The Stealthy Mountain Range

I like a-frame trailers almost as much as Casitas, but all the possible leak points…

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.

A (rare) tame section of the trail which looks over aΒ pond

It doesn’t matter, it’s fun anyway. Another one of those adventures that makes a good story after the fact.

Goofing around on the trail

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 β€œsnow!”, 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.

Sun glaring off the window makes for poor photos, best I could do

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.

* * *

Coming down the west side of the Sierra Blanca

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At IO I teach people how to ditch the status quo and travel full-time before retirement, and share stories of my adventures (and misadventures) to inspire future nomads and armchair travelers alike. Included at no additional charge: seizing your dreams, living boldly, and making a difference.


  1. Alvin Tosh on December 31, 2016 at 3:32 pm

    Thanks for all the great articles that you share. I normally come in and read several of them at a time and don’t always comment on each one of them. I continue trying to send people to your site from the facebook groups, especially the single ladies. I feel that your site and articles is a good place for them to get accurate information for them to begin their quest. Glad to hear that you might be coming east for next years Amazon season. I never leave the mountains in the mid Atlantic area

    • Becky on January 3, 2017 at 6:40 pm

      You’re welcome Alvin and thank you for telling other people about IO. πŸ™‚

  2. Jodee Gravel on December 29, 2016 at 7:52 pm

    Glad you had a nice holiday with Misty. Love the mountains of Ruidoso, beautiful country.

    • Becky on December 31, 2016 at 11:42 am

      It sure was Jodee, thanks.

  3. Rodolfo M Tenorio on December 29, 2016 at 6:54 pm

    Totally unrelated but would like to know. After you had the extensive work done in your truck. Is it OK? Everything working fine?

    • Becky on December 31, 2016 at 11:42 am

      Been running fine since then Rodolfo.

  4. Misty on December 29, 2016 at 12:43 pm

    I drove through that exact area when I was coming back from Phoenix on my last trip. πŸ™‚ You definitely notice the mountains if you’re coming at them from the west… Isn’t Ruidoso beautiful? I stopped there at their little Walmart overnight on that trip. Even in the early fall it got a little cool! πŸ™‚

    PS: It was so nice having you here for Christmas. Enjoy the rest of your travels! I’m looking forward to hearing about your trip to Mexico.
    Misty recently posted..Pushing back Black MagicMy Profile

    • Becky on December 31, 2016 at 11:40 am

      Yeah Ruidoso would be a pretty place to spend the night.

      It was great seeing you too! Thanks for holding onto my bike. πŸ™‚

  5. Dale on December 29, 2016 at 10:05 am

    Hi Becky,

    I have been boondocking near Phoenix at a place called Bulldog Canyon as I visit family during the holidays. It is getting increasingly more difficult to find free campsites close to the city as the Tonto National Forest has closed down some of the places I used to camp. In a few more days I will travel to Q and hopefully see some of the friends I met last year during the RTR. Wishing you safe travels.

    • Becky on December 31, 2016 at 11:38 am

      I’m at Buckeye Hills west of Phoenix. Not real close to Phoenix but that suits me just fine. Have a good trip to Q!

  6. Ernesto Quintero on December 29, 2016 at 8:51 am

    Another wonderfully written post. Becky, have a wonderful new year.

    • Becky on December 31, 2016 at 11:30 am

      Thanks Ernesto you too.

  7. Shelly Nowik, Durham, NC on December 29, 2016 at 8:24 am

    I recently purchased a bike rack from etrailer for the back of my Casita. I have the hitch receiver on the back. I have a girls bike so some of the racks out there required an adapter bar which I really didn’t want (cost $20-40). The rack I got holds the bike by it’s wheels. It is a V-shaped rack. Regular retail was $225 but I got it for $80 on sale. Very light weight and easy to assemble. I have not yet traveled with it yet but will find out on my trip to Quartzsite starting in 2 weeks.

    • Becky on December 31, 2016 at 11:29 am

      Yeah if I wanted to do that Shelly I’d have to get the hitch receiver put on my Casita and I just don’t think I’d use it enough to make that a worthy investment right now. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Ken on December 29, 2016 at 7:54 am

    Thanks for the nice story. Have you tried taking off the front and back tires of your bicycle before putting them in the back of the truck? That’s what I do and it doesn’t take much room. With quick releases it only takes a minute or two to take them off or put them back on.

    • Becky on December 31, 2016 at 11:28 am

      I left it behind Ken but thanks for sharing, that’s a good tip.

  9. Cindy on December 29, 2016 at 7:03 am

    Beautiful drive! Thanks for sharing.

    • Becky on December 31, 2016 at 11:25 am

      You’re welcome Cindy. πŸ™‚

  10. Dawn in MI on December 29, 2016 at 6:35 am

    I think I’d have to do the research rather being surprised. Otherwise I’d worry too much while I was driving and not enjoy the view. We spent some time in Roswell NM a couple of years ago. The museum was interesting. But I agree, keep heading where you’re going…you can always go back.

    • Becky on December 31, 2016 at 11:24 am

      Whatever works best for your Dawn. It helps that my rig is small enough and my truck powerful enough that it’s hard for me to get in real trouble when I don’t research ahead of time. For those with larger rigs I can definitely understand.

  11. Cat Lady on December 29, 2016 at 6:18 am

    In an earlier blog, you mentioned something about the terrain when you travel east to west and vice versa. Something to the affect that it’s more mountainous going east to west, if I remember. Do you remember that post? I wish I had saved it. So glad you’re on the road again. I look forward to reading more about your travels this year on your blog.

    Take care.

    • Becky on December 31, 2016 at 11:22 am

      I don’t remember which post it was exactly Cat Lady sorry. But yes most mountain ranges out west run north to south so when you’re in a mountainous area, you’ll cross more passes going east to west while most north to south roads run in valleys with mountains on either side – easier driving.

  12. Jay on December 28, 2016 at 8:55 pm

    glad to see that you had a good visit with your friend and found some sun too.
    Good to see you on the road and enjoying it. Happy New Year to you. Jay

    • Becky on December 31, 2016 at 11:19 am

      Thanks Jay and Happy New Year to you too!

  13. Pam on December 28, 2016 at 8:36 pm

    My home turf! I love it that you came through Roswell! I know you are far to the west tonight, but you see welcome back any old time!

    • Becky on December 31, 2016 at 11:18 am

      Thanks for the offer Pam! I would like to come back and see more of it some day.

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