Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Boondocking (With Perks) on the Historic Hoof Highway

 I can hardly believe we left my hometown of Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, a mere 29 hours ago--we have already had some adventures!

There was getting out of town.  We weren't even sure if we were leaving yesterday or whether we might delay a day or two, because I was waiting to see if our local ALCO store got a 26" women's mountain bike in on their weekly truck.  However, as of yesterday morning, the truck had not even arrived yet, so we decided to leave and find a different bike somewhere along the road.  I'm definitely going to need a bike on our travels, because, due to arthritis in my left knee, I do better getting around on a bike than on foot.  But the right one will come along.

 Sonja in the Sherpa bag

 So we packed up and hit the road.  We needed to drop my minivan at our friend Misha's house where it will stay for the summer, but--shades of February 14, 2011!--my cat Sonja escaped from the rig at the first opportunity.  She hid under the motorhome and it took a while to catch her.  After this escape, she had to ride in her Sherpa bag.  Once again she must become accustomed to life as an RV cat.  It will take a few days.  She is already doing better today and no longer needs to travel in the bag.

 My view as a passenger along I-25

Our plan was to drive an hour north on I-25 to Socorro, then head west on Highway 60 to a BLM campground called Datil Well.  Steve drove the first leg to Socorro, and then we switched so I could try driving the Beluga for the first time.  The first few minutes, it was a little scary to drive a Class A motorhome, but then I started to get the feel of it.  There's a tendency to think you have to pull to the right whenever traffic approaches, but, in fact, it's important to hug the yellow center line so you don't get blown to the right by the big trucks.  So you gotta be tough.  

 Steve at the wheel

After 20 miles, I was ready to let Steve take the wheel back at the small artsy town of Magdalena.  But when he got in the driver's seat, there was no battery power!  This made no sense, since the battery should have been charging as we traveled.  We called AAA, and they sent a couple of nice mechanics out from Baca's 24 Hour Towing in Socorro.  The guys brought a battery with them and determined that the problem was the alternator, not the battery, so we had to backtrack to Socorro for repairs.  

 Some cool antiques at Baca's garage

The whole alternator adventure pretty much took up the most of the afternoon, so instead of camping at Datil Well, we boondocked at the Socorro Walmart, which wasn't bad at all.  In fact, I got nine hours' sleep and we got better stocked up.  We also had dinner at a Chinese buffet which would be "bleah!" by Seattle standards, but wasn't half bad for being in the middle of New Mexico.  

 Three of the radio telescopes at VLA

This morning we made a fresh start--got more gas and propane and headed west on Highway 60 again.  Now we had the entire day to get to Datil, so we could be more leisurely.  We stopped at the Very Large Array west of Magdalena.  This is a big radio astronomy observatory where "Contact" and some other sci-fi movies were filmed.  It was a nice stop--we ate lunch in the RV and then went inside to see a short movie that explains basic radio astronomy in terms that I understood. 

Highway 60 is beautiful.  As we headed west, we began to see scrubby pinon and juniper trees, and they got larger the farther we went.  West of Magdalena, we began to see herds of pronghorn antelope--more than I'd ever seen in one day, probably at least 100 antelope.   

Approaching the Datil Mountains

We got to Datil Well Campground in the early afternoon.  It's a very nice place--nice big sites with picnic tables and barbecues, some with small shelters, and vault toilets.  The water here is wonderful, because it comes from the old well.  Datil Well was on the "Hoof Highway" that joined Springerville, Arizona, with the railway at Magdalena, starting in the 1880s.  Cattle and sheep were herded to the railroad, stopping every 10 miles or so for water and rest.  

You can't beat the price of Datil Well, just $5 per night, but only $2.50 for us because Steve has the Golden Age pass.  We aren't sure how long we'll stay here, but probably a while since we discovered that I can get free wifi in the cute little visitors center cabin where I'm sitting right now.

A couple of new things I learned as an RVer that I'd like to pass on...one is that I'm learning to make just about anything that I'd normally cook in an oven on the top of the stove.  For instance, here are some green chili enchiladas that turned out very nicely cooked in a skillet:

Also, I finally figured out a good way to contain Sonja's water and food dishes while on the road.  I cut down a plastic placemat to line a basket.  Now everything stays in place or at least doesn't tip over and make a mess.  The cat, however, still likes to take a few pieces of her kibble and eat it other places such as our bed.  



  1. Great first day. Love the pronghorn antelope and the VLA antennae. Glad you have your wheels, kitty and good company. And soon, a bike!

  2. Another tip re: the cat bowls. An inch of velcro under each bowl also keeps them from tipping over. Chill used to do that routinely when he got particularly excited about the meal he was eating....

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