April 22, 2015

Back to Un-Civilization

Tim and I finally left the Phoenix area on March 5, but it seemed to take forever to put the “big city” in the rearview mirror.  I was so happy to finally get through the hour of non-stop traffic and head for the hills.  Once we left the eastern suburbs, it was a beautiful drive over the mountains.  Wildflowers were blooming alongside the roads, and I couldn’t get enough of the hillsides carpeted with yellow poppies.

The stretch of Route 60 between Phoenix and Globe is known as the Gila-Pinal Scenic Road, and the Superstition Mountains were the most prominent landmark on the first part of the drive.  Silver and copper mines dotted the mountains on the way to Miami (not Florida) and Globe, and we enjoyed the road as it twisted and wound its way up and down the mountain.

Leaving the Big City Behind

On the Way to Globe, AZ

Poppies Galore

Our destination for the evening was Roper Lake State Park near Safford, Arizona.  As soon as we pulled into the campground, I felt I could breathe once again, and I let out a big sigh of relief.  Roper Lake is a lovely park, and we had one of the best sites in the campground.  Our site had an unbelievable amount of space, especially behind us.  It was so nice to be back in a “natural” park.  Even Kitty seemed happier.  Tim and I walked down to the lake and spent some time exploring the park.

A Fabulous Site at Roper Lake State Park

Roper Lake State Park

We stayed at Roper Lake State Park only one night and left the next morning for Silver City, New Mexico.  Because we drive a small RV, we are able to travel roads that are not suited to larger RVs.  And that’s exactly the type of road we took toward Silver City.  Route 78 is a narrow, winding road up and over the mountains, with hairpin curves that opened up to incredible views.  I love to drive this type of road.

A Great Drive with Great Views

Following Tim into New Mexico

We arrived in New Mexico to much cooler temperatures and checked back in to the Rose Valley RV Ranch on March 6.  We lucked out with another great campsite, with lots of room and privacy.  We were really looking forward to the week we had reserved there.

Kitty Worked Hard While We Were at Rose Valley RV Ranch

Where did the week go?   It seemed that we did very little resting, and very little touring.  Since we had played tourist on our last visit to Silver City, we welcomed the time to just be homebodies.  It wasn’t an exciting week, but we caught up on some chores and errands and spend quite a bit of time planning our Alaska trip.  Rose Valley was a perfect place to do what we needed to do, including haircuts and laundry.  We did take time to explore more of downtown Silver City where we found a popular coffee shop that serves sinful deserts.  Silver City is often listed as one of the best small towns in America, and the town has done a very good job of preserving and reusing its historic buildings. 

Downtown Silver City, New Mexico

While we were at Rose Valley, Tim spoke with his good friends Ruth and Lou who live in Albuquerque and discovered that they would be in Deming, New Mexico, on the day we were scheduled to leave Silver City.  What a coincidence that we were just fifty miles away.  Although we had planned to see them in Albuquerque, we quickly decided that it would be fun to also spend time with them in Deming.

Why Deming?  Ruth and Lou were there to attend the 50th Annual Rockhound Roundup, a gem and mineral show.  Neither Tim nor I had ever been to a rock show and had no idea that there were so many avid rock collectors.  The show was huge, and Tim and I actually had a lot of fun.  Some of the rocks were gorgeous.  With visions of Lucille Ball and “The Long, Long Trailer” in the back of our minds, we resisted making any purchases.  Rocks and RVs just don’t mix!

With plans to meet Ruth and Lou in Albuquerque in a few days, Tim and I left Deming with a “must-see” on our itinerary – Hatch, New Mexico.  Hatch is the self-proclaimed chile capital of the world and is known for green chile.  Although March is far from chile season, we were able to purchase frozen green chile, as well as various salsas.  The highlight, however, was Sparky’s, a local institution that has quite the following.

Sparky’s is not just a restaurant, but a roadside attraction, and is known for its world famous chile cheeseburger.  Tim and I braved the line that snaked its way out past the front door and ordered green chile cheeseburgers, of course, with barbeque and a strawberry milkshake to enjoy later.  We loved the atmosphere, as well as the food, and found Sparky’s a perfect local place to eat.  For us, sampling restaurants like Sparky’s is an essential part of traveling.

Sparky's, Hatch, New Mexico

Our overnight stop on the way to Albuquerque was Elephant Butte State Park.  We followed the advice of several bloggers and found a lovely campsite with a water view and lots of space in the north end of the park.  We paid for one night and settled in.  It was very windy the day we arrived, but the next day was wonderful, with very little wind.  Tim and I decided to stay for another night, so we walked down to the pay station and paid for one more night.  That’s when the drama began.

A Heavenly Site at Elephant Butte State Park, While It Lasted

The volunteer camp host came by and told us we couldn’t stay in our site for another night.  Say What?  Apparently, you can only stay in a reservation site for one night, which is not how we interpreted the signs.  By then it was 2:30 pm, and we didn’t want to move.  The campground was virtually empty, and all of the waterfront sites, except two, were vacant.  The host, however, said we had to move to one farther away.  I was incredulous.  I understand rules (if fact, I spent my career enforcing rules), but this one made no sense.  The host was very insistent, and I got very angry and decided I didn’t want to stay since we had to pack up anyway.  Poor Tim.  He had to remain the calm one and deal with the host.

About ten minutes later while I was inside packing the RV, the host came back and looked at our permit once again and began to write notes in his book.  Tim went out, and the host told him that we owed ten dollars for the car.  Toads (or towed vehicles) are not charged a separate fee, and we honestly believed that our car would be considered a toad.  I guess not.  Now Tim was upset and said he was not going to pay since we had already paid fourteen dollars that we would be forfeiting since we were leaving.  The host reluctantly said that would cover the ten dollar charge. 

The final straw was when the host asked Tim, “You aren’t planning to stay at any other state parks, are you?”  Tim, not surprisingly, interpreted this to mean that we would be blackballed from staying at all New Mexico parks.  What an awful experience!  I cannot tell you the last time I was that angry.  Perhaps we were wrong in not interpreting the rules correctly, but I still cannot believe how the host handled the situation.  

We left the state park as soon as we could and moved to a private campground farther north.  The campground was a bit funky, but the owner was great, and we were happy to give him our money and be some place where we felt comfortable.  It took me a long time, however, to just let go of the anger.

The next day we left for Albuquerque and stopped for lunch at Buckhorn Tavern in San Antonio, New Mexico.  Here we once again ordered green chile cheeseburgers.  These were even better than the ones at Sparky’s.  The owner-chef sat and talked with us, and we learned that he had bested Food Network’s Bobby Flay in a 2009 throwdown.  Buckhorn Tavern is another restaurant that perfectly captures the local flavor and cuisine.

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