Across the Great Continental Divide and into Arizona

After our more than pleasant two-day stay in Datil Well campground, we really did expect to get up early, well, early for us, break camp and get on the road towards the Petrified Forest National Park by 9 AM, 10 at the latest.  The Big Kahuna, however, had other plans, having decided that it was far to cold, particularly at this altitude, to start, much less drive.

A cold and wet morning when we finally got on the road

A cold and wet morning when we finally got on the road

Ah yes, have I mentioned our rig’s reluctance to start in freezing or near freezing temps?  We were actually warned of this when we first picked him up in North Carolina last year.  Many modern diesel engines have block heaters, while others might have glow plugs, both these things aid in cold weather starting.  The Big Kahuna has neither.  With our nearly new high cranking battery we have not had much of an issue: we started without difficulty in temps in the upper 30s.  This morning he wouldn’t catch, just billowing forth a cloud of smoke.  I suspect the altitude, near 7000 feet, complicated the physics and chemistry at work.   Since we were reasonably confident that it was just temperature and altitude, we broke out the generator, made coffee and breakfast, and waited a couple of hours for the day to warm up.  Sure enough, by 11 it was 50 degrees out and Kahuna fired right up.

Pie Town, NM.: Overrated

Pie Town, NM.: Overrated

We headed up the road towards Pie Town, a little place that is apparently semi-famous for… pie.  Let me be blunt: unless you are dead set on having pie in a place called Pie-Town, you can give it a pass. The Pie Town Cafe was the only option that morning, their pie, served cold, was nothing to write home about.  We experienced an unusual amount of drama while paying in that they require all card payments to have a pin, round the debit card transactions up to the nearest $5 increment, and add a $1.50 charge for any card.  None of that was explained before they handed me the $11.50 bill for our $7 pie and coffee.  So don’t go, but if you must, keep your expectations low and pay cash.

The pie was just OK but this elk horn Christmas tree was fantastic!

The pie was just OK but this elk horn Christmas tree was fantastic!

Onward!  We started a series of major uphill struggles along Highway 60, the earliest parts in light drizzle, passing through 10,000 feet as we crossed the Great Continental Divide.  The Big Kahuna did admirably considering the grade and altitude, but my patience was tried as we were frequently down to first gear and topping out at 25 mph. The Continental Divide is the set of mountain ranges that divide North, Central, and South America’s river systems by which flow into the Pacific and which flow into the Atlantic, Hudson Bay or the Gulf of Mexico.

contdiv

Eventually we were on the predominantly down hill leg of the journey into Arizona, and relished the almost dramatic change in scenery once across.  We did a minor resupply stop and coasted into the Petrified Forest National Park visitor center shortly after noon.  We will save that for the next post.

Blue skies, on a downhill and crossing into Arizona: what could be better?

Blue skies, on a downhill and crossing into Arizona: what could be better?

Advertisements

Datil Well, NM: Our last stop in New Mexico, and our first BLM campground

We left the Roswell Trailer Village RV Park at our usual leisurely hour of 11 AM and headed into the north part of town to restock supplies and fill up on diesel and generator gas.  As we had built up a bag of donation clothing and other items, we took the opportunity to drop that off at a conveniently located Goodwill along the way.  Remember the ABC rule?  Always Be Clearing Out and “one in, one out.”  We bought a couple of clothing items in our continuing effort to fill in some wardrobe gaps, but we left far more than we took.

Heading towards the mountains and our half way stopping point in route to Petrified Forest

Heading towards the mountains and our half way stopping point in route to Petrified Forest. Don’t let the picture fool you; it was mostly up hill.

We were headed towards the Petrified Forest National Park across the Arizona border to the northwest, but since that entailed a 384 mile journey through several mountain ranges, far more than I like to do in one day, we researched options for a half way, one night stopping point.  I looked for possible spots in the Cibola National Forest before remembering that Wheeling It spends a lot of time in this section of the country and always manages to find great low-cost or free spots.  A quick check of their site revealed a jaunt along our exact route with a stay over at Datil Well, a Bureau of Land Management campground just a bit further along our route than I had planned, but at $5 a night and with a solid review from an established and experienced full-time RV blogger, we had to take it.  Due to our late departure from Roswell, we were unable to completely follow in Wheeling It’s tracks by stopping at the Very Large Array along the way, but we nodded sagely at it as we passed.

The Big Kahuna lounges in one of the larger sites at Datil Well

The Big Kahuna lounges in one of the larger sites at Datil Well

Datil Well is half a mile up a firm packed dirt road just off highway 60 a mile or so north of the small town of Datil, NM.  Shortly before we arrived an SUV pulling one of those cute, retro-styled, tear drop-shaped Tab trailers passed us on the highway, and as we pulled into Datil Well we spotted them setting up camp.  We were the only two rigs in this campground with 25 sites.  We picked one of the larger, mostly level spots, #8, made payment via the honor system envelope at the front of the camp, and settled in for what we thought would be a one night stay.

Rocky Point overlook

Rocky Point overlook

There are no hook ups at all, just a nice site in a beautiful, juniper dominated mountain forest. The campground has clean pit toilets, and each site has a table, fire ring, and grill.   After getting our little Honda generator going, we met the Tab trailer owners, Craig and Mary from Iowa, who were kind enough to give us a tour of their remarkable little trailer.  We reciprocated and ended up trading stories and jokes for an hour or two in the Big Kahuna.

Trailhead for the 3.3 mile circuit

Trailhead for the 3.3 mile circuit

After a near freezing night we slept in to our usual hour, finally rousing ourselves with full intention of breaking camp and heading towards the next adventure.  But damn!  This place looked so beautiful, and we had it all to ourselves!  Which brings us to one of the greatest advantages of full-time RVing: you can change the plan any time you want.  So we did.  I mean, really now:  we had only been in this marvelous campground for 17 hours, we had not gotten to explore any of the hiking trails, and the Petrified Forest, after 225 million years, had firmly demonstrated that it wasn’t going anywhere.

We did not hunt or gather this food at Datil Well.  But it was delicious.

We did not hunt or gather this food at Datil Well. But it was delicious.

So we settled back, cooked a brunch, prepped our day pack, and took a 3.3 mile hike along the mountain trails and beautiful, 6800 foot elevation overlooks.   As evening approached we got a fire going in the pit, roasted hot dogs, and hit the hay early so we could defy our usual pattern and get down the road earlier than our typical, nearly noon start time.

The album cover for our imaginery alt-folk band

The album cover for our imaginery alt-folk band