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  • Writer's pictureKandy Thietten

Friends In New Mexico

Friday, April 2, we had our first night of Walmart camping in the small city of Gallup, NM. Appropriately for a Walmart stay, we got to witness 3 cop cars pulling in, lights flashing and sirens blaring. We decided that would be a good time to go do a little shopping, so we wandered past the scene where we listened to a woman screaming hysterically as she was put into the back of a cop car, and we witnessed some officers searching her pickup. Long before we got to the Walmart entrance (we may have walked a bit more slowly than usual. What can I say? We couldn't resist checking out the commotion) a security guard came out and started yelling something at us. When we were finally able to understand her muffled voice, we learned that the Gallup, NM Walmart closes at 10:00 p.m. Weird. I'm not sure why she was so frantic about turning us away before we were even twenty yards from the store, but I'm sure she had her reasons. Possibly, they had something to do with the fact that Gallup has a nearly violent crime rate of nearly 1:10 (one violent crime for every ten people in a year). I was happy to leave after learning that little tidbit. Before I decided to look up the crime rate, we went to Applebee's for for Abe's birthday. I will say, they were amazingly friendly in that restaurant. NM just opened up indoor dining before we arrived, and I got the feeling that the waitstaff were very excited to FINALLY be able to earn a living again. Saturday we headed out towards our first planned destination - the home of Lafe, Jamie, and their son, Joshua, some wonderful friends of mine for nearly 15 years. It was one mile of highway followed by a four mile dirt road to get from our RV to my friends' house, so Josh rode his bike down to meet Abe and me at the beginning of the dirt road. The poor kid got there as quickly as he could, and by the time he got to us he was drenched in sweat. Then he had to turn around for the 4 mile uphill trek back to the house. He eventually dropped his bike behind a bush where he could pick it up later and walked the rest of the way. Abe and I would ride our bikes up and down that hill a couple times over the next week, and I couldn't have done it without the electronic assist. It was a very steep road. We didn’t go back to the RV until after dark, so we left our bikes at the house and got a ride back to the RV. Monday morning, the future chef, Josh, drove to pick us up and take us to the house. Soon after arriving, he pulled two delicious quiches he had made out of the oven. Jamie was busy that day, so after breakfast Josh took us to see the Bandera Volcano and Ice Cave. He used to work there, so he was full of information. I got to learn that Ponderosa Pine bark smells like orange cream soda. I sniffed many Ponderosa Pines over the week. The ice cave was interesting, but short. We walked down some steep steps that led us down into a deep cave where we stood on a platform and looked at the never melting ice. The volcano was more interesting. We saw trees that had been struck by lightning, some of which were half alive and half dead. There were collapsed lava tubes, and all of the different formations from the lava. The various textures allowed us to see how the molten rock had flowed, the rough outer layers where it cooled quickly, and the inner layers where you could see how it flowed as it gradually hardened. The trail came to an end at the Bandera Crater Look Out Point, which is the 1,400 foot wide and 800 foot deep conical pit left behind when the lava burst out the side of the mountain.

Monday Abe stayed behind and worked on the RV while Jamie took me to some huge, mostly collapsed lava tubes. There were natural bridges here and there, small sections that had managed to stay intact when the rest fell in on itself, that allowed us to walk back and forth across the tube.

We hiked over the lava rock and dirt, avoiding the scattered cacti as we stepped gingerly, making sure that our footing was secure. We were even able to make our way halfway down the tube, and were surprised to find ourselves at the mouth of a small cave that we'd seen from the other side.

Tuesday was cold and windy, so we hunkered down inside for most of the day. I got some reading in, which is a lovely way for me to pass time. Abe worked on the RV, doing odds and ends that needed done, and because he was fighting off a bug or something, he took a long nap. We stayed at the Mountain Harmony RV Park while we were there. For an entire week, we had unlimited water and electricity. I was able to get all of our laundry caught up, and take all the showers I wanted. Only showering every few days is probably the biggest hardship of living in an RV and mostly boondocking. Wednesday we had to go into Albuquerque to meet with a notary so we could sign the last bit of paperwork needed to finalize the sale of our house. Jamie drove us in her car to make the four hour round trip. On the way back, the freeway was pretty much a parking lot, so the two hour trip back ended up being closer to four hours. It was a very long day for all of us, and we are forever grateful that we didn't have to drive the 36 foot motor home around the city, not to mention the time we would have had to spend disconnecting everything and reconnecting it all when we got back to Mountain Harmony. Thursday Abe and I rode our bikes about 5 1 /2 miles to El Morro National Monument. We climbed a stone staircase that had been carved into to the rock until we reached the top of the mountain, were a small section of an ancient pueblo has been uncovered.

The wind was crazy on the top of the mountain so I took it slow as it tried to push me over and down the sandstone sides. I was grateful when there was a handrail to hang on to, or waist high rocks next to me.

The bottom of the mountain is covered with petroglyphs and inscriptions from Spanish explorers and their American successors. The oldest one was engraved by a Spaniard in 1604. For the most part, the inscriptions were either names, or variations of "So and so was here" that you might see carved into a school desk or summer camp cabin.

Early explorers that arrived at El Morro were greeted with a refreshing, life saving pool at the base. Water is sparse in New Mexico, and no doubt many travelers perished from thirst before they made it to the oasis.

Friday night we said our goodbyes. First thing Saturday morning we struck out towards Texas. On the way to Texas, we stopped at White Sands National Park.

The sand there is gypsum, and the name is not lying. Gypsum isn't like other rocks. It brilliant white particles cling to everything. Plants, skin, even itself.

The roads were solid white, looking exactly like a winter road after a snowstorm, when the snow is packed down into large patches of slick ice, the sides piled high from the plow. It looked so much like snow, in fact, that while my conscious brain knew that it was sand, my subconscious brain did not, and I braced myself for the imminent slide that never came every time we turned a corner.

We took the dogs and hiked over the white hills. Marley was in heaven, jumping and spinning as much as she could on her leash. Truffle was his usual happy self, glad to get outside with his people.

We finally had to leave White Sands, so we drove until we got to El Paso, TX for another night at a Cracker Barrel.

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