Tucson Arizona to Albuquerque New Mexico – March 2019
On March 8th we left our comfortable camp of the past three months in Desert Trails RV Park outside of Tucson and headed towards Albuquerque New Mexico. We are investigating whether to build a home base on property we bought last year in the mountains outside of Albuquerque. But, along the way we had a friend to pick up in Flagstaff and some sights to see before we settled into a RV Park near Albuquerque. We had a mini-adventure coming up.
The temperature dropped to freezing as we left the warm saguaro cactus forests of southern Arizona and entered the high sage brush plains outside of Flagstaff. We had a campsite reserved in Homolovi State Park near Winslow ($18/night for a dry-camp RV site that included a tent area where our friend Matt would be staying). We set up our trailer in the open desert as a cold wind blew in with gusts up to fifty miles per hour shaking our trailer and blowing sand into our eyes. We realized we had left Tucson a week too early, it was still winter in the high plains. But, Matt was arriving at the Flagstaff airport in another day and we could use the extra week once we arrived in Albuquerque.
Oh well, we’d boondocked before and the following day the wind had stopped. So, we spent our first day touring the Pueblo Indian ruins at Homolovi, then visiting nearby Meteor Crater where a large meteor had blasted a gigantic crater out of the desert thousands of years ago ($18 entrance fee). After that we had an excellent dinner at Winslow’s brewpub along historic Route 66 and I set up our tent next to the trailer for Matt to use while he traveled with us for the next week. It was still cold, but not a bad first day, on the road again.
The next day we drove to Flagstaff and picked up Matt. On the way back we stopped at Walnut Canyon National Monument just outside of Flagstaff and walked around the ancient cliff dwellings there. It was a beautiful canyon and the rock houses tucked away into overhangs of the cliff were impressive. After that it was back to Homolovi for our first night traveling together. I think Matt froze in the tent with my lightweight sleeping bag, but he didn’t complain.
We had one more day in Homolovi and spent it driving to Petrified Forest National Park, about forty-five minutes east of Homolovi. There we hiked to a remote petroglyph site, through the Blue Mesa Badlands, and then around the Crystal Forest area where prehistoric trees have been petrified into colorful stone of bright reds, blues and yellows. It was an amazing place, somewhere we’ll come back to, but there’s nowhere to camp inside the park. So, come prepared to camp elsewhere (like Homolovi State Park).
After that, it was time to pack up and move on to Albuquerque, Bernalillo actually, where we had a couple of nights reserved in Coronado Historical Park, a city operated park with small RV and tent camping areas. Coronado is in the city but on the banks of the Rio Grande River and near the ruins of Kuaua, an ancient Pueblo town site. RV camping at Coronado costs $25/night for comfortable sites with water and power (dump station in the park) and a heated bathroom with showers. Matt’s tent site was in a separate area and cost $18/night. We set up and immediately adjourned to the nearby, and very funky, Kaktus Brewery for excellent pizza and IPA before turning in for another chilly night.
The following day was so cold, rainy and windy we decided to spend it indoors, shopping, having an excellent New Mexico style lunch a Tomasita’s, then going to a movie (The Mule). Snow accumulated in the Sandia Mountains all the way down to the edge of Albuquerque. We were already getting tired of the cold, and especially the wind, but we were determined to make the most of our time together.
We woke up the next day to a cold breeze and snow in the mountains. We drove to the property we’d purchased in December, now covered with an inch of snow, and walked around it. We’d forgotten how beautiful it was and the visit reinvigorated our plans to build there. After that we drove to Santa Fe along the Turquoise Highway (highway 14), stopping at eclectic Madrid for lunch, and strolled around the Santa Fe plaza until we got too cold, and returned to our camp at Coronado Historical Park.
The next morning we packed up to move from Coronado Park to the nearby KOA North RV Park. The KOA would be our home for the next two months ($560 monthly rate for full hookup sites). The KOA is old and surrounded by a sketchy neighborhood, but a good deal for the Albuquerque area and best of all, has a pathway directly to the Kaktus Brewery next door. Matt rented a small cabin there for $55/night, by now tired of freezing in the tent and lightweight sleeping bag. Before we left Coronado Park we toured the historical site there with its famous painted kiva, an underground ceremonial room of the Pueblo People (no photographs allowed inside the kiva). The murals inside the kiva are fascinating and the small museum and town site describe the ancient Pueblo culture and first contact with Spanish conquistadors. It’s well worth visiting ($5 entrance fee).
Our last day together with Matt we took a road trip northward to the Jemez Historical Site and toured through the ruins of a 16th century Spanish mission. After that we continued on highway 4 up into the snow-covered ponderosa pines forests of Valles Caldera National Preserve, and finally back down into the canyons of Bandolier National Monument where we spent the afternoon hiking around the extensive cliff dwellings there. It was a long day, but a fine ending to our visit with Matt. Every stop was fascinating and I’d highly recommend this road trip.
The next day we drove Matt to the airport where he flew out back to Seattle. After he left it seemed quiet at our trailer without him, but now we had business to attend to. We’ll spend the next couple months meeting architects, contractors and building suppliers to determine exactly what we may build on our property and when, although we are planning to start in the spring of 2020. After that, it’s northward through Oregon to summer along Puget Sound in Washington State where we’ll meet up with Matt and other friends again. As Matt boarded his plane, the sun came out and it warmed up. Hopefully, winter is over in Albuquerque.