We are staying at an RV park near Taos, New Mexico and arrived here late yesterday. Our trip here from Alamagordo wasn’t a lot of fun and I’ve told Susan to give me a whack if I ever suggest taking the “scenic” route in our motor home again. Several times now I’ve looked at the map and said, well we can go that way but doesn’t this route look interesting? Each time I’ve said that we’ve run into problems. This time our first problem was that they had closed NM Route 219 and we had to make a 30 mile detour. Our second problem was that NM Route 518 may have looked “scenic” but from the moment we left Las Vegas (New Mexico, not Nevada) it went straight up the mountainside, with lots of switchbacks. At around 9000 feet altitude our motor home’s engine decided it was low on coolant (it wasn’t) and shut itself down. Three times in a row. I finally called our emergency service and after doing some fault checking we figured out we had plenty of coolant. I think it was just the fact that we were over 9000 feet up (the pass was at 9400 feet) and had been climbing non-stop. When the engine had cooled enough we made it over the pass and didn’t have any more problems. That doesn’t mean the road was any better since it still took us over an hour to drive the 30 remaining miles to Taos. No more scenic routes in the motor home.
Anyway, the bridge over the Rio Grand River is on the list of local attractions and is only about 4 miles from our RV park. We took a trip over there this afternoon. From the direction we came (from the north side heading south) you don’t see the bridge or the gorge until you are right on top of them.
The gorge under the bridge is several hundred feet down. A long ways, but probably not enough for base jumping and even if you did there are no trails down to the Rio Grand River near the bridge.
State Highway 82 travels from Alamogordo east into the Sacramento Mountains. As soon as we got on Highway 82 we started climbing and we climbed all the way to Cloudcroft which is about 20 miles away and about 4500 feet higher. It is at an elevation of 8650 feet and at least 20 degree cooler than Alamogordo.
The only way to Cloudcroft used to be by train over a rail line that was originally built in the late 1800’s to haul lumber. The rail line was shut down in 1947 mostly because most of trees had been logged off but also because there was now a road.
The rail line criss-crossed the canyon many times and there were originally a couple dozen trestles, all built with lumber from the local forests. Most of the trestles have since decayed and disappeared but this one was recently re-built.
Cloudcroft as a town isn’t anything special. It is a place for people from Alamogordo to escape the summer heat and to ski in the winter. It is therefore a touristy place with a lot of restaurants, motels and lodges. The views along the way were very nice and it was interesting going from complete desert to pine forest along the way.
There was a cliff about half way up to Cloudcroft and we saw about a half a dozen rock climbers on it.
It was an interesting scenic drive that would have been improved by a few more scenic turn-offs. There were a number of interesting sights along the way but no place to stop and take a look. There were two well-built scenic turn-off’s that had handicap parking and sidewalk cuts. One had a view platform hanging off the side of the mountain that I took Susan out to, although since she’s not all that fond of heights, she wasn’t all that thrilled that I had. It wasn’t a long drive, only about 20 miles, but it was still an interesting side trip.
The base for the White Sands Missile Range (WSMR) is off of Highway 70 about a third of the way from Las Cruces to Alamogordo. There is a small museum and a larger outdoor display of missiles there that although not hidden, is not highly advertised either.
We are staying at an RV park in Alamogordo and drove to the museum yesterday. The Tularosa Valley that the WSMR and the White Sands National Monument are located in is very flat and the route for highway 70 was designed when somebody placed a ruler on the map and drew a straight line. The WSMR base is on the back side of the Organ Mountains from Las Cruces and the view of them is quite spectacular.
The Museum itself is rather small and contains mostly old equipment and memorabilia from the 1950’s and 1960’s.
Of course, what good is a missile range without a warning device?
The fenders on our tow dolly are mostly plastic, go figure. The left fender on our tow dolly had been badly damaged when we blew a tire last fall in Texas and I had to use a lot of duct tape to get it to hold together long enough for us to get to Arizona. The right fender wasn’t as badly damaged but the front lights were hanging on with duct tape.
A couple of weeks ago I ordered new fenders from an RV place in Tucson and they came in last week. It’s been in the upper 80’s and low 90’s lately but today there are scattered clouds and a nice breeze so I thought it would be a good day to replace the fenders.
I already knew I had to remove the tires to get at the bolts holding the fenders in place so I borrowed the jack from the Transit. Fortunately I have a couple sets of really large socket wrenches (I bought them just before we moved into our motor home and I’m not sure what I was expecting to do with them, but they really came in handy today) so I was able to get all the nuts and bolts off the old fenders and then back on the new fenders relatively easily.
Replacing the fenders cost more than I would’ve liked (a bit over $400 with shipping and tax) but we really couldn’t drive around with the old fenders any more. This was the last major thing I need to do before we leave for the summer. Still a lot of small cleaning-up and putting-away jobs but we’ll probably save those for our last couple of days before we hit the road.