Tuesday, April 29, 2014

New Bed Design - Part 2

I previously wrote about Greg's new bed design for our camper van.  He did an awesome job building the new bed. The link above shows the build process.

The bed in the "day" couch position without the cushions
The bed in the sleeping position without the cushions
 The next step was to purchase foam padding which we got from Walmart online. We purchased two full size Spa Sensations 4" Memory Foam Mattress Toppers ($89 each). Greg used a electric carving knife to cut down the foam toppers into four separate pads the sizes we needed.

Greg marking and cutting the full size mattress topper into four pads

Greg demonstrating the use of the electric carving knife to cut and shape the pads
We looked into having custom covers made and went into sticker shock when we got a quote. No way Jose! So I borrowed a sewing machine from a good friend and decided to make the covers myself. This sounds real simple until you hear that the last time I sewed anything more than a button or hem repair was in high school and that was over 35 years ago. But, I was confident that I could do it!

We went shopping for fabric and discovered that the fabrics weren't going to be wide enough. Now what? Then I thought - why not cover the pads with a sheet cut and sewed to fit snugly. We went to the Walmart Super Center (about 40 minutes from where we live) and picked out king size sheets that were on sale.

So - that is what I did. Yeah me! Huge thanks to my friend who helped me thread the bobbin, figure out how to do the first cushion and gave me the confidence to believe I really could do this.

Cathy helped me with the first cover and reminded me how to use a sewing machine.
She also lent me her sewing machine. Such a great friend!

Like riding a bike - using the sewing machine came back to me even after 35+ years
Each sheet cost $11.97 - so the total cost for the cushions with my custom covering was $225.88. A very nice savings. We are thrilled with the final product and can't wait for our upcoming trip to try it out. 

The Monkeys check out the new covered pads in couch mode

View from front of van looking toward the back in couch mode

Looking from back of van including the under the bench storage.
The sleeping bag/blankets normally reside on the back pad
where the monkeys are hanging out

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Gather 'Round the Campfire 4-26-14

Dog and Cat Tales

When we lived in Lake Tahoe, we had two wonderful Malamutes. They came into our lives when they were puppies. Both with the same father, but two different mothers and born just a week apart. They were such an important part of our lives, but I developed asthma and then severe allergies and we had to find a family to adopt them. We were so grateful to find someone who would keep the dogs together and who would love them as much as we did. Our puppy pals are now in doggie heaven, but they were loved by two families and had wonderful lives. 

Our babies in our Tahoe yard back in the 90's
Greg's folks have a bichon frise and I am able to be around Jack without allergies. It is great to have a dog in our lives (if not in our home) again. Jack loves to go camping. But, when he was a puppy and was left in Greg's folks prior camper, he destroyed a set of window blinds and a few other items while they were exploring a state park at Lake Tahoe.  When my parents returned to the camper, a mature beagle named Snoopy, who witnessed the whole frenzy, told my parents that he (Snoopy) had nothing at all to do with the huge mess.

Jack is much less destructive now, but still prefers not to be left alone.  

Jack enjoying the views from the Camper at Bosque del Apache
Jack and his Sock Monkey, Mictlan and Ozomahtli friends at Christmas

When we camp, we love all the dogs we get to see out having fun. I also love reading about the great adventures of the many cats and dogs who full time RV with their blogger families. 

Last night I had a surreal experience after reading RV Sue's post about her wonderful Spike wandering off from camp. She had a horrifying, long wait after searching for him and was so happy when he returned back to her unharmed. I was relaying her story to Greg and we were both relieved that Spike came back home. I then turned my browser to Facebook to check up on my FB friends. A friend said that her small puppy had escaped from her yard and was missing. She was asking for anyone in the neighborhood to let her know if they found her beloved Penny. We put the word out through Facebook and thankfully, someone found Penny and took her to our nearby shelter. Thanks to our posts on FB, the shelter had my friends number and they were reunited this morning. But, prior to learning that her Penny was safe, my friend spent a horrible night worrying about her pup. What a coincidence that two nights apart, two different dogs disappeared while their families worried and waited and then felt such joy and relief when their beloved pets returned home. 

RVillage has allowed me to chat with many other RVers and also to find a number of new blogs. If you are into RVing and haven't checked it out yet - have a look. Even though we don't change our location as often as full-timers, the site is a great resource and a fun place to chat and meet other RVers. 

Have I mentioned yet how addicted I am to RV blogs? Not only do we get a glimpse into our future life, learn about the ups and downs of full-timing, but we get to see adorable pictures of dogs and cats and read about their antics.

RV Sue's Crew - Spike and Bridget are quite the characters. I love to read about their adventures. Last week she had some awesome pictures of Spike getting into several mud puddles before his night out on the town. 

Aluminarium has a great photo of their dog Curtis with his new Darth Vader chew toy. But, alas the Emperor didn't live long or prosper (oh, wait - wrong franchise). 

Technomadia did a great post in 2012 about nomadic pets with a really excellent list of reminders for keeping your pets happy in an RV. Their cat Kiki seems to love life on the road. 

I am amazed at the number of people who travel with cats. I can see a cat enjoying soaking up the sun in the window of a camper and I get why people want their cats with them - but I was surprised how many RVers take their cats out for walks in all different kind of camps without the cats running off.

Nina and Paul of Wheeling It travel with two cats and a dog and seem to spend a good part of their year boondocking. Nina writes the most informative campsite/boondock reviews. 

Gone with the Wynns also travel with two cats. They make really polished videos about their travels. They have a blog, but many of their best photos seem to be reserved for their Facebook page.  

Metamorphosis Road travel with their cat Rosie who likes to go for walks, explore and chase lizards. While they were in Verde Valley, they took an amazing lizard picture. Click on their name to see the picture.

Life's Little Adventures have two cats, Elvis and Sophie. I see a two cat theme in this post. Today they saw lots of dogs, a geese family and even a shooting (of the film not gun variety) of a dog food commercial while visiting a park in Northern California.

My absolute favorite picture though is of Ivan Phillips' cat Harley who is now in the great beyond. Ivan's current traveling cat partner is Hailey. Ivan is in the process of fixing up his blog, but I think this link is the current version. He also has fun pics of Hailey frolicking at Cibola National Wildlife Refuge.
Although I can't travel with dogs or cats due to my allergies - I can and do travel with our sock monkey friends. 

Sock Monkey makes a new friend on the beach in California 

Doing what monkeys do naturally

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

RV / Boondocking Sites in Los Alamos County, New Mexico

Updated: 5/27/14
Here where we live in Los Alamos, New Mexico we have a bunch of local RV sites.  I thought I would go through them all in case folks would like to bring their rig up to explore the "Hill Top" area.

Los Alamos sits in a very beautiful area of Northern New Mexico, about 45 minutes from Santa Fe. The views are world class. Temperatures in summer are usually quite nice.  At one time the entire area was considered for inclusion into the National Park system.  There is a bill in congress to convert the nearby Valles Caldera National Preserve into a park managed by the National Park Service.  There is another bill that would make parts of Los Alamos part of the Manhattan Project National Historical Park. (Update: both bills have passed).

We've got the spectacular Bandelier National Monument adjacent to Los Alamos County.  Los Alamos is the home of the Los Alamos National Laboratory.  The history of the development and maintenance of nuclear weapons is told in the well done Bradbury Science Museum in downtown Los Alamos.  We have a historic lodge that houses an art center. Next door is our small but interesting history museum.  On Friday nights during the summer, musical concerts are held at our historic downtown pond and in other local locations.  We have more stunning views down at White Rock Canyon.  We have many miles of amazing hiking trails with incredible views of colorful plateaus and canyons.  We have a few nice restaurants. Our favorites are the Blue Window and High Altitude, both in downtown Los Alamos.  Nearby is the amazing scenery of the Valles Caldera National Preserve which was formed by an ancient volcano.  You can hike in the spectacular Valle Grande there.  (There is reserved RV/Bus parking on the street behind or north of the Bradbury Science Museum.)

One of our amazing Los Alamos views.
My wife and I are constantly saying, "we are lucky to live in Los Alamos" because of the beautiful hikes and views. Los Alamos and White Rock make up most of Los Alamos County.  It's a very small county designed around the Lab and the residential areas to the north of it.

First off, we have a brand new RV site in the town of White Rock that is attached to a beautiful new visitor's center.  The visitor center serves as a pickup/drop-off site for bus rides to the nearby Bandelier National Monument, where you can walk among interesting ancient indian peoples ruins that lie in the walls of a deep canyon. White Rock has 16 sites with electric connections and a small fenced dog exercise area. They don't take reservations.  These electric spots are currently $20 a night paid by credit card at an ATM like box at the site. Location: 35.8280141,-106.2109577.

Directly across the street from this new RV site is a good pizza restaurant with a salad bar and a sit down Mexican/American food restaurant, as well as a nice Smith's Grocery store and a small hardware store that also sells propane. There is a free dump/water station at this RV site. A new walking trail starts behind the Pizza restaurant across the street.  A county bus service will take you into Los Alamos for museums and more.  There is a new specialty restaurant in White Rock: The Rosebud Cafe(now Pig + Fig), that is within walking distance from the RV park.  It is generally open at 7:00 am. It's located at 35 Rover Blvd. Suite G, phone: 505.603.7912.  I would call before I went to be sure of hours.  There is also a mediocre Chinese Restaurant within walking distance. You will have to ask a local about this one.

New black top RV sites at the new White Rock Visitors Center.

Dump Station at the visitors center in White Rock.

RV Rules
Updated rules?

At the entrance to Los Alamos County, we have a parking area known as the East Gate Park (or officially "Kiwanis Entrance Park") that is a basic black top surface with heated bathrooms [35.876045,-106.254212]. (UPDATE 2/9/2017:  This park is now named : MAIN GATE PARK. Kiwanis has turned the park over to the county. You can read a story about what they have done there here.

Self-contained RV camping is allowed in this parking lot. This site has a RV dump station. This site is located within a short walk of a well stocked Co-operative Grocery Market that has fresh organic vegetables, and other healthy foods. It includes a very nice deli for sandwiches and other deli dishes.  Near the Co-op, is an entrance to a very pleasant paved walking/bike riding trail that takes you further into town. There is also hiking access into nearby canyons. The views are outstanding.

This RV spot is somewhat of a secret in our "secret city" as it was sort of intended for lab contractors and other workers to stay for periods of time while they worked on projects in Los Alamos. It is not well advertised, but it is available to the public. There is a fee to stay here ($10 I believe). Contact the County for information: Los Alamos County Parks Division 505-662-8159.

East Gate self-contained RV site. Heated bathrooms on the right. There is a free dump/water station here also.

The entrance park dump station

Covered picnic tables near dump station.

Possibly updated rules?

More rules.

Up on nearby Pajarito Mountain, at our amazingly good local downhill ski area (another state secret), there is a nice tree lined camping area called Camp May.  It's in a bowl near the top of the mountain.  There is a short and a bit steep dirt road to get to it.  I've seen rigs up there but not really large ones.  The county says 25' max, but I think you could go slightly bigger in two or three spots.  There are campfire pits, picnic tables and pit toilet bathrooms. Camp May location: 35.8967751,-106.3977454.

I would drive up and check it out before trying to get a large RV in there. The area was recently refurbished. Closed in the winter.  There is a small section at the beginning of Camp May road this is quite steep.  It might be difficult to get your rig up this section if you are underpowered.  The last bit of road to the Camp May campground at the top is a bit steep and packed dirt. Again, it could be slow going at this section - just to warn you.

One of the larger site that can fit an RV at Camp May.

The largest site for the RV at Camp May among many aspen trees.

One of the new pit toilets in the Camp May camping area.

Camp May Rules

A view of the Lab, Los Alamos, Espanola Valley and the Sangre de Cristo Mountains from Pajarito Mountain near Camp May.
Along the road up to Camp May there is Forest Service land.  I am assuming you could boondock off of one of the little dirt roads in this area.  I have seen trailers up there from time to time.  I have heard that summer students and post-graduate students have camped up there while doing summer work for the Los Alamos National Laboratory.  I will give the contact information for the Espanola Forest Service ranger district at the bottom of this post so you can get the scoop on boondocking.  Area where I have seen RVs: 35.8773583,-106.3483339.  UPDATE 9/2017: THIS AREA (KNOWN AS LOS ALAMOS OVERLOOK) IS NOW POSTED WITH "NO CAMPING" SIGNS BY THE SANTA FE NATIONAL FOREST RANGER DISTRICT.

[Update: Tim & Amanda of the WatsonsWander stayed here on the forest service land for a week along the canyon edge in September 2014.  Here is the post from their stay. [POST]

Update (April 2015): Our area is surrounded by forest service land. One cool area that I've seen more RVs at is off the roads at this location that is a little high up the into the Jemez Mtns: 35.834356, -106.375650 ]  UPDATE 9/2017 - THIS AREA APPEARS TO BE STILL LEGAL FOR RVs.

Up the Camp May road there are large flat parking areas that are used for ski area parking in the winter.  It's just east of Camp May.  I've seen RVs in those lots, it may be possible to park there short term in the summer.  I would call the ski area to see if self-contained overnight RV parking is possible.  The ski area has a cafe that is usually open much of the year for lunch.

There are three loops of camping sites at Bandelier National Monument.  The loop farthest in is called "Coyote" loop and has the largest sites for RVs and nice tall trees.  It's our favorite of the three loops. We have camped here with my parents and had a great time. (No hookups, nice heated flush toilet bathrooms.)  There is a two mile hike (four round trip) that starts in the campground and goes down steeply into the main canyon where the visitor's center is located.  It's a good hike if you want to get  a lot of exercise and enjoy spectacular views. If you can get someone to pick you up at the bottom and bring you back up, that would make it a lot easier.  In the summer there is a shuttle bus that can bring you out of the canyon.  Check with the park on that option.  Best Bandelier camping area: 35.7961569,-106.2831541

Don't miss the Tsankawi unit that is a separate area from the main Bandelier park.  It has a loop trial past many petroglyphs, ruins that you can crawl into and cool ladders that at part of the trail.  It's our favorite part of the park and not as well known. The views there are also amazing.  Tsankawi entrance location: 35.8601594,-106.2241293

One of the nice spots for an RV at Bandelier National Monument.

Another good RV spot at Bandelier National Monument.  An RV in a pull through spot can be seen on the far side.

There is a modular home community near the Laboratory that now allows RVs to hookup (full hookups).  We visited the sites and they look pretty nice with great views on one side.  The community is called Royal Crest.  It's going to be the most expensive of the options for RVs in the area, but if you would like full hookups, it looks like a good choice.  Royal Crest RV area: 35.8731861,-106.3050841

Full Hookup RV Sites are Royal Crest.

Full Hookup RV sites at Royal Crest. The canyon drops off quickly just to the left of the sites. You can see the Lab facilities across the canyon.
Also in our area, there are campgrounds up in the nearby Jemez mountains.  We have camped up there many times and the campgrounds are nice.  They are forest service campgrounds.  There is one campground my parents are very fond of called "San Antonio" that has electric hookups.

Driver's should be aware that they are likely going to be driving through secure Lab federal property on their way up to the Jemez mountains.  Don't worry, we do it all the time.  They will look at your driver's license at the gate and then you can drive on through.  It's fun!  How many other times can you drive through a super-high security nuclear weapons lab?  They randomly search vehicles from time to time.  It's no big deal.  I'm guessing they might want to take a closer look at a large RV, mostly because the guards are very bored.  Also, don't take photos on Lab property, they really hate that!

If you want to bypass the Lab security gates, it is possible. They road to bypass starts at the Los Alamos Medical Center (Hospital): 35.882527, -106.320180

Down in the valley, outside the county, there is a casino in Pojoaque that has an RV park.  It's basically a large flat gravel rock area with no trees.  It has full-hookups.  It recently became a Good Sam Club site. Nearby is bowling, buffets and gambling. There is a good breakfast restaurant we like called the "Gold Dust" on the Cities of Gold Casino property.  Also, just down the road is one of our very favorite restaurants, "Gabriels," that has great Mexican dishes. The made-at-your-table guacamole and chips are to die for! We are also partial to the well stocked and tasty buffet at nearby Buffalo Thunder Resort and Casino.

There are many Indian Pueblos that surround our area.  If you have a chance to go to a pueblo on one of the feast or dance days, you can catch one of their ceremonial dances.  They are amazingly colorful and very spiritual.  Do not take photos, they also really hate that!

There is a small company called Buffalo Tours in Los Alamos that can give you a great driving tour of the historic areas of town.  They also do historic site walking tours.  They pickup for tours at 1:30 PM in front of the Bradbury Science Museum (call the Bradbury Museum for more info.)

A little ways away is one of my parent's favorite RV camping places.  It's the US Army Corps of Engineers Riana campground on Abiquiu Reservoir. It has Electric sites, a dump station and great views. There are not a lot of trees, so it is more of a spring/fall type place.

There is also an Elks club in downtown Los Alamos that allows rigs and I believe has a couple electric hookups. (Must be a Elks member to use.)

Ghost Ranch, which is near Abiquiu Reservoir, has RV camping available. Ghost Ranch is a totally cool place with amazing views, fantastic hikes and a museum. George O'Keeffe had a place there and did a lot of her famous painting there. The ranch is very much worth a visit.

There is a HUGE amount of exploring to do in our area, and there are a surprising number of RV sites here too - more than I first suspected.

The county's motto is, "Discover Our Secrets."  I'm guessing that many cities and counties have lots of nearly "secret" RV sites known mostly to locals. Well now you know what this local knows about the "secret" RV spots in our area! Come and enjoy them before they are discovered!

If you do come up to Los Alamos, give us a holler and maybe we can come over for a hike, a quick look at your rig and a short visit.

Green Reserved Bus and RV Parking behind the Bradbury Museum on Iris Street at 35.882106, -106.298223
Could you overnight in the reserved Bus / RV parking downtown behind the Bradbury Museum? Seem like it should be OK, but I'm not totally sure. [35.882073, -106.298541]

Links to more information:

Bandelier National Monument
Los Alamos County - Outdoor Rental Facilities (including camping spots)
Los Alamos County Trail Network
Los Alamos County "Atomic" Transit Routes and Schedules
Espanola Ranger District
Jemez Ranger District
Cities of Gold RV Park
Royal Crest Manufactured Home Community (& RV sites)
Visit Los Alamos Online Visitor Guide
Los Alamos - Wikitravel Guide
Bradbury Science Museum - Your Window Into Los Alamos National Laboratory
Los Alamos Historical Society and Historical Museum
Fuller Lodge Art Center
Valles Caldera National Preserve
Gabriel's Restaurant Information
New Mexico Pueblo Dances and Feast Days
Abiquiu Lake US Army Corps of Engineers Riana Campground
Buffalo Tours of Los Alamos
Restaurants in Los Alamos area

Here is another blog from an RVer who recently visited Los Alamos:

Update: I just discovered some really nice boondocking sites further up in the Jemez mountains but not all that far from Los Alamos.  They are on the edge of a canyon.  The road to them is a ruff dirt road that might be tough for a standard car.  Click HERE to view the area on a Google Map

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Gather 'Round the Campfire 4-17-14

I have a confession to make. I have a new obsession - RV travel blogs! Like many others before me, when dreaming of switching to the full-time RV lifestyle, I thought I would do a little research by hitting up GOOGLE. Wozzers! There was a virtual gold mine of information, mostly in the form of blogs. I began collecting blogs. With each new blog I discovered, I would look for their very first entry and follow along their journey through to the present.

I mostly was reading on my Nexus 7 tablet and was using Google Chrome's "add to desktop" feature. But, soon I had filled up an entire page on my tablet with icons linking to individual blogs. Then I discovered you could group icons into a folder by dragging one on top of the other. Yes! Now I can fit 36 blogs in each folder. I am on my fourth folder and counting.

The variety of blogs out there is amazing.
  • Young, fulltimers who balance working and living on the road.
  • Retired part-timers and full-timers
  • Canadian snow birds following the weather but returning to Canada for their six plus months to maintain their health benefits
  • People like us who have x years to retire and are dreaming of the day they can full-time
  • Families who want a different life for their kids filled with adventure and home schooling
Greg and I go for an hour plus walk just about every night. I started talking to Greg about Paul and Nina, RV Sue, WatsonsWander and others by their first or blog names as though they were dear friends of ours. I stop and laugh sometimes at our conversations.

But, the most excellent thing about the plethora of blogs is that you are inspired, informed and entertained. For example, I was amazed to learn how many women are out there living on the road on their own or with beloved pets. We have discovered lots of new campsites, boondocking sites, recipes, and helpful hints about the full-time rving lifestyle. There are also a number of techie full-time rvers who share their expertise and many who teach classes. Another great feature is the pictures and videos. Apparently if you like to write blogs - you also like to take pictures.

We have some experience with blogs as Greg had a popular blog in our hometown about local issues. So, when we got turned on to this whole community of RV bloggers, we had to jump in!

So, pull up a chair and gather with us 'round the campfire while we chat about all our blogger buddies. You too will discover the amazing blogosphere of RVers.

Weekly Blog Highlights
I am currently reading about 70 blogs. Remember, I said I was obsessed. Not everyone posts every day or even every week, so it is easier than it sounds. Also, there are a number of forum and social sites devoted to RVing. I often discover new blogs while reading a blog or comments to a blog post. You can also use a site called hitchitch which lists "RV Travel Adventures and Journals."

I have had fun reading multiple accounts from different bloggers of joint happy hours, lunches and group hikes.

We discovered a great boondocking and hiking spot in California called Alabama Hills. Three bloggers happened to all be camping over Halloween in Alabama Hills. Wheeling It, Watsons Wander and Gone with the Wynns came together for a pumpkin carving contest among the rocks and wilds of Alabama Hills near Highway 395. Wheeling It and Watsons Wander both gave excellent descriptions of their boondocking and hook up and provided awesome pictures. Gone with the Wynns shared a video. The Wynns are well known for their well-produced yet quirky videos.

The funniest and scariest blog post this last week dealt with the adventures of The Crowded Camper and their snake spotting pooch Arco. Camper Mom's walking club includes her two kids, retired bomb dog (Arco) and a duck retrieval dog. During the summer Camper Mom pushed her kids in a "running" stroller with the two dogs in tow for 5 miles a day and lost 30 pounds! Way to go Becky! BTW - always read the cutlines below the pictures - you get a lot of extra tidbits. So, back to Arco, the bomb-sniffing snake spotting pooch. While Military Man was on deployment over the summer, Camper Mom would walk with the kiddos and the dogs. Arco would alert when he spotted snakes or other living creatures. I don't know where they spent the summer, but Arco alerted to a rattlesnake and actually killed a water moccasin. You have to click on the link above to read and laugh about what happens when Arco alerts to the top of their 5th wheel and Camper Mom and Military Man have to investigate. LOVED this post!

I hesitate to say I have favorites, but I will say there are two blogs that no matter what - I read every day - ok everyday that they post. These two blogs are Wheeling It and RV Sue and Her Canine Crew. Nina and Paul of Wheeling It travel with two cats and a dog. RV Sue travels with her two doggie pals. Both blogging teams are expert boondockers, true inspirations and very entertaining.

RV Sue is a blogosphere fan favorite. Her readers battle to be the very first to post a comment and she gets triple digit responses to most of her blog entries. Her blog tag line is how I want to spend my retirement "living on less and and enjoying life more." 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Weekend at Elephant Butte State Park in New Mexico

We had a wonderful weekend in early March at Elephant Butte Lake State Park near Truth or Consequences, NM. Greg has a quadcopter and took this great video overview of the campground, beach and lake.We live in Northern New Mexico and feel very fortunate to have such easy access to amazing camping and hiking opportunities.

We didn't make reservations and arrived late on a Friday night. You can make reservations for State Parks on line up to six months in advance of the current day. So if we called on Friday, we could only reserve for Sunday and beyond. There also are a number of sites that are first come, first serve and if you find an open spot that isn't reserved, you can take it for one night. We stayed at Lyons Beach Loop B which is a loop that is all first  come, first serve.

You can't beat the price of $14 which includes electrical hook up! It was our first trip with the new couch/bed that Greg made. It worked out GREAT and was super comfortable. Click HERE to read our prior post detailing the bed build.

Our campsite with a view of the lake

The lake has been affected by the drought in New Mexico, but the levels are up 40 feet over last year. This was our first visit and the lake looked beautiful. We took several walks both around the campground loops and along the shoreline. For New Mexico website information on Elephant Butte State Park, click HERE.

The butte in Elephant Butte

A collection of rocks on the water's edge

If your rig can handle the sand, you can even camp on the beach by the lake

The marina has a store and boats for rent

It was early March and the weather was cool and a little windy. But, it was still an amazing weekend. The electrical hookup allowed us to stay plenty warm in our camper van. We have an electric blanket that we use for winter and early spring campouts. We have stayed in temperatures as low as 16 degrees with electricity and 24 degrees in Yosemite without power. On the Yosemite trip, we simply piled the blankets up and wore sweats to bed.

Wet Room Tub

On Saturday afternoon, we made a reservation for a private soak in nearby Truth or Consequences at Blackstone Hotsprings in the Wet Room. For only $25 for 50 minutes - it was paradise. The Wet Room is a private room with a hot spring tub, a private sauna with hot waterfall and a shower. It was a stupendous place to soak and relax. Blackstone Hotsprings also has themed hotel rooms. But, they often fill up - so call ahead. Their website is http://www.blackstonehotsprings.com. A great deal and definitely a place we will return to soon.

Private Sauna with Hot Waterfall

We met a number of fellow RVers at Elephant Butte. One woman who travels for about six months a year said that Elephant Butte was one of her favorite campgrounds. She spent most of the winter right at Elephant Butte. She would stay 14 days, then leave for one week at a nearby private campground as required and then return to Elephant Butte, specifically Lyons Beach Campground. A fantastic deal for $14 per night for 50 AMP electric, 10 feet to water supply, a canopy, picnic table and fire ring as well as nearby bathroom with showers. Oh and did I mention that EVERY loop in the Lyons Beach campground has free WIFI!

We did have one strange encounter. While walking through all the campground loops to check things out, I noticed a motorhome with a blog logo and url on the back. I took a quick picture and when we returned to our spot, I quickly looked up their blog. I sent an email message just saying that we were in the same campground, loved to read RV blogs, noticed their rig and how much we liked the campground and lake and what a nice walk we had that day. Didn't say - hey let's have cocktails and didn't knock on their camper door. We like our privacy mixed with friendly socializing, but we always try to respect other folks need for space and privacy. Well - I got a quick response that kinda threw me. 

Thanks for emailing.  We RV 5 months a year, and use our blog to keep contact with our family and friends.

It was a fine email, but it made me feel as though I had been reading someone's private email or journal instead of a public blog. Maybe I am reading more into his email than is fair. But, my initial reaction was "um, why exactly do you have your blog logo and url big as day on the back of your motorhome if you only want family and friends to read your blog?"

Our email encounter aside - the people at the campground were VERY friendly, the sites were clean, excellent amenities and the price was ever so sweet. Highly recommend Elephant Butte and we will be back. 

- Karen

Another Sock Monkey Trekkers Adventure!

Monday, April 14, 2014

RVing News

Image courtesy WSNFC

The Yakima Herald Republic has a story on rising fees on public lands taking a toll:

In testimony last week before a subcommittee, Benzar said growing dependence on concessionaires by the Forest Service — which after two decades of declining budgets doesn’t have the manpower to maintain all of its campgrounds — could mean use fees at dispersed camping and other sites that have so far been fee-free.

"In the context of these agencies’ past actions,” Benzar said, early FLREA amendment drafts indicate “they would charge a fee anyplace that there is any sort of a toilet in the vicinity — even a Porta-Potty. The amenities threshold of where fees could be charged would be reduced to nearly zero.
“This bill would be a throwback to the anything-goes authority already proven to be a failure ... ‘Pay to play’ would become ‘pay to pee.’”

Read the full article HERE.

More from the Western Slope No-Fee Coalition HERE.

A lot of the folks we read about RVing out there count on low cost/no cost Forest Service and BLM access in order to make their budgets work during at least part of the year.  It would be a shame if the Forest Service were able to skirt the laws that keep access free and low cost by turning over the management of these areas to concessionaires. Contact your Senators and Representatives and let them know you are against expanding concessionaire contracts on Forest Service and BLM lands. -Greg

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