain biking trail, with steep ups and downs and sharp curves. Have I mentioned yet that I have absolutely zero mountain biking experience? We scream going downhill (both of us having street tires with poor traction), walk most of the uphills, and my feet get scratched from the brambles.
It doesn’t matter, it’s fun anyway. Another one of those adventures that makes a good story after the fact.
I’ll be leaving my bike here for Misty to hold onto until I find a better way to carry it (putting it in the back of the truck makes accessing everything else impossible so I have to pull it out every time I want to dump or get to my solar suitcase for instance) so it was nice to get one more ride out of it until I leave it behind for a while.
After the ride we stop at Mackenzie State Park, which is managed by Lubbock and has no entrance fee. There’s a Christmas themed area up for kids, but what interests me most is the vast number of Canadian geese hanging out in the pond. Misty says that it’s been warmer than usual here this winter and the geese have stuck around instead of migrating farther south like they usually do.
December 26, Monday
I hope you all had a good Christmas, I did. Misty and I went and saw a movie and hung out around her house.
This morning it’s back on the road! With no snowstorm to worry about this year, I opt to take a more direct route to Phoenix instead of staying as far south as possible. This means new territory to explore.
From Lubbock I get on 62 southwest to Brownfield, then west on 380 crossing into New Mexico. The terrain gets drier the farther west you go.
I wish I had to time see more of Roswell, but with a goal of reaching Phoenix in two days I’d prefer to spend my limited sightseeing time elsewhere this trip. Just past Roswell, the first mountain comes into view. I’ve missed mountains while I’ve been in Texas. From looking at maps later I believe this is actually the Capitan range which runs west-east instead of north-south, making it look like a solitary peak from this direction. Farther to the west and slightly south lies another mountain in the far distance, and this one is snow-capped.
The thought crosses my mind that just because there hasn’t been a snowstorm lately, doesn’t mean snow won’t be an issue. Do I have to cross mountains to get down to Las Cruces going this direction? Will that be a problem late in December with no snow tires or chains? Coming west on I10 last year through El Paso and up to Las Cruces there were no mountains to speak of. I don’t tend to do a lot of research about the routes I take ahead of time. Call it poor planning if you want, but I enjoy being surprised. It makes the trip more memorable if I don’t know what exactly I’m going to see ahead of time.
380 drops into a maze of hills and the mountains are lost to view. This part of the drive is pretty and it’s the kind of pretty the driver can enjoy as the road isn’t challenging. It’s wide, the curves aren’t sharp, and the elevation change is gradual.
Plumes of smoke come into view around one curve and I worry it’s a wildfire, but I don’t see any fire trucks around. Maybe it was a planned burn.
Picacho, Hondo, San Patricio. At Hondo 380 splits off and I take the left fork onto 70 instead. The hills continue rolling by, the brush and sparse grass slowly being replaced by pine that grow taller. So slowly that I don’t even realize what’s happening.
Until I arrive in Ruidoso Downs at the edge of the Mescalero Reservation and see white along the road. My brain first thinks “snow!”, then immediately switches gears to white sand, knowing that this is a desert. But it’s not a desert anymore. A forest of tall pines hug the cliffs to either side. Cliffs? When did the hills become cliffs? Yes, it’s snow and not sand.
I think I’ve just climbed the stealthiest mountain range ever. How can a person drive up into the mountains and not realize it? The road is white-washed with salt, but dry and completely snow free. I didn’t see any pullouts for chain-up areas so I’m guessing this pass doesn’t see heavy snow, at least not on a regular basis. I later learn this is the Sierra Blanca (also called the White Mountains). That snow-capped peak I first caught a glimpse of over an hour ago is the highest point at 11,981 feet. The pass is called Apache Summit, and it sits at a cool 7,591 feet.
The western slope is steeper that the eastern side, and looking in my mirrors you can tell you’re climbing up into mountains if you were to approach from the west. The pine is slowly replaced brush and other desert plants once again.
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