New Mexico’s Warm Welcome

Friday was time to go. The temperature had dropped significantly, which meant it was going to be cold where I’d been staying near Pikes Peak, but comfortable down toward Pueblo and points south. So after some work and sharing coffee with a nearby camper who looked cold, I slowly made my way out the bad washboard road and found pavement again. After a few resupply stops in town, I headed south.

Before long I hopped off the highway in Fountain. Melinda was visiting her daughter here, so once again our paths randomly crossed, and we hung out for a little while. Then I pressed on to Pueblo. Jenn told me a bunch of things I should see here, but I literally couldn’t find anywhere to park, so I punted to my Cracker Barrel overnight stop. It was unusually busy, so rather than wait in line and take up a table, I ordered takeout from my van and picked it up when it was ready. I stayed in and watched movies last night. I’d plopped Starlink on the roof with a clear view of the north, despite being parked right under a tree. It worked perfectly all night.

It was cool, damp, and misty the next morning. Lister let me sleep in (for once), then we hit the road.

At the encouragement of Zac from ADVRider, rather than stay on I-25 all the way to New Mexico I made a detour to the town of Taos. He told me there’s some excellent dirt riding in the area, and that I should check it out and write a story about it. Who am I to argue with my editor?

The drive was uneventful. Low visibility at times, but nothing unsafe, and the weather cleared as I went south. After a while, I entered New Mexico, my first state line crossing in a month — but not a new state, as I crossed it last year during the Route 66 trip. I’m quite close to returning to places I’ve been before, ending the exploratory part of my travels this year.

I decided to go straight to the BLM campground outside town that I’d planned to use as a home base while I explore. The only problem is it wasn’t there. The left turn Google told me to take doesn’t exist. I double-checked the listing on FreeRoam, and people said the actual turn was a bit farther up the road, but all I saw was a deeply rutted power line trail that I wasn’t going to drive down.

I went back to a rest area I’d seen next to the Rio Grande Gorge so I could come up with a Plan B. There wasn’t much parking for a long vehicle like mine. I saw “No Parking” signs near where I’d stopped here and was about to leave, but a security guy honked at me and told me I could park there. So I did.

I brought Lister and some lunch down to one of the covered picnic tables. I haven’t seen him so happy in a while. I think it was the combination of cooler temperatures, even cooler concrete to flop on, getting outside in a new place, and a massive amount of attention from almost everyone who walked by.

I still needed to find a place to spend the night. My apps had failed me, so I decided to ask a local — the nice security guy. I asked him where I could find some good camping in the area. He told me “Next to that tree over there.” He introduced himself and the guy who would be taking over at 6:00 pm and shook my hand. So often in nomad life, we hear stories about security chasing people off for parking overnight. This is the first time security has explicitly invited me to stay! I genuinely asked him for advice on local camping, not permission to spend the night at the rest area. But that’s what I got, which gives me time to relax with Lister and come up with a new plan, without rushing or stressing.

I also took a short walk partway across the bridge over the gorge to get some pictures. It boggles the mind how a little bit of constantly flowing water can carve this out of the earth.

I also appreciate the crisis hotline call box, exactly where someone who was thinking about jumping would go.

I relaxed with Lister at another picnic table for the rest of the afternoon. He soaked up all the attention he could squeeze out of people passing by, including the nice security guy. Once the area by “that tree over there” cleared out, I moved the van over to that part of the lot, just as the nice security guy suggested. It’s not as a good a view as the gorge itself, but that’s okay. Not only do I know for certain that I’m allowed to spend the night here, but security will also be here all night, so it’s probably one of the safer places I’ve stayed. But it’s just a rest area that I hadn’t even considered spending the night at until I was already here. It’s funny how these things work out sometimes.

Now to come up with yet another new plan…

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