Arizona {Hearts} AT&T

We pulled over 500 miles today, most of which was "in network" on AT&T. I think AT&T does not like New Mexico, but it loves Arizona. We were up and out of Oliver Lee SP by 8AM today. Interesting park, but full of partying tent campers and, as we noted yesterday, rocks. Time to go. So, we hoofed it on I-10 till noonish (around Lordsburg, NM) and then impulsively headed north on US-70 because we'd had enough interstate. Lovely ride up to Globe and the part of US-60 that we weren't able to take earlier this year. We LOVE US-60. Made it through Phoenix--we wanted to push beyond it on a Sunday--and to a delicious county park about 30 miles north. Note for fellow RVers: Stay at Lake Pleasant. Full hookups, $20, views to forever. We finally got sort of level as the sun was fading. We could see hot air balloons far off in the sunset, mountains, and tons and tons of saguaros standing guard over us. It was worth the extra detour to stay here, rather than a snowbird RV park. (We aren't over 55 anyway and so many of the RV parks in AZ have age restrictions.)

We pushed hard today and will do so again on Tuesday--we'll cut NW up to Kingman, then over Tehachapi down to Bakersfield, which makes Tuesday's trip a 4-hour cruise home. Plenty of time to clean the house and grocery shop and cook the feast on Thursday. (I'll try making Mom's stuffing in the 2-quart $12 Walmart crockpot in the RV another year.) Just keep your fingers crossed that we can get the #*$&! propane company to come out and relight our pilot lights on Wednesday. Tough to cook a turkey without the gas.... But I could always use the grill. Good to have a Plan B.

We are seriously talking about coming back to the southwest again soon--maybe in January for the View/Navion Tech Rally at Quartzite? (Icky place, but great people and products.) Maybe for spring trip to SW NM sites that we missed? Who knows? We haven't invented 2010 yet, but will put this in the pot. We want to visit Bisbee, AZ, for the mine tour; Tucson for a Sonoran hot dog at El Guero Canelo; Frank Lloyd Wright's architecture school, Taliesen West, in Phoenix; Sedona for a Pink Jeep tour; the Catwalks in western NM (metal catwalks bolted to the canyon walls--they were old gold mining equipment!), Silver City and Gila Cliffs National Monument, and the rocky state parks we just couldn't stomach this week: City of Rocks SP and Rockhound SP (where you can keep whatever semi-precious stones you find/"mine") near Deming.

Without further adieu, a catch-up on photos from the last week.

CARLSBAD CAVERNS: Natural Entrance

For those of you who have always been fit, it probably is a big yawn, but for someone like me who has not been athletic, it was a feat to tackle a hike labeled "strenuous" and with tons of warnings. Turns out it was Lisa who was freaking out as we descended the VERY steep trail into the dark, humid (90% humidity) cave.... Both of our legs were a bit sore the next day, but what a blast to actually descend without an elevator almost 1,000 feet below the surface. Hyperventilation was avoided, but after we took a second trail around the actual cave, we were happy for that elevator. (All cave photos were on the iPhone; I didn't want to manage the big camera with the slopes and dampness.)

What a lovely park this is, out in the middle of nowhere (literally)! We actually drove back down to the park from well north of Carlsbad so that we could dry camp here and do some of the hikes. However, the camping STINKS! Just a parking lot. So we didn't end up staying but we did do a few of the shorter trails (since we'd done the cave the same day!). This place looks like a dry, rocky, inhospitable place; turns out that the reason it's a national park is that there's a "bowl" inside the jagged mountains that catches any rain and is bursting with biological diversity. We got a small taste of the diversity (all kinds of cool bugs and birds and mammals) without hiking the 3000 feet up to the "bowl":

These folks are just proud of their wacky reputation. We love it.

The lady at the Visitor Center insisted. She did. Really.

Well, we missed Bosque del Apache, but we found another, possibly better, spot: a national wildlife refuge. The visitor's center was brand new, gorgeous, with lovely displays. The park has 110 species of dragonflies--who knew there were such robust wetlands in New Mexico? There are deep artesian springs in this area--lots of water, reeds, protective hills, and no predators. Perfect place for birds. On the day we visited, around 24,000 sandhill cranes (the peak). Gorgeous. But unfortunately, some of the nature trails were closed because it was a hunting day. (In a wildlife refuge? Whatever.... But I've now got a killer craving for duck.)

Quite the wild west town--the entire place is on the National Registry of Historic Places. Had a really great lunch (another great green chile cheeseburger) at a historic hotel and a nice stroll down this old street.

Drove through the mountains down through Ruidoso (another place to put on the must-visit list for the next trip) to Oliver Lee State Park outside of Alamagordo. A very funky park, but up a hillside with commanding views of all the jagged mountains down around Las Cruces. I realized how very much I like the cottonwoods/river valleys. There wasn't a tree in sight.... Part of the cause for homesickness, I think.

Now here's a sunrise saguaro photo, courtesy of Lisa, who was out walking the dog today.

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