Monday, October 19, 2020

Oh Yeah, It's Different Out There Now

 September 26 - October 1, 2020
Deming - San Antonio, New Mexico

Just typing a different location for this post is something I've looked forward to for.....well, for what seems like forever!

The motorhome has been moved to the driveway a few days ahead of departure and everything is loaded for take-off on Saturday morning. Jeff tries not to physically push us out the door, looking forward to no old people around for a couple weeks. Tessa finds her spot during prep and I start the engine.

Making sure we're all where we're supposed to be before moving to her bed for the drive.
Two check engine lights and one notification greet me when I turn the key. And just like that we're back to RV living :-))))) 

Although Bill has checked all the levels and aired up a couple tires, the motorhome would like to have a little more coolant. He complies, and while he's hooking up the Jeep the second light and notification disappear. We know from experience that the first light is for computer updates so we agree to continue our launch.

The bathroom door has been refusing to stay latched for months and on the first day's drive we figure out a temporary fix for that. I feel like we're winning the "things will go wrong while traveling" competition that is part of this otherwise wonderful life. A few days later it will be a dead heat.

We're leaving at the end of the most recent heat wave so about two hours in we turn on the generator and run the front house AC into Deming, New Mexico. It's one of the many reasons I'm glad we got a motorhome and not a 5er - arriving on a hot day with the house already cooled off. 

Roadrunner RV Park is a repeat for us and looks like every other park in Deming. The office is closed and I register at the small table and drop box. No contact is a good start! It's not a pretty park, Deming isn't a pretty destination. But it's a good 200 mile stopping spot and there are many things to see in the area.

When we moved into the RV in 2015, our first few nights were in our friends' storage lot. This park is sort of like that.
Our first full day back on the road and it's Sunday. In late September. And in spite of the virus and all it has stopped in our lives, the NFL is making it work. So of course we spend the day watching games, doing a bit of deep cleaning - and, wait for it! -  ordering dinner delivered to our door!

It's a good start for us as our plans for this two weeks is to avoid others wherever possible.

Sparky's in Hatch is closed on Mondays (normally a good reason to make a stop in Deming), so no favorite-green-chili-cheeseburgers this time. We realize later that it's also the pineapple coleslaw that makes it special.

Bill's mom was born in Silver City, New Mexico (95 years ago, she's still with us), and we've not yet been there in our travels. With Hatch off the agenda, we head west instead to check out Bill's roots.

Like many western towns, Silver City built up around mining. A large copper mine is still active and an awful eyesore on the surrounding mountainside. A delightful downtown is surviving the epidemic, but on a Monday many places are closed. Okay with us, we aren't entering businesses. Although we do feel safe because inside and out, everyone is wearing a mask!

How refreshing!
Because it's the law in New Mexico. The Land of Enchantment is apparently also the Land of Enlightenment! For venturing out into the world for a couple weeks, this was a good choice for us.

Hazy skies, but a pretty drive.
We've seen a lot of New Mexico, and most of our stops this time are repeats. The one new spot is a place that grabbed my attention from Jim and Diana's post (Explorvistas) I'd never heard of San Antonio, NM, although we did have a one night stop in nearby Socorro a couple years back. The town is a single intersection and five small businesses. 

We're staying at Bosque Birdwatchers RV Park, but I will always remember it as "Billy's Place". The signs and interior "road" have seen better days, but when Billy greets you in front of his house you're immediately happy to be there! He asks us to wait for him "up top" while he puts his kitty in the house so the hawks don't get her (see, a lovely man!).

Social distancing not a problem.

Wide open space, wish I'd booked a couple more days.
Very clean and level, the park is a large gravel lot with several FHU spaces and wide open views all around. The train runs nearby (we love trains), but otherwise it is completely quiet. I pay by check at the site and Billy brings us a small bag of still-warm, freshly roasted green chilis <heart>.

At this point we're again reminded of the challenges of RV living......

Not how slide toppers are supposed to look.

Maybe it's because we're so happy to be traveling again, or the beautiful weather, but neither of us gets upset. Not happy, but I guess we know we'll figure out a fix. At the top of the ladder Bill is able to pull the bracket back in place, but the bolt is gone. Nothing is broken or torn. Amazingly I find a long bolt in the "fell-off-of-something-found-on-floor" box of hardware that fits perfect! He tightens it up and in less than ten minutes all is good again.

Like it never happened.

The famous Owl Bar is here, but only open for pick-up by appointment. We'll give it a try next time. Instead, we find a large and open patio at Buckhorn Tavern, and for the first time in six months we enjoy a meal at a restaurant. Masks are required when not at the table, all staff are masked, tables are 12 feet apart, sanitizer at each door. It is a very different experience for sure, but we feel safe. And the green chili cheeseburgers are fabulous. Easily the best we've ever had (very hot), sorry Sparky's!

After our late lunch we make the short drive to the real draw of the area - Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge. Read Jim's post to learn about the refuge's link to a late RV blogger that some of you may know. 

In this different world we're not surprised that the lovely visitor center is closed. It's larger than I'm expecting and from Jim's post I know we're missing a wonderful experience. Portable toilets and sinks in the parking lot are appreciated, and brochures with maps and information give us what we need to enter the refuge.

No surprise there are no birds this time of year. We laugh that the birds found here in late summer/early fall are the same as those we see daily in our yard - so we don't look too hard :-)

Birds are not the only reason to visit this beautiful place. The diverse and peaceful marshland shuts out the rest of the world, and makes you slow down and just breathe. After only a few miles we could be anywhere; it doesn't feel like desert or New Mexico or 2020. Refuge indeed.

A lone snag waits for an eagle to pose over the marsh.



We've missed it twice while nearby, and I'm determined that this time we're going to visit the Very Large Array (VLA). One of those iconic places that everyone recognizes but few know exactly where it is. I confirm online that the visitor center is closed (the new and different reality of state and national parks/monuments/refuges), but Jim assures me (our long distance guide for this stop) we can see everything from the highway. Let's go!

At the end of a pretty 62 mile drive on Hwy 60 there's no doubt we've arrived. Visible from several miles, the radio observatory made up of 28 communication dishes are spread out over the Plains of San Augstin. 

There is a lot of interesting history in this area and I can't help but imagine how the tribes and pioneers of the past would react to these strange structures lined up across plains that otherwise look much the same as during their times.

A few things surprise me. First is that the dishes are much smaller than I pictured (in the movie Contact they look twice as wide). Second is how spread out they are. Some near the buildings are closer, but most are in two long arms across the valley. Finally, I'm most surprised that Hwy 60 goes right through it! Yep, we drive right up to one of them with just a small chain link fence between the road and the big million dollar ET phone.

The tour we missed walks out to a dish from the visitor center, but this is a lot closer than I thought I'd get!

When we arrived the dishes were at multiple angles. Without making any sound, suddenly they were all pointed straight up. It was creepy, neither of us saw them move!

At the pull-over on the highway people have left notes and stickers on the guard rail. Bill finds this fun one "Mom thought aliens moved the satellites." No?

Even getting to see the VLA itself, I'm disappointed that we can't see the videos and exhibits or ask questions or hear anecdotes from those who work here - or get postcards for the grands!!
In the year we've been stationary, the world has changed. Of course it has. We've been in Tombstone, Arizona, not on Mars. Some differences are subtle while others are in your face. Many impact how and where we travel, what we're able to see and do. Most of the differences are COVID-related, some are the pending election, others are environmental like smoke and heat. 

As we continue this short sojourn into the "out there" we're still very happy to be exploring again. But it's definitely different.

Thursday morning we continue north to Santa Fe.


  1. We frequently overnight in Deming, it's a great location and it has a couple wineries.
    looking forward to following as you again explore in the "out there".

  2. So glad your trip was good! We've always like Silver City and I wish more places were on board with their masks. And also glad you were able to eat in a restaurant--outdoor dining is great!

    1. I agree. Wishing Arizona was as diligent with the numbers on the rise :-( What a treat to have a meal served!

  3. Since we're a few days into our first trip of the season this post made me laugh in a "knowing" way! We've had a few of those little adjustments and uh oh moments. Our water pump wouldn't turn off so we used the water and then turned it of manually. Once....I forgot and we drove 100 miles or more with it still on. Dave was sure it would be burned up but it wasn't - and now it works! Go figure.
    So great to read this post and see some of us beginning to poke our heads out (safely) into the unknown world out there.

    1. I can't count the number of times that just driving down the road "fixed" something for us :-))) Glad you didn't lose your pump! Have fun as you poke out - it's still the best.

  4. I followed Lynne's blog. She took such beautiful photos. What an honor for her.

    1. I agree. Bummed we couldn't see what they have of hers at the visitor center. Sure can see why she loved the area so much, it's magical!

  5. Oh, guys made the best of it with things being closed! We sure felt Lynne’s presence at Bosque. Thanks for the shoutout!

    1. Thanks for your great intro and help during our stay!!

  6. I've been wondering about how it's going to be when we get back 'out there.' It looks like you're making the most of it. I think what I'm going to miss most are our culinary adventures, LOL. And of course, museums and other cultural attractions. So glad you were able to get the little motorhome glitches taken care of (we have one of those containers with random parts found rolling around on the floor, and I just know it's going to come in handy one of these days!). You're certainly finding plenty of fun things to do and see, even with the restraints of these strange times. Keep on finding the joy! :-)

    Oh! And plan a trip back to Bosque sometime in November. We were there a dozen years ago for the Festival of the Cranes, and it was fabulous! The refuge fills up with Snow Geese, Sandhill Cranes, and many other birds and it is gorgeous. That was pre-blogging for us but we've always wanted to return.

    1. I was thinking the longer we waited the more normal it would be, but with the new spikes all over who knows when that might be the case :-( While we get a lot of cranes and geese just over the hill at Whitewater Draw, the refuge is about a 10th the size of Bosque so I'd love to get back up there after November!

  7. So great to see you are having a great time even with a hiccup. You have the perfect attitude for the MH lifestyle. One never knows what they will find after each road beating that the house takes at 60 mph. Glad the slide topper was an easy fix. Thanks for providing ideas for a fall 2021 to NM. That was some distancing at "Billy's Place!" Perfect!

    1. It's still the best life I can imagine :-) That stop in San Antonio was such a treat, just what we needed to add to our repeats!

  8. I'm a NM resident and am pleased to read you're having a good experience. I was especially interested to hear that Billy's Place is still open. We have stayed there several times during the Festival of the Cranes at Bosque. The Festival is cancelled for this year. Too bad.

    1. Your home state is so pretty and I appreciate their taking this virus seriously! Bummer the festival won't happen this year, I bet it's wonderful :-)


  9. Boy do I wish my motor home would tell me what it needs. Love “things go wrong while traveling competition”. Don’t I know it. Hats off to New Mexico for masks. Way to go with the slide topper fix. Bosque del Apache is so on my bucket list. I am so bummed that all the visitor centers are closed. When is this going to end? And life become less limited. I suspect I’m going to find the same thing you did when I head out in a week – things are very different on the road. I'm trying not to let it make me sad. So much said in the past 2 years.

    1. Enough with the sad indeed! Bosque needs to be on everyone's list, and definitely people like you who know your birds!! I hope your coming travels give you a good experience even though it will most certainly be different. And if you're going to Florida I'm afraid it isn't going to be as safe as New Mexico :-(

  10. I've stayed in Deming a couple times. Haven't explored much more of New Mexico. The refuge looks gorgeous, birds or not. Glad you are out there. I'm wondering what it will be like when I hit the road Sunday.

    1. Deming has a lot to enjoy all around, but the northern part of the state is the real treat! You and your camera need to make that happen :-)

  11. I still remember our first hamburger from a restaurant. We ate it in the truck because even the patio was closed at the time. It was so good! I'm glad Bill is handy and that you had a ladder to reach your slide topper. When we find a loose screw we try to figure out where it came from before it goes into the "random screw/bolt/nut ziploc". The Bosque Refuge area does indeed look serene and calming. I'm glad that you ventured out and are making the most of your travels!

    1. We've picked up meals from our local restaurant both to support them and because I get tired of cooking every night. But sitting down and being served was a huge feeling of normal! That refuge is so special.