Thursday, January 30, 2020

Day 82 - Mexico and a Hike

We drove down to the Boquillas ferry crossing located a short way from the campground. The ferries are small boats rowed across the Rio Grande and cost $5 round trip. Once on the other side, you can ride a burro or truck for $5 or a horse for $8. Or walk. No matter your choice, you get a guide who stays with you the entire time you are there.

The town is small with a number of people selling souvenirs in front of their homes. There are two restaurants and a bar plus some other small shops. I gather that this tourism is the only income source for this community.

We opted for the burro ride. These burros must have made the trip many times as they pretty much run on automatic once you get on. There are only the two of us and the guide. We saw other groups and most groups were just two. We even saw two women walking and there was a guide. I should’ve brought more money for a bigger tip. I didn’t expect him to hang around the whole time we were there. Even while we had lunch.

I’ve been joking that up until today, we have rarely gone out for Mexican food. Even after all the time in Arizona and Needles. I think we met Mike and Pat from Fairbanks at a Mexican restaurant in Mesa, AZ, shortly after we arrived in Casa Grande. This is where we had an early lunch. Jose Falcon. Kind of expensive for what you got but it was tasty and not at all like Taco Bell. That was a good thing.

This afternoon, I took a hike from the campground to the historic hot springs. It was 3.51 miles with a fair amount of hills. Maybe ¾ of the trail was up or down hill. Very little level hiking. Quite a bit of climbing over rocks or walking on broken rocks. Boots with a stiffer sole and ankle support would’ve been better than my sandals.

There was one area where the trail crossed a wash and the running water had carved out interesting depressions in the rocks. Some of the depressions still had water from the last rain. If you like rocks, you would enjoy this trail.

The hot springs looked too crowded for me and I didn’t care to walk to the car (¼ mile) in wet shoes. I only walked one way as Bridget drove to the other end of the hot springs trail to pick me up.

Nice hike. Enough uphill to get a decent cardio workout without running. 66 minutes of high intensity or extreme according to Apple...

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Day 81 - Big Bend Natl Park

Our first full day in Big Bend National Park and I must admit that I’m still a bit lost. The big views are nice and they have a number of small visitor’s centers. This morning, we first drove to Panther Junction where the largest visitor’s center is and asked about a couple of the trails and roads. The road to balancing rock wasn’t recommended for a low clearance vehicle such as a Prius (the example car the ranger named) so we skipped that road.

We then drove to Chisos Basin located in the center of the park at an elevation of 5000’. A bit cooler with more green. The brochure said that this area of the park gets about four times the rainfall as the rest of the park. Some other RVers that we had met suggested the windows trail. It is about five miles but the ranger here discouraged us as it’s a long hike uphill for the return trip. So we just went on the short windows view loop trail after picking up lunch at the store.

Most national parks have something “special” but here I’m having trouble picking that out. Most of the landscape is the same desert landscape that we’ve been driving through for miles. Lots of yucca and prickly pear cactus, some cholla and ocotillo. Sort of the same old thing. The park is named after the long sweeping bend of the Rio Grande River which now has just a small fraction of the original volume of water due to all of the upstream dams diverting most of the water.

The picture on the right shows the “window” from the loop. The basin that we are in collects a lot of water from the surrounding peaks and it all pours through the window during heavy rains into the valley. It looks like a nice hike.

A roadrunner hanging around the trail looking for a handout. There was another near the picnic tables next to the store eyeing anyone with a plastic wrapper. In some parks it’s the squirrels or jays. Here, it’s the roadrunner.

So far, I still don’t understand why this is a national park. The government had to purchase a lot of land that was being used for ranching to form the park. We are here for several more days. Maybe something will stand out...

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Day 80 - Big Bend National Park

Another short drive from Marfa to Rio Grande Village within Big Bend National Park. It is an RV park that is operated by the store but is within the park boundaries. After setting up in the paved parking lot (still plenty of room between rigs), we headed back up the road for a short hike. This is from the Boquillas Canyon trail looking over the Rio Grande River. Mexico is the left bank.

A little further up the canyon the river narrows a bit and the trail ends where the banks get pretty steep. The water is very slow moving and there is a crossing a short ways from this point that is open Tuesday - Sunday 8am to 5pm. No bridge so you can either hire a boat or wade across. Then walk into town.

Very nice and warm today at 72°F. The low will still be in the high 30s. Last night, it was in the mid 30s and even with the block heater on for 45 minutes, the engine was still a bit hard to start. Yesterday, I had the block heater on for 2 hours and it started easily but I don’t think it was as cold. The elevation of Marfa was around 5000 feet. Here in Big Bend, we are at 2000 feet. We will be here for several days exploring. I have never been to this national park so I’m not really sure what there is to see.

Monday, January 27, 2020

Day 79 - Marfa, TX

We stopped at the Marfa Mystery Lights Viewing Center as overnight parking is permitted. Only 200 miles or so today. It seemed like a reasonable place to stop on our way to Big Bend National Park. AllStays says that the place gets crowded as people from town come out to see if they can see the lights. The plaque, pictured on the left, says that the lights were first reported in 1883 and the origin is unknown.

We passed the Prada Marfa artwork but there was no decent place to pull over with this RV. One of the problems with a large vehicle.

We filled up again using the TSD fuel program and saved 61¢/gallon. Only half a tank but it was still a $28 savings.

There is a nice viewing area that was privately funded (no state funding) with adjoining rest rooms and picnic tables.

We left the Licon Dairy early for us but well after the other two RVs. One was headed for Benson and the other for Big Bend. The RV park we are staying at in Big Bend is all the way at the southern border of the park so I modified our next stay in San Antonio to arrive one day later. It is over 400 miles between the two stops and since the San Antonio campground is a Thousand Trails, there are no assigned spaces. Getting there after dark wouldn’t be a good idea.

Used the Instant Pot to make dinner. I had it running for about 40 min (18 min building up pressure, 22 min at high pressure) plus made a cup of coffee with the Keurig. This used 32 AH from my battery bank. Or about 400 watt-hours.

Heavy clouds and rain to the west and north. Probably not going to see much tonight. Lots of wind too. We are southwest of Alpine.

Another week and I’ll be back home for a bit.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Day 78 - San Elizario, TX - HH

A very short drive today though I got turned around several time getting here. And the GPS was getting confused as well. We are at Licon Dairy, another Harvest Host stop. A small, 4th generation family business that makes asadero cheese also known as oaxaca cheese. They have a small restaurant to highlight their cheese.

There is a petting zoo as well and it seems to be a very popular stop for families especially since today is Sunday. There are some unusual animals here such camel, llama and ostrich. Thank you to Licon Dairy for allowing RVs to use your parking lot.

The pano below was taken yesterday evening from a colleagues home in the hills above El Paso. The sunlight illuminating the mountains from under the clouds was hard to pass up. We had homemade paella and caribou pot pie. Delicious dinner and wonderful company celebrating Australia Day. Thank you Craig and Vanessa for your hospitality!

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Day 77 -

Today, we visited the Border Patrol museum just north of the El Paso airport. The museum is free and is not operated or funded by he government. They had a nice collection of historical items and photos. I had always assumed that most of their activity was on our southern border. I didn’t realize the amount of smuggling that went on at the Canadian border. Especially during prohibition.

I enjoyed our short visit. We then went along a scenic drive through the hills overlooking El Paso and Juarez, Mexico. We stopped at a park at the highest point of the road with panoramic views to the east, south and west.

The park was pretty crowded as it was a beautiful Saturday afternoon. The next photo shows a large sculpture of an “X”. I don’t know what it stands for.

In the pano, you can see the downtown area as well as the University of Texas El Paso (UTEP). Later this evening, we visited with some for colleagues from the university whom I had worked with for years as part of the Barrow project. They were celebrating Australia Day which, we think, is tomorrow. We had a great time visiting them.

Friday, January 24, 2020

Day 74, 75, 76 - El Paso, TX

Wednesday (74) - An even shorter drive than yesterday, only 37 miles through El Paso to Mission RV Park southeast of town. We are here for several days. It is not a Thousand Trails or Encore Resort but just one we found on the AllStays app. We have several things we need to get done and, thanks to my colleague who lives here, we have a whole list of things to see and do in the area.

The highways through El Paso had a lot of construction going on so narrow lanes and almost no acceleration lanes for merging traffic. Not a nice city to drive through with a large vehicle. After setting up, we headed out to do a little exploring.The first couple of stops were missions, a Mexican bakery, and a Native American museum. The car was covered with dirt from the trip so we ran it through a car wash. Now, we can see out the windows again.

BTW, this RV Park has a pool and jacuzzi but it isn’t anywhere near as nice as Needles or Benson. But it’s in El Paso and there isn’t a lot of choice. Sous vide’d two turkey breasts from frozen. Added salt, pepper, sage, and a little butter. Vacuum sealed it, 145°F for 5 hours. Came out perfect…

Thursday (75) - We are heading for the Apple Store as Bridget’s iPad needs to be replaced. One of the physical switches doesn’t work. Since there are only three actual switches, that’s a significant percentage. They needed to order one so hopefully it arrives before we leave the area. The Apple Genius said that it was usually only a few days but the weekend is around the corner. We stopped at a couple of other stores along the way. Lunch was at Red Lobster. We hadn’t been there in maybe a decade.

My “project” for the afternoon was stuffed cabbage rolls. There was a recent FB post with pictures and it sounded good. We’ll see how it works with limited counter space...

It came out pretty tasty though neither of us were really hungry at dinner time due to our Red Lobster lunch. The cabbage rolls were made in the Instant Pot and were done pretty quickly (18 min at high pressure) though the prep time was probably close to an hour. What did surprise me is that there was enough counter space in this kitchen.

Friday (76) - Today, we visited the El Paso Zoo. Nice, small zoo with some nice exhibits but a lot of things were closed either for the season or due to very light attendance. It was pretty empty. Some of the animals weren’t out yet due to the near freezing overnight temperature. But came out later. E.g. when we left, all four lions were out.

Like many zoos, many of the animals were not very active such as this orangutan.

Display spaces were generally large with several animals sharing the pens. This one, for example, had antelope and giraffe.

It was a nice visit. When we were getting ready to leave, I received a call from Apple. Bridget’s iPad was ready to be picked up. 

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Day 73 - La Union, NM - HH

We are at another Harvest Hosts site. La Viña Winery is the oldest winery in New Mexico and is located just a bit north of El Paso, TX, but still in New Mexico. We only travelled about 80 miles today and arrived mid-morning. Before they were open. Another class A had arrived just before us. They had stayed here last week as well so they knew where to park. It was another moderately windy drive today with rain and cooler temperatures added in. Lots of police along the highway as well as road maintenance crews.

It was 50°F at noon and according to Weather Underground, this may be the high temperature for the day. The house batteries were down to 68% this morning and due to cooler temperatures last night, I ran the generator so I could pre-heat the engine to help make sure it would start. It ran really rough after starting so I suspect the there may be a problem with the intake grid heater as it shouldn’t need to be plugged in at these moderate temperatures. Oh well, one more thing to possibly repair.

When we arrived at the winery, the house batteries were still only at 82% so I ran the generator for half an hour. Long enough to get them to 88%. Maybe some solar still wouldn’t be a bad idea though it wouldn’t help much on wet, overcast days like today. The question in my head is what total wattage should I plan for. Should cables and components be sized for just enough to get by or plan for additional panels sometime in the future. Even when dry camping like this (not boondocking), it would be great if the generator wasn’t needed. I’ll probably need to run the generator again late afternoon so the batteries are back to ~90%.

We did a tasting here and met some of the other RVers parked here. One couple in a 5th wheel are on their way back to Colorado after traveling for a month or so. This has been another fantastic HH location. Tomorrow, we are headed just past El Paso for several days including a visit with a former colleague that I originally met as part of the planning process for the Barrow science facility.

We both liked the Caliente so we picked up a bottle. A semi-sweet with hints of chocolate and chilies. We got to keep the glasses. Something to put into the curio cabinet?

Monday, January 20, 2020

Day 72 - Deming, NM - HH

A very windy drive today to Deming, NM, with gusts to 30+ mph. Mostly from the east so headwinds and crosswinds for most of the drive combined with a slight uphill grade. Average gas mileage today, according to the newly discovered built-in trip computer, was only 5.9 mpg. Once we passed the continental divide, the winds started to die down and are almost non-existent here in Deming. We were enjoying the sun while it was out as rain is in the forecast for tomorrow.

We are dry camping in the parking lot of the D.H. Lescombes Winery through their affiliation with Harvest Hosts. It’s a pretty big parking lot with room for a lot of vehicles as they have live music on some weekends. Since it’s Monday, the lot is pretty empty. On the left is the view to the southwest from the parking lot. This was also one of the few places that wanted to see our HH membership card and they made a copy of it. The bistro here onsite is open until 7pm and I must admit that their Italian sandwich sounds pretty tasty.

This is where we are parked. Currently, there are 5 other RVs here in the parking lot. Which is more than any other Harvest Hosts we’ve stayed at. Not that it’s crowded or anything. We went in and did a tasting a left with a couple of bottles. A sweet plum wine and a Hatch Green Chile wine which is actually made with green chiles. Both were pretty tasty and you can definitely smell the chiles.

Note, the links are referral links and you can get 15% off your membership and we get a kickback if you use the link.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Day 69, 70, 71 - Benson, AZ - TT

Friday (69) - Today was an absolutely beautiful day with clear skies and just a light breeze. I dinked around with a few things on the RV. Since the maintenance staff let me borrow their 10’ step ladder to take a look at the door awning. A few months back, it was left out on a windy evening and a couple of springs popped out. The purpose of the springs is to keep the arms up against the fabric so it clears the door. Apparently, there are a few parts missing as the springs won’t stay in place when the awning is brought in.

I also looked for parts to fix the 12vdc air compressor. The brass fitting is not a standard NPT but a metric brass fitting. M8x1.00 which wasn’t carried by either Ace Hardware or Tractor Supply. I used the Dremel to cut the clamp off and will just cut the hose and clamp it on. We’ll see if it holds up to 120psi, which is the required pressure for the front tires. The rear are 110psi. When leaving Needles, I aired up a couple of low tires using the onboard air compressor.

Not really related to Benson, but I thought it was interesting that Apple had the watch face show sunrise colors at local sunrise.

Saturday (70) - Another beautiful day. It almost hit freezing last night so I did disconnect from water and sewer just in case. It’s supposed to be a little colder tonight. This morning, I tested the electric heater in the wet bay (the compartment with the water and sewer connection) and I’m not sure it works. I’ll test it out later today.

The cactus was right next to the pool gate. It looks like the yellow is the new growth. Other than that, it’s been a slow day.

I had picked up a larger plastic container sold specifically for use with sous vide devices. The lid is hinged to simplify adding or removing the bags without shutting the device off and the lid minimizes evaporation. The 12 quart container is over double the size of the previous container that I picked up in Quartzsite. Today, it was used to reheat leftover rib roast from Christmas. Straight from the freezer to the water. No thawing needed.

Sunday (71) - Yet another beautiful day with a forecasted high of 70°F. I took apart the electric heater in the wet bay and found out that it runs on 12VDC. It’s only 50watts so maybe I didn’t give it enough time to heat up. The heating elements look like a bunch of resisters. I’ll try it out tonight though it isn’t supposed to get even to freezing.

I went to Walmart this morning to pick up groceries and an oil additive specifically for diesel engines with HEUI injection systems. The Cat C7 being one of them. We’ll see if it helps at all with the smoke. Tomorrow’s drive is only a couple of hours to Deming, NM. A new state for the RV. The last time I was here was for an Internet2 Joint Tech meeting where I helped lead a couple of workshops. It’s been a while.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Day 68 - Benson, AZ - TT

Today was a short travel day that ended up feeling longer. After leaving the BLM boondocking area, we stopped for some diesel as we were under ¼ tank and I don’t like to run low. Personality quirk. I didn’t want to fill up at that station as I wanted to try out the TSD fuel discount program. Just west of Benson is a Love’s truck stop that is part of their program and the diesel price listed on the sign was $3.229 per gallon. The discounted price was $2.609 per gallon. TSD charges an fee of 10% of the discount so on this transaction it would be $4.50 so the net savings would be $40.48 or about 18%. That seems worth the trouble. The other benefit is I don’t need to prepay like I usually do when using the truck lanes. I’ll take a 60¢/gal discount.

We are back at the Encore RV park just south of Benson, AZ, again for a couple of days. The light rain and driving through Tucson traffic added to the “long day” feeling even though it wasn’t that bad. Unloading the car and setting up in the rain isn’t that much fun but this is the first time it’s happened so I shouldn’t really be complaining. At least it isn’t snowing!

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Day 67 - Boondocking With Dom

We were originally headed to Benson, AZ, but we decided to meet up with Dom aka He checked with Picacho Peak State Park and they had space for us. But he thought that there may be enough room in the BLM site where he had been staying. There was but it’s a pretty tight fit for our coach. The site was level enough that we could put out the slides. He said that he had forgotten how large this RV was.

It is always nice to visit with Dom.

Tomorrow morning, we will continue on to Benson. 

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Day 66 - Packing Up

Tuesday (66) - Another nice day. The pool is warm today and it’s almost too warm for the jacuzzi. Since we wanted to get an early-ish start tomorrow, I went ahead and emptied the tanks and packed up the sewer hose. I’ll put the rest of the outdoor stuff away this afternoon and maybe even load up the car.

For my own peace of mind, I started up the engine and let it build up air pressure. Not much smoke at all this time. Did the injector cleaner really help? I guess time will tell. It still runs a little rough when first started but it started up just fine. Maybe the intake grid heater isn’t working or maybe I shouldn’t look for problems.

I accidentally hit “post” before I was ready so here it is. I may add more later today.

Later today - It must be time to move on. The jacuzzi wasn’t working this evening...

Monday, January 13, 2020

Day 65 - Forgot How To Count

Sunny and warmish at the pool today. The forecast for tomorrow is 70°F. That must mean it’s time for us to head out. Last year when we were here, the temperature finally went above 70°F the day before we left. BTW, this watch face showed up after one of the recent updates. It shows local sunrise and sunset on the main face for your location.

The air hose on my 12VDC compressor bit the dust today. I’m thinking of trying to find appropriate fittings to just install a quick release air fitting and just use the air hose setup for the coach. It worked fine when I added air to the Prius tires (35psi) but when I hooked it up to the coach (110psi) it started to leak from a crack in the hose. Oh well, cheap compressor purchased from Camping World a few years back.

I finally checked the engine oil, it’s just a little below the full mark. And no evidence of diesel in the oil. That’s good. I put my e-bike into the storage bay and was surprised that it fit upright. I had assumed that I had tried before to put it in upright. It has about an inch of clearance. Maybe I had tried it with the seat installed. Until now, I just laid it on it’s side inside of the storage compartment and was concerned about bending something.

While sitting here, I was looking at the title of this post and thought that I must have messed up by a few days in the number of days somewhere. I was planning on being back in Fairbanks at around 85-86 days and according to my numbering, it was 91. Something was wrong. It turns out that at after day 55, I typed 60 instead of 56. So I just needed to edit the last half dozen posts. It had me wondering if I had forgotten how to count. So this is really day 64 unless you count the travel day.

6:30 pm, still nice