Things are definitely on the upswing for wandering Paynters. After a harrowing month trip from the "Big Wet", we were due a little "quality" down time.

We arrived in Las Cruces New Mexico on November 5th, and we were going to stay for two weeks. We have always enjoyed Las Cruces as it has one of our favourite Campgrounds to stay in. Hacienda RV Resort is just off the I 10 but far enough so there is little road noise. All the sites are level and beautifully maintained with the RV parking on small gravel rocks and lots of room for the BBQ and chairs. Every morning breakfast is served in the club room with eggs, toast, coffee, OJ all included in the price of the rental. The staff here truly go out of their way to accommodate the visitors. There is a telephone hookup at each site and 1 800 calls are free for the first 20 minutes. I mentioned to Judy, the General Manager, that I had to call Dell, and that I was afraid that the 20 minutes would be woefully inadequate as you spend so long on hold with those clowns. Her response was that if I had to call Dell for service, then there would be no charge for going over 20 minutes.

She had "been there and done that" with Dell so her remark was "go Get em!"


There is also a free newspaper thrown in to make sure Elsie wastes an hour every day reading it. I don't bother as I can get sufficient bad news from the Telus home page to suit me. But, it is nice to have ... I guess. Then to top it off, every Friday night there is a free Margarita night outside by the fireplace. This spot is hard to beat ... even with a stick. With the exception of only two days, the weather was incredibly beautiful. Sunny every day with temperatures in the mid 70's F. ( 23 C ). Evenings were down to the high 40's F ( 8.3 C ). Does it get any better than this???

After doing the battle with Dell and actually winning ... no I have not heard back from the 8 page letter I wrote to Dell in Toronto, but I'm not holding my breath either... things started to calm down. We rested, read, cooked, and sampled some good Red wine ... BLISS. For us this is what RV'n is supposed to be.

The area around Las Cruces is very agricultural: cotton is grown here along with all sorts of Pecans, Pistachios, and various tree fruits. Last time we were here, we stumbled upon a little country store south of Las Cruces called Stahmans. It specialized in Pecans and all the products you can get from this nut. It was incredible!! The store was jammed packed with "stuff" and there even was a "tasting bar" so you can judge what you wanted to get ... salted, candied, toffee spiced etc. Tie this in with all sorts of goodies, and this place was a "must hit" for us. Unfortunately, things change.

We were here two years ago almost to the day. When we first time pulled in to Stahmans, we had problems finding a parking spot as El Paso Texas was close by and people seemed to be in their Christmas shopping mode. Once inside, it was jammed with shoppers and I must admit we did go a little "nuts" (bad pun, I know) and probably bought more sugar items then were good for us. But, hey, sugar, chocolate and nuts ... how do you go wrong with this?

This year, there was only one car in the lot. We were puzzled and wondered if the store was closed. Once inside, we understood. The place had lots of empty floor space where before there was almost none. We asked the clerk what had happened and she mentioned that now they were only selling items that Stahmans actually produce. All related products that were not theirs had been removed. Even the "Tasting Bar" was gone. She did go on to say the place was now run by the Grand Daughter ... the founders were now retired. What a damn shame ... we were so looking forward to this! The next generation certainly does not always improve on the past!!!! C'est La Vie I guess.

In past missives, you have heard me refer to our good friends "The Oldtymers", Geri and Bruce, whom we met in Leavenworth Washington in 2004. We have kept in touch with them since and in fact, they were responsible for us buying the DataStorm Sat System -- but that is another story. This year, they decided to head, in early Fall, across the continent and do the Leaf Peeper thing. Their pictures we have seen are fantastic, and we sure are looking forward to seeing their updated Web Page with all of them displayed--- eh Geri??. (That will get me in trouble!!!)

Anyway, they were heading west as we were heading east this year so our paths crossed in Las Cruces. After being away almost two months, it is great to run in to friends. Our three day visit ended with a great meal in La Posta Mexican Restaurant in Mesilla, a small predominately Mexican Village just a little south of Las Cruces.

They are wintering in Casa Grande so we will probably see them on our return trip in March.

Around Las Cruces there are a lot of neat places to visit. About an hour to the north west is a town called "T or C" that is know for its hot pools. T or C you say? Yes, your memory of 1950's TV programmes is truly fantastic. "Truth or Consequences NM" is actually the name of the town. How did all this happen, you ask ... well for you trivia fans, here is the straight poop.

Ralph Edwards, Producer of Truth or Consequences

We were here two or three years ago, but this place has grown. They are putting in a new Golf Course and Housing sub division that is really huge. It must cover several square miles of desert with new roads, services, houses, parks going in. It is so massive and new -- no street signs anywhere -- that we managed to get our Garmin GPS quite confused. We would still be there if we followed the verbal instructions from that damn infernal machine. -- we call the voice "Jittering Jill". She was telling us to turn where there were no roads and to go in directions that made little sense. Over the years, we have begun to talk to her as if she is a real person, so if our conversation had been taped, we would certainly have to do a fair bit of explaining to the local Head Shrink! Eventually, we turned her off and followed our own sense of north/south/east / west. About 1/2 hour later, we did extricate ourselves out of this maze, but it was not simple.

We had been told that just outside of T or C is a fabulous State RV Park called "Elephant Butte" on the banks of the Elephant Butte Reservoir. This we did manage to find. Jittering Jill was back in control.

The RV Park turned out to be fantastic. It is set on the banks of the Reservoir and each site has 30 amp service, water, cement patio and level sites. All for $14.00 per night. It would be impossible to get in there during the summer as locals frequent the place, but this time of year, it was only about 20% occupied. Unfortunately, with the recent draught, the reservoir is very low, but you can easily walk or drive to the water's edge. Definitely a place to remember for the future.

Several Days later, I thought that maybe it was time to check the Harvey's oil level. Harvey has a rear radiator, so there is a louvered flap at the back that when lifted up, you can see the two Radiators -- one for the engine and one for the Turbo Cooler. I wandered back and glanced through the louvers and to my horror, I saw a 4 foot piece of channel iron lying horizontally against the radiators. Now, that SHOULD NOT be there!!! I opened the back flap and sure enough there was a bar that had fallen from the top of the compartment and had wedged itself on the bottom strut of the radiator support. The 8 screws that held the thing security had fallen out over time and allowed the bar to drop. Here is the kicker ... had the bar missed the Radiator support, one end would have fallen through to the roadway below. Then, the fun would have started. With the bottom of the bar dragging on the road the top would have beaten the radiators to a very expensive pulp on the upswing, and on the down swing, it would have completely remodeled the back fiberglass shell. That would have been VERY EXPENSIVE!!!

As it was, 8 new screws, 5 minutes work and all was right in the world.

Maybe our Luck Has Changed!!!!!




Another day trip we took was to Alamogordo, about an hour north and east of Las Cruces. To get there, you have to drive past the Missile Range Museum, through the White Sands Missile Range, and by the White Sands Museum. These are neat places to visit, but we had "been there and done that" previously so we thought that a visit to the Pistachio Farms of Alamogordo and a trip to Cloudcroft would be the order of the day.

As we approached Alamogordo, we passed the Holloman Air force Base. We didn't think much about it as this area sure has a plethora of military installations. But, when we found the Pistachio Farm we had been told about, we saw a strange sight. In the store, choosing their favourite pistachios were a group of Service Men but not wearing the US uniform. They were Japanese. Apparently, along with Holloman being the base for the F117A Stealth fighter aircraft, it also is the home of a contingent of Japanese and German Military. What a difference the passage of 60 years makes.


The pistachios were great!!! Fresh and cheap! We sure loaded up on them and then headed to Cloudcroft.

Cloudcroft does remind me of a combination of early days in Whistler BC Ski Village and an old Cowboy Town-- Sort of the Ying and the Yang of tourist destinations.


For more detailed information on Cloudcroft click below.

Cloudcroft New Mexico

The altitude of Alamogordo is approximately 4,000 feet. Cloudcroft is 16 miles to the east and is nearly 9,000 feet in the Sacramento Mountains. You climb 5,000 feet in 16 miles. Not a road I would like to take Harvey up, but in 2004 we chose this route to come west from Roswell NM to Las Cruces. Going down hill in Harvey is always cheaper to drive, but a whole lot more difficult to survive. Thank goodness for the Exhaust Brake!!! When we came this way then, we decided that a return trip to poke around in the Honda was in order. This is a quaint little place. In the summer, due to its altitude, it becomes a haven of coolness for the Alamogordo citizens. In the winter, it is a skiing play ground for the same people. We had a fantastic lunch in Big Daddy's Cafe and then wandered around the town and the outlying cabins / lodges etc. There is also an Observatory here that we will try to hit on our next visit to the area.

Another GOOD DAY!!!

Well, we were getting closer to the end of our two weeks here, and we thought that we had better make some plans to get to Kerrville which is two 5 hour-a-day drives from Las Cruces. In Kerrville there is a Park that we really like and have stayed there several times before. So, we phoned to see if Buckhorn Lake had room for us and quickly found out that we were coming in during the American Thanksgiving. Buckhorn was full until the Saturday November 24th. What to do???

Well this is a no brainer -- extend our stay here until Friday November the 23rd. That way we could have our Turkey Dinner in Las Cruces. Otherwise we would miss it. Then one overnight in Fort Stockton and Viola ... we would have 6 days in Kerrville before we hit Rockport near the Rio Grande Valley.

Thus it was done.

Hacienda RV Resort is one of the top parks, and we knew the Thanksgiving Dinner would be great. What usually happens is the Park will supply the main course and the RV'ers will bring the side dishes. Well this place out did themselves. There were four huge Turkeys, and two huge hams all cooked to perfection. The side dishes ranged from appetizers through vegetable dishes to fantastic desserts. There actually was not room on the tables to hold all the food. All this for about 50 people. A glutton's paradise!!!!


Sharing our table for this meal was couple, Jack and Diane, from a very small town in Quebec just 50 miles east of Ottawa. Jack sprung from Irish ancestry but lived most of his life in Quebec. His English was accent free while Diane who was born and raised in the small town could understand some English but could speak very little. She was having a tough time traveling and Jack kept saying ... learn English!!! She was trying, but found it tough sledding. They did mention that their two sons refused to learn English as children, but one went on to become a Professional Engineer so had to learn it in order to understand the textbooks. Just where this Canadian, English/French mess will end up in the future no one knows. But Jack did tell me that he chose the Park they will be staying in for 3 months in Yuma only after asking how many Quebecers were there. It was only after he received the answer that there was only one other couple that he would make the reservation. Diane will learn English this winter ... or else he said.

As the meal was winding down, the staff kept wandering around asking for people to take leftovers ... sigh. Our freezer was full ... we had to say "no thank you" while holding back the sobs! It was tough!!!!

The next morning, Friday Nov 23rd saw us heading east.

Our first thought was to stay overnight in the cheapest spot in Fort Stockton we could find. Well, this did not last long. We pulled into one park, Comanche RV Park only to find no one at the office. As we drove through the park looking for a spot, we noticed the condition and age of the other RV's. They were obviously permanent structures and very likely never leave this spot. They were Wrecks! When we turned down one of the streets, and had to swerve suddenly to miss the mattress lying in the middle of the road, we thought that the last time we went through here, we stayed in the KOA. It was OK. As much as I hate the KOA chain, after one look here, we headed quickly to the remembered park.

One of the pluses in the Fort Stockton KOA is the little restaurant that is part of the Park. They serve dinner and breakfast every day, and if you are traveling on, it sure makes things easy not to have to worry about what to eat and when to prepare it. On arrival, the park was only about 40% full, so getting a site was easy. We set up, had a snooze and headed to the restaurant for some of their World Renown" BBQ ribs. The ribs were GOOD! We met some of the other people heading through so the evening was fun. The only downside was that the temperatures were expected to drop below freezing that night and if the weather man was to be believed, it would begin to snow in the afternoon.

For you non RV'ers, the way you get water to the rig is through a hose that you attach to the faucet at the site. Now, this is well and good when the temperatures are above freezing, but a hose, lying on the ground in freezing weather, can cause a real concern. If the water in the hose freezes, it will expand and can force ice up into the Rig itself and rupture the plumbing. The simple answer is to head out before bed, disconnect the hose and bring it inside to the shower. The next morning, before showering, you simply reverse the process.

The next morning, we had planned to get up at 6:30, have a leisurely breakfast in the little restaurant and head out around 9:30 just ahead of the forecasted snow fall. Well, as I was connecting the hose at 6:30 the scotch mist that was falling was quickly changing into snow flakes! Oops ... time for "da feet to do da thing". No breakfast, just juice and put on the coffee maker and hit the road. We actually set a new record for clearing a site -- 30 minutes. What are we doing here? It is still in the 80's in Tucson!!

The drive to Kerrville was uneventful, except that the scotch mist continued at a volume that was not heavy enough for intermittent wipers to work, but heavy enough so every two minutes I had to manually turn on the wipers with that little, hard to operate, switch. Oh for the smart wheel .. just push a button and the window is clear. The next RV..... "fer damn sure" ... will have a smart wheel.

We like Kerrville and the park we stay in, Buckhorn Lake, is one of our favourites. See the Picture Page for an idea how nice this spot is!

We knew that Matt and Carol, fellow DataStormers and friends we had met in Vernon at Swan Lake, would be in Buckhorn so we were looking forward to comparing notes on the Tucson Rally with them. On arrival, the weather was so bad that we simply stayed indoors for two days. Finally, the weather reverted to its normal temperatures, and we got to wander around. Lunch in Fredericksburg in the German Bier Keller was a highlight as usual.

The Texas Foothills are beautiful. Rolling landscape with one view more beautiful than the next. The rumour is that bikers come from all over North America to ride there. Some of the best riding ... and no helmet requirement!!!

The 6 days went by quickly. The weather on the improve and the Weber BBQ working hard. Texas Beef ... even I was getting a little "steaked out", if you can believe it. Matt and Carol were heading to Mission Texas for the winter and who knows ... we may run into them again before we head north.

The run down to Rockport, from 1,700 feet above sea level to almost sea level was uneventful. Well, I have to say that we managed a very satisfactory mileage of 9.4. Not bad eh?

Our good friends, Ken and Betty Oka from Sechelt are also here, so it is going to be a great couple of weeks visiting with them, eating some of the great seafood available in this area and generally just wandering around. We have never been here before so all this is new ground to us.

The only thing is the humidity ... when we turned south from San Antonio we noticed it right away. We are used to humidity below 15% and here it is in the 80% range. At night it does cool down so it is bearable.

So ... off on new experiences and new destinations ... it was ever so!!!


Joe and Elsie and the intrepid pair

Lord Stanley and Lord Thurston

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