Escaping the Freeze

After touring Hiker Trailer in Denver, CO on the 24th, I spend one more night at St. Vrain State Park just north of Denver, and then prepare to hit the road the next day to escape the deep freeze coming later this week.

October 25, Wednesday

I stay at St Vrain as long as I can, taking full use of the electric hookup to work on the computer and heat up leftovers in my microwave for an early lunch. Around 11:30, a ranger pulls up to my site to make sure I’m aware that check-out is at noon. I’m guessing the park is expecting to be full again tonight and they’re trying to figure out how many sites they’ll have for new people coming in. Before the words are entirely out of my mouth that I will be leaving and not renewing my site for another night, the ranger is heading back to his cart to check at the next spot. Camping near cities is convenient and all, but I prefer the slower pace of more remote parks better.

It’s a sunny and warm day. And by warm, I mean the high is 80 in Denver. It’s hard to believe that in two nights the low is going to be 22. That’s autumn in the foothills for you.

I pack up and hitch up Cas in record time, pulling out of site #5 a couple minutes before noon. No one can complain I overstayed. I find out later that a reader of IO is at the entrance kiosk when I leave, and they end up taking site #5. What a small world it is!

From Longmont where the park is located, by far the fastest way south is straight through Denver on I25. I’ve done that drive towing the Casita once before, and remember it not being a fun drive. Not that driving through major cities with a trailer could ever truly be described as β€œfun”, but some cities are more painful than others. I remember Denver as being more on the painful side.

Colorado countryside

But to go around would cost a lot of money in tolls, or to go so far out of my way that I wouldn’t escape the freeze in time. So I mentally prepare myself and steer Bertha onto I25.

So much of how a city drive goes depends on the traffic. And early afternoon on a Wednesday, the traffic isn’t bad. I follow my usual plan of staying in the right lane when the road is three or less lanes, and in the second to the right lane when the road is four or more lanes. I’m guessing Denver has finished some road construction in the past two years, because I25 isn’t as rough as I remembered.

Pretty sure this one was from NM

Perhaps the worst part of this section of I25 is once you escape Denver, it’s not over yet. You really need to get south of Colorado Springs to escape the traffic. Again, though, it ends up being a more pleasant drive than my last trip through.

I spend the night at the Walmart in Trinidad, CO, where not one, not two, but three teardrops are also overnighting. I take it as a good omen for my purchase. It’s a mild night with lows in the mid 40’s, and because this walmart is not 24 hours, it’s rather quiet.

October 26, Thursday

I try to limit my travel days to 250 miles, which if I’m going my usual speed of 60-65 mph and staying away from towns can be done in four hours theoretically. Realistically, travel days take longer because I have to slow down in towns, stop for gas, and break for lunch. Today’s drive will be more like 300 miles, because I’ll have to drive pretty far south to avoid tonight’s freeze.

Stopping for lunch at a rest stop in New Mexico

But that’s okay, because I have a final destination in mind that I’ve been trying to visit for two years without success, and this time I’m passing through early enough in the season that it’ll work out.

Raton Pass on I25 near the border between Colorado and New Mexico sits at over 7,800 feet of elevation and they’re expected to get a dusting of snow as the cold front pushes through late this afternoon. Luckily, crossing in the morning I avoid that issue. The last time I came through here the pass was in the clouds and I couldn’t see a thing. Right now it’s perfectly clear.

Near Raton Pass

I stay on I25 until south of Las Vegas (NM) where I exit onto some smaller roads and pass over I40 on a tiny country road labeled 219 while semis zoom underneath.

At the town of Vaughn I get onto 285, and tonight’s low looks much more reasonable. I finally stop for the day at the north end of Roswell, NM at another Walmart, where the low is 34 degrees. I’ve escaped the freeze, success! Despite the location, my stay in the parking lot remains altogether ordinary and normal. No aliens this visit.

October 27, Friday

I saw a post recently on Facebook that mentioned how bad 285 was between Roswell and Carlsbad. I’m not sure where they got their information from, but it seems out of date. Much of 285 has been recently re-surfaced and it’s smooth sailing into town.

285

From Carlsbad, I turn southwest onto 62 and drive a few miles out to my boondocking spot. I’m sure you’ve all figured out my destination by now.

There are several free boondocking sites near Carlsbad Caverns National Park, but the one I choose is down Dark Canyon Road. After the second cattle grate is a cattle crossing sign, and the next right beyond that is the dirt road this boondock is down.

It’s just a large dusty pullout on the right, pretty level with a few ruts in spots. Numerous rigs can fit here, but when I arrive I have it all to myself. I chose this over other options that may have been more scenic because this one was reputed to have the best Verizon signal. I’m happy to see when I arrive that I do have a strong LTE signal.

Van neighbor visible to far left

It’s not much to look at. The Chihuahuan Desert is pretty featureless here, dominated by sparse, yellow grass with the occasional shrub. Not long after I get set up, a van pulls in that will be my neighbor for my entire stay. He keeps to himself, but that doesn’t bother me at all. The flat terrain makes for big sky views.

There is some beauty here, if you’re willing to look for it

The sunset tonight, my first true boondocking sunset in months, welcomes me back in style with spectacular colors. Ahhhh, the southwest. I’ve missed you!

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34 Responses to Escaping the Freeze

  1. Elisa November 7, 2017 at 2:57 pm #

    Glad you escaped the freeze and lived through Denver traffic. I don’t have a Cas yet, but I travel quite a bit by motorcycle and some of my most harrowing memories come from rush hour (morning) in Denver. Yuck. Glad you like New Mexico… one of my favorite places. Take Care

    • Becky November 8, 2017 at 10:43 am #

      Yes I try to avoid morning and afternoon rush hours at all costs! Thanks.

  2. RGupnorth November 7, 2017 at 5:35 pm #

    I-25 out of Denver can be bad anytime of the day. Colorado Springs also. Ever stop at Garden of the Gods? Nice city park. I have driven that drive through Denver to Santa Fe. Can just picture the drive you described. Population keeps growing aroun Denver and there isn’t much country left from there to Castle Rock. So I was expecting some details about the Hiker in this post.

    • Becky November 8, 2017 at 10:52 am #

      Drove past the sign for Garden of the Gods and know it’s worth seeing from other RVer’s pics, but didn’t have time to stop this visit since I wanted to escape the freeze. Maybe when I come back to the area next year to pick up the teardrop.

      Once I’ve finalized the build for the Hiker I’ll write more about it, but not until then. I need a break right now from people trying to tell me what to do (I’ve had to delete comments and e-mails about it). This is the problem with sharing your private life with the public – everyone thinks they have a say.

      When I’m ready, I’ll share more. πŸ™‚

      • RGupnorth November 9, 2017 at 6:01 pm #

        I think some of us are willing to share what we would have done different as food for thought. Anxious to read what you are going with.

        • Becky November 10, 2017 at 11:42 am #

          Yes RG, you and my other regular commenters have been good about giving your opinion in a constructive way to help other blog readers and I think that’s great. The people I’m talking about (the comments that I deleted) were not written that way and were not very nice.

  3. Ron November 7, 2017 at 5:43 pm #

    We have traveled a lot and I remember Denver and Houston as the 2 worst I have driven through. Not real fond of Kansas City either.

    • Becky November 8, 2017 at 10:55 am #

      Haha, I kind of have a mental list ranking the major cities and how easy they are to drive through too Ron.

  4. Judith November 7, 2017 at 6:55 pm #

    I’m glad you are safe and in a nicer climate. We have been driving a lot of driving this past two weeks. I miss staying a while, like 2 weeks! As soon as we get to Arizona I’ll be happy. Safe traveis.

    • Becky November 8, 2017 at 10:57 am #

      I also prefer to stay a week or two in one location, I never get any work done otherwise! Have a good trip Judith, take care.

  5. Ray Mullen November 8, 2017 at 4:50 am #

    Thank you for sharing your travels. I enjoyed Carlsbad Caverns. Met several interesting people and watched the bat show.

    • Becky November 8, 2017 at 10:58 am #

      You’re welcome Ray, thanks for commenting!

  6. Doug November 8, 2017 at 5:16 am #

    Houston traffic is horrible! Construction everywhere and fast and aggressive drivers. Weather has been in the 80’s until today then cranks back up later in the week. Love following your travels. After the disaster work is done hope to hit the road with my trailer but unlikely to go full time anytime soon. Very interesting story on public radio recently about older travelers using there mobility to find work. Even mentioned Amazon and the sugar beet jobs. Suggest the SBA as a possible work source if you have the right qualifications. You do end up staying in hotels and have to work 6-7 days a week but helping disaster victims is very satisfying.

    • Mary November 8, 2017 at 7:42 am #

      What is SBA???

    • Becky November 8, 2017 at 11:02 am #

      There’s a disaster program specifically for vet techs (helping animals) and I’ve thought about signing up for it before. Problem is it could interfere with work-camping jobs I’d already lined up so it wasn’t realistic when I first hit the road and needed to have jobs in advance to make sure I’d have enough money. Still on the list for someday though!

  7. Terri November 8, 2017 at 6:47 am #

    Sorry you didn’t head through ABQ – I would have loved to meet you in person! But I understand not wanting to be on the highway through here with your rig. I drove into town last year with a uHaul, towing my car, and it was scary!

    I have a friend who lives in Raton and she loves it there. For me, that’s encouragement of too much snow, lol. Love the photos though, and oh, so much of NM looks like your pictures – large open sky, but also sometimes, no vegetation whatsoever.

    Glad you had a good travel day and an uneventful one at that.
    Terri recently posted..Another YearMy Profile

    • Becky November 8, 2017 at 11:05 am #

      I would love to meet you in person someday Terri! Would have to research some ahead of time to find reasonable camping in the area.

      Glad you enjoyed this!

      • Terri November 8, 2017 at 2:00 pm #

        Absolutely! And I’ve definitely seen RVs around here that I think are urban boondocking. πŸ™‚ And I’m sorry you have been having to deal with so many opinions on your choice of camper. YOu have to do you!!

  8. Y Knowles November 8, 2017 at 7:23 am #

    Stay warm! I van camped for the first time this past weekend! It was very cold here (low 30’s at night). I used hand warmers and toe warmers and stayed toasty. It was lots of fun and I have lots of kinks to work out before I go for longer trips. I need window coverings, screens etc etc. Where I camped this time I knew I could camp without them but I definitely will need them for future trips.

    • Becky November 8, 2017 at 11:08 am #

      Glad you had fun YK! I used Reflectix in my windows to help regulate the temperature on cold and hot days and it made a huge difference.

  9. Darren November 8, 2017 at 7:42 am #

    Becky, glad you made it out of freeze! I’m from Portales New Mexico was a Lieutenant Firefighter/Paramedic there so I know the area your at very well. We live in Lubbock at the moment but we go over to Brantley Lake outside of Carlsbad to go kayak fishing. They have a very nice camping area with clean bathrooms. The fishing there is great but the locals there are a little rude. You are there at a good time because it gets extremely hot from July through September. Funny story, I meet my wife at an RV park when I was in Dallas area. She is from New York state and when we moved over here I told her we would go to Carlsbad to fish and to show her how New Mexico desert looks and how hot it gets. Told her that the ground gets so hot that the snakes won’t even crawl on it. While we were at Brantley campground she spotted a snake in the top of a mesquite bush. It was 103 degree’s that day and you could seriously fry an egg on the pavement. Just a common sight around there. If you have not gone, go to Living Desert Zoo in Carlsbad. Very neat and informative staff ready to talk about New Mexico Desert life! Take care and enjoy the Desert. I really don’t miss living there except for one thing,,, this time of year there are beautiful sunset’s! Stay safe!!

    • Becky November 8, 2017 at 11:11 am #

      Thanks for sharing Darren! Yeah, I wouldn’t want to hang out in the desert in the summer. I feel like I’ve gotten pretty lucky to have avoided run-ins with venomous snakes since I hit the road.

  10. Mary November 8, 2017 at 7:44 am #

    What lovely photos. Some day we are going to take a drive down there. Live in Wisconsin now. Planning to take some trips in the RV next summer.

    • Becky November 8, 2017 at 11:12 am #

      It’s worth a visit Mary! And very different from Wisconsin, hehe.

  11. Scott French November 8, 2017 at 3:34 pm #

    Becky,
    I just read your posts about the teardrop. About this time last year, we did the opposite. We traded a Little Guy 5×10 Silver Shadow for a Lance just like Marshall’s. Just newer. I have to say I am perplexed why you would move that direction, being a full timer. If by chance you would like to talk about teardrop life and all the pros and cons, feel free to give me a shout. Marshall has my number.

    • Becky November 9, 2017 at 4:22 pm #

      Most full-timers do choose to go larger, I’m just different from most full-timers I guess! Glad you’re enjoying your Lance, but I’m confident in my decision. πŸ™‚

      • Scott French November 11, 2017 at 6:00 am #

        The wait time would drive me crazy! I wish you the best with your teardrop. We really did love it (mostly) and went all kinds of places with it. Crossed the country 4 times! I had bikes hanging off the back and boats on top most of the time.
        One aspect of teardrops that you will find out soon enough, is they draw a LOT of attention. You will have people asking you questions in gas stations, CGs and every where else. We did hit CGs mostly for the hookups and toilets. Then we had our living space behind the trailer under the hatch. People would walk up and start talking and taking pictures all the time. For a while it was cute/funny. After a while, I started to get grumpy since I too am an introvert. You have been warned… πŸ˜‰

        • Becky November 11, 2017 at 6:27 pm #

          I’m good friends with full-time teardropper who says the same thing, haha.

  12. Rhonda November 8, 2017 at 5:40 pm #

    At the risk of sounding like a total dweeb, Becky, I like to pull out my National Geographic Adventure Edition Road Atlas and follow along your travel paths as you write about them. I’m not sure what it is about New Mexico that is calling my name, but I feel sure I’ll be doing some exploring there sooner or later. I traced your north/south bound route with this post so it almost felt like being there. Thanks for sharing your travelogue with us armchair travelers (for now) so we can vicariously explore right along with you. πŸ™‚

    • Becky November 9, 2017 at 4:30 pm #

      Actually I think that’s pretty cool Rhonda! New Mexico is a pretty awesome state and should definitely be on your list. You’re welcome and I’m glad to have you along for the journey.

  13. Emily November 9, 2017 at 11:02 am #

    I moved to TorC 4 years ago and there has hardly, and I mean hardly, been a day without some kind of beauty to it here in NM. If it isn’t in the morning with sunrises, then it will be in the evenings with sunsets; if its cloudy/foggy there is beauty in the way the clouds hug the mountains and clear off sometime during the day and the sun shines thru; the snow (as little as we get) is light and fluffy and revels the beauty of the land around. The dryness is to be appreciated and the moisture, when it comes, is welcomed. And the folks around me are as warm and beautiful as the State.

    • Becky November 9, 2017 at 4:30 pm #

      Well said Emily!

  14. Girili TenBroeck November 13, 2017 at 8:52 am #

    I have been reading your blog since you started but I seldom leave a comment. I guess no matter how old I get people will never cease to amaze me. Why people would be nasty about what rig you choose and why they think they know better than you do what you need amazes me. Not that it’s anyone else’s business, but I can absolutely see you in a teardrop. I hope you enjoy Carlsbad Caverns. I haven’t been there in about 40 years but we loved it.

    • Becky November 13, 2017 at 12:58 pm #

      Thanks for following IO for so long!

      I’ve been dealing with people like this (I call them naysayers) since I first announced I was hitting the road. http://www.interstellarorchard.com/2012/01/09/dont-listen-to-naysayers/.

      In the online world, the more attention you attract the more naysayers you attract too. I get more now than I did in the beginning, and blogs with a larger audience than mine get even more. Just comes with the territory sadly.

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