We stopped in Gallup, New Mexico for a few nights on our way to Albuquerque and Santa Fe areas. The USA RV park, off route 66, was like the typical private RV park; a gravel parking lot with hookups and some cabins. The park was nicer than most of that genre. It had extra-wide pull-through sites with picnic tables set together instead of being right next to the neighbor’s hookups like typical parks. This is a favorite “staging” area for Albuquerque Balloon Fest visitors. It’s only a couple of hours away and allows just-the-right travel time to get to the festival for check-in.
I felt weird in this town energetically and never figured out why. It was super-windy on arrival so we hunkered down and relaxed with some cable TV time for a change. Bruce caught some football and I got some local news and a couple of favorite shows on the bedroom TV while doing laundry. Another reason for full hookups periodically, it’s so nice not to need a laundromat! The temperature dipped to 25 at night so we decided to head south instead of going to Sante Fe and Albuquerque. We will catch the northern New Mexico area next time. Oh, just to keep the tradition going, there was a busy multi-track train to keep us company (we are on Route 66 after all)!
Further South in New Mexico, we stayed at a beautiful park called Elephant Butte Lake State Park. We did not have reservations and walk-ups are only allowed for one night. We picked a site and I reserved 5 nights on my cell phone on the spot to combine with the one-night stay so we could avoid moving. I thought it was weird that the gate staff couldn’t look at the inventory and get us into a site; instead they use Reserve America who collects a $12 reservation fee! The three lanes of gate agents only do same-day tickets and hand out the map!
The park is nice this time of year. It must be a zoo here at other times of the year because sound travels so well and there are lots of boats and people coming and going. From the looks of it, boondocking must be popular just about anywhere in the park so I’m sure it gets really crowded. There were only a few people camped lakeside during our stay and no one staying off the dirt roads. I’m sure it’s a big party during hot weather. In town (Elephant Butte/Truth or Consequences), boat and RV storage seems to be a big business.
I loved the desert wildlife. Jackrabbits, quail and road runner came through our site twice a day and we could hear multiple owls, quail and coyote calls nightly, that is, until a dog moved in next door. There is nothing like the quails calling right after dark – it’s an unfamiliar sound. These sites are spaced nicely and include a fixed awning over a nice paved patio and table. The wind made it impossible to use the RV awning, so the built-in awning was put to good use. The Outgear Adventure banner was flying for the first time and it was horizontal in the wind a lot of the time!
The sites fees are reasonable at $14 per night, including electric and water (although our water supply leaked so we didn’t keep it connected). The sites are terraced in our loop so each level can see the lake. Some sites have beautiful front-row lake views on a hill above the lake with concrete shelters. The structures provide a nice windbreak as well as shady privacy. We would stay here again during quiet times like this!
An hour and a half drive to see the Very Large Array was fun. If you like astronomy, science and electronics, this is a great place to see. The huge antennas move in unison and are on railroad tracks to enable servicing them using a huge lift or to change configurations. We were here right before Halloween and it IS a little eerie with the antennas moving in unison and the wind whipping through there. It seemed at any moment the antennas could start walking across the ancient lake bed like Star Wars robots!
From the site: The VLA is an interferometer array, using the combined views of its 27 antennas to mimic the view of a telescope as big across as the farthest distance between its antennas. For the VLA, this can range from less than a mile to over 22 miles across! The Very Large Array is the most versatile, widely-used radio telescope in the world. It can map large-scale structure of gas and molecular clouds and pinpoint ejections of plasma from supermassive black holes. It is the world’s first color camera for radio astronomy, thanks to its new suite of receivers and a supercomputer than can process wide fields of spectral data simultaneously. The VLA is also a high-precision spacecraft tracker that NASA and ESA have used to keep tabs on robotic spacecrafts exploring the Solar System.