Sunday, March 16, 2014

Windy Windmill and Camping World Detour

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Today, we were again awakened by the howling winds. The real cold was moving in. We noticed there was a wind advisory in effect for this day, which meant winds 15-25 mph, and gusts to 45mph were possible. We've actually driven in worse, so Tony wasn't too worried. With the dual rear wheels of the pickup, it makes for a very stable towing experience. We also noted that Ruidoso had 3 inches of snow overnight, and was under a winter weather advisory. I guess another good reason to leave when we did!

We finally got up and got going about 8am, a little later than we had planned but we had a less than restful night due to the winds. Tony went and paid for our stay, then worked on outside prep (dumping tanks, pulling up landing gear, etc. While I finished up inside.

Eileen at Windmill RV Park, Merkel, TX

Getting ready to roll

We got on the road about 10:15am, and headed toward home. We had no real problems with the cross/tail wind, though we probably had to take it a few mph slower than usual. We didn't use as much fuel as we do going out west, which was good.

At one point, Tony noticed an RV in the West-Bound lanes with an open/missing window, and the curtains were flapping in the wind. A little further down the road, we saw a mangled RV awning in the WB lanes, and the Highway Patrol had blocked a lane of traffic to work on getting it out of the way.

Later down the road, we saw 5 people on the WB shoulder fighting an unfurled awning on their motorhome... it looked like it had ripped partially off, and was trying to fly away!  Each time, it reminded us to keep an eye on those things in high winds.

As we drove, we decided to take a little side trip down I-35W to the Camping World in Burleson. So, we exited and stopped, found a place to park the rig and I put out a couple of slides so we could release the kitties in the coach while we shopped. I wanted to specifically look at purchasing the Hatchlift system, to use on the front compartment door. Ever since we had our frame work done at the factory, the front compartment door does not like to stay latched in the open position. I think the catches are not in the same position they were before. It has fallen on us on more than one occasion, smacking us in the back or head, so we decided this was a good investment. It uses a small hydraulic piston to help hold the door open. We needed two, since our door is fairly wide. I could buy them direct from the manufacturer for a little cheaper, but would have to pay shipping, and it would be more difficult to return if there was an issue with the product.

We looked at all the other goodies, but opted not to buy anything else without more research to get the best price.

Once we were done shopping, we loaded up kitties, PULLED IN THE SLIDES, and hit the road again. We made it home about 3:30pm. We decided to go ahead and get the rig into the driveway, so we could properly clean and put things away, as well as complete some of the projects we now have (Hatchlift, LED awning lights, etc.) Tony backed it in almost perfectly the first try. I was so glad, as I got to stand out in the 20mph wind and 47 degrees, to help guide him!

Overall, it was really a fun trip. I am glad I was able to mix business with pleasure and we got to visit Ruidoso/Ski Apache during a good spring-break season. The kitties did wonderfully traveling, and we got to relax and enjoy one of our favorite places.

Our next trip will be for the Heartland Owners Club North Texas Chapter Rally in Santo, TX in April.

Slide Surprise and Clearance Fiasco

Saturday, March 15, 2014

About 4am, the wind started howling, and work us up. The cold front was moving into the area.  We checked our phones and watched the weather, and drifted off back to sleep for a while. We finally got up around 8am, and started getting the coach ready to go. The winds had died down some, and were not too bad as we hitched up and finally pulled out about 10:30. On the way, I saw deer and turkeys and antelope. We watched as clouds were building in front of us, and we had a nice tail wind, until we got to the Texas border... then, we drove through some light rain, and faced a a light cross/headwind. The storms were definitely firing up in front of us, we could see.

Eileen at Circle B RV Park, Ruidoso, NM

After a while we decided to stop for lunch in Plains, Texas, at the Dairy Queen, for steak fingers. These are like chicken-fried steak, but in a "finger" shape, served with white gravy. Tony went in to place our order, while I took the cats into the coach and put out the living/dining slide, so we could sit and eat. The cats and I waited, and waited, and finally Tony texted saying it was going to long wait, the workers were behind and confused. Tony waited approximately 30 minutes for our food and blizzards, but we finally got them, and the food was good.

Unfortunately, we were so disgruntled by the poor service, we missed pulling in the slide, and proceeded to pull out onto the highway and drive about a tenth of a mile before I looked out at the mirror and saw it protruding from the coach two feet! OMG OMG OMG! We pulled over and luckily there was no harm done. We can laugh about it now, but wow, I almost had a heart attack. Now we know our slide can withstand 63mph winds. LOL!

After that heart pounding excitement, we drove on just fine for a while, making jokes about our mishap. We stopped occasionally for restroom breaks, and then determined that the Windmill RV Park in Merkel, TX looked like a good stopping spot for the night. I called and made sure they had room, since many of the RV parks in west Texas are full of oilfield workers. They had room! So we planned to stop.

As we approached the town of Merkel, the GPS was showing our destination was many more miles down the road. We assumed it was wrong, and exited, like the person on the phone had directed. Using my iPhone with the address of the park, we turned south down the road it was located on, and proceeded to head out a few miles into ranch land -- and no RV park. Whoops, the iPhone was WRONG. I guess there's one glitch in the system, LOL!

We finally found a place to turn around, and I noticed what looked like snow on the shoulders of the road. Apparently, they had severe storm pass through that dropped enough tiny hail to cover the ground and wash into the bar-ditches, and it still had not melted.

We finally arrived at the park about 30 minutes later than we had planned. We realized what had happened. The GPS saw an underpass and deemed it "too low" for us to pass with the Mammoth, and had instead directed us to the next exit and return. However, in reality, the underpass was fine -- 14'3",  and we are right about 13', so we did not need to take the detour. The GPS fussed at us, saying "Height Restriction Violation", but we were already through the underpass! I guess she was just trying to do her job. Too bad we don't have enough confidence to trust it, and are considering a rival brand GPS in the future.

Once we got to the park, it was clear this park was set up and designed for "workers". No trees, no real amenities to speak of, next to a pipeline worksite, and within earshot of a train and the highway. Oh well, the sites were full hookup, VERY long, packed gravel and level, and the price was reasonable.

The owner was quick to greet us and guide us to a site. He said we could settle-up in the morning. We stayed hitched to the truck, but got set up and ate our leftover pizza from Cafe Rio. It was delicious! We were both very tired, so we hit the hay about 10:30 Central time, which was 9:30 Mountain time -- early for us. We saw via the phone that back home there were very heavy storms, but nothing too bad. However, if we had tried to get all the way home, we would have been in those storms for about half the drive. Not fun! We are glad we decided to take a slower journey.

Shopping, Elk and Pizza

Friday, March 14, 2014

Today I got up and worked on delivering the final files to a printer... supposedly they made some changes so that I could now upload my files. Unfortunately, their portal was still painfully slow, so after an exchange of emails, we opted for using Dropbox, a cloud-based file storage platform, that makes sharing files across the internet very easy. I uploaded 350MB+ for the printer to retrieve. I am so glad that my AT&T Mifi Liberate hotspot works flawlessly for my work.

After lunch, we decided to stop at Piñon Pottery first, then head into midtown Ruidoso, to shop all the quaint shops. We enjoyed talking to the potter's husband as we shopped at Piñon Pottery, along with their four dogs that made sure we were welcome. We saw an amazing photograph of the surrounding hills, taken at night, all aglow with wildfire. It was a time-lapse photo taken in April 2011, when a careless firework started a wildfire, called The White Fire, that engulfed five homes, several outbuildings and 10,356 acres of Lincoln National Forest in east Ruidoso and north Ruidoso Downs. Piñon Pottery was less than 100 yards from some of the burned areas, but spared as they are located on the opposite bank of Rio Ruidoso. I managed to find a similar pic:

The area is in recovery, you can definitely tell the impact of the wildfire.

We then headed to midtown, we looked all up and down Sudderth street, and enjoyed visiting lots of different places, including one of our favorites, White Mountain Pottery. Tony even located and purchased a wind chime he thinks will work well in his percussion ensemble. After a while, I got an email requesting approval for the files I sent earlier that morning, so we headed back to the trailer so I could check the proofs.

After my work duties were done, we again headed out to get fuel for the big tank, in anticipation of our departure tomorrow. We went to the Casino Apache Travel Center, since the fuel was about 5 cents cheaper per gallon. We fueled up, and headed back to midtown, to get a pizza at our favorite pizza joint, Cafe Rio. We placed our order, but every table was taken! We decided to get it to go, rather than wait for a table. It was going to be about an hour, the waitress said! Oh well, we'll shop some more. We walked around more of the shops, and I found a t-shirt I liked and a new night-light for Mammoth.

Midtown, Ruidoso, NM

 Midtown, Ruidoso, NM

Cafe Rio
(pic at a weird angle because I was trying to get the sign without getting all the people standing out front.)

New "ElkRidge appropriate" night-light for the bathroom

Once the hour was about up, we headed back to Cafe Rio, and our food was ready. We took it back to the trailer, and had a great meal. Their pizza uses a sauce that is like no other... it is almost sweet, but it contains spices that give it a kick that requires quenching, and goes really well with beer.

Pizza and cheesy breadsticks from Cafe Rio

After dinner, we watched some of our shows, and then we started getting the coach ready to go.

Sun sets on Mammoth

The dilemma was that there was a disturbance headed into the central and north Texas areas, and severe thunderstorms with possible tornados were predicted. We were originally planning to drive home in one day, but opted instead to drive until weather deemed we needed to stop, probably somewhere around Abilene.

We were tired from our walking/shopping, so we didn't get the coach completely ready to go. Oh well, we're not planning an 11-hour drive, so there isn't the rush to get out early in the morning.

Mountain Gods and More Work

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Today was a day planned for working. I had a deadline to meet and few projects for some customers, so I worked nearly all day and evening.

Tony went to the Inn of the Mountain Gods Casino, to try his hand. Unfortunately the Mountain Gods were not generous. They never seem to be, but he had fun for a while.

I struggled with a printer's website for a number of hours, trying to upload completed files. I finally gave up and sent an email stating the errors I was getting.

We are leftovers for lunch and dinner... Although it was definitely not a vacation day for me, it was still nice to look out at pine trees and rolling hills of the Ruidoso Valley.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Skiing Elk Ridge

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Today we got up and loaded up for the trek to Ski Apache. There was a light frost on the trees as we got closer to the resort, and every so often, it looked as if it was snowing, as the frosties would fall off the trees.

Frosty aspen trees

Arriving at the resort

We arrived about the same time as Monday, 10:30ish. We decided to try some of the runs on the western side of the resort, one of them, Elk Ridge Run! This morning it was 22 degrees when we got the resort, much colder than previous days, so we wore our black neck-gator/hoods under our helmets. These really help with the wind and help keep body heat in.

We had a rough start, as the snow was quite icy at first. I fell and Tony fell on our first few runs. Nothing major, it was caused by a combination of icy runs, cold temps, and slightly sore legs. ;)
Unfortunately, there was no sign labeling Elk Ridge Run, but we did ski it a few times.

Elk Ridge Run

There is an "Elk Lodge" at this western-side base area, but since very few people are skiing this area, it looked pretty empty/lonely. This area was also heavily damaged by fire, so it is very unappealing visually... Maybe that is why no one is skiing here.

Colder today!

Tony at the Elk Lodge, surrounded by burned trees.

Us riding a lift

Tony is the small spec in the center  near the bottom of the run. This was Wild Onion, a black run.

About noon, we stopped for lunch and headed to the truck for our picnic. We enjoyed sitting on the tailgate and eating, like we did Monday, but it was a little chillier. We headed back to the slopes and skied another few hours before heading back home. We skied 10.2 miles, and a max speed of 30mph! I must have zipped one time! One of the neat things is visiting with folks while riding the lifts. Luckily, Ski Apache has not been crowded, but we have visited with a few other Texans while riding the gondola. Gee, hard not to, when 4/5 of the plates on the vehicles in the lot are from Texas!

Once we got home, we collapsed and chilled until dinner, the wonderful Spaghetti Tony made yesterday. I responded to a few work emails, and we relaxed and watched our shows. I had planned to go to bed early, till I remembered the blog was WAYYY behind. So hopefully, this catches us up.

Tomorrow is a scheduled work day for me, so we'll see what it brings.

Food, food, good food.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Today I had many ongoing projects to take care of for my customers, so we decided to stay put and I worked most of the day.

We were awakened around 5 with winds howling, and they were shaking the rig a little. About 10am, they calmed to more reasonable winds, but I understand that they shut down a few lifts at the resort due to the wind.

Tony decided to cook a bunch of things we brought so we would have food ready instead of having to cook after skiing. He put on a pot roast in the crock pot, cooked spaghetti, and browned some italian sausage for pizza fixin's. We decided to eat the homemade pizza for lunch. Made with a low-carb tortilla for the crust, these "personal-sized" pizzas are great! Mine has sausage, canadian bacon, and mushrooms.

Homemade low-carb pizza

Kitties chillin' on the desk beside me as I work.

In the afternoon, I had a break, so we headed over to the Office here at Circle B. They have a nice Rv parts store, so we decided to look around. We didn't see anything we couldn't live without, so we came home.

I worked some more, then we decided to go out for dinner to our favorite New Mexican food place, Casa Blanca. We had a great meal. Tony had fajitas and I had green chile chicken enchiladas. YUM!

After dinner, we headed home, chilled and watched some more shows. I did some more work in the evening. Tomorrow, we plan to ski again!

Fire and ice

Monday, March 10, 2014

Today we loaded up our gear and headed to Ski Apache Ski Resort. The road to the ski resort is a 12 mile, switch-backed treacherous mountain road with no shoulders to speak-of. It can take 30-45 minutes to get to the resort. We've driven it many times, so it's no longer scary to us. ;)

Along the way, we saw much evidence of the lightning-started wildfire from June 4-20, 2012. Around 250 homes and 44,300 acres were burned in the Little Bear Fire in the Lincoln National Forest. The cost of fighting the fire and dealing with the effects of the aftermath is estimated at a quarter billion dollars. Here are some pics from the fire-fighting at the resort.

Getting started up "Ski Run Road"

Climbing up the mountain, the views are great for the passenger!

We made it to the resort! Wow, look at all the burned trees.

Two new lifts were built soon after the fire, including a high-speed gondola to replace the original, and the resort opened that next winter.

We had a great first day. Most of the runs were open, and we got to ski terrain that hasn't been open to us before... usually because they don't have this good amount of snow this time of year. We even skied "the bowl", and rode the lift to the highest point of the resort at 12,500 feet. The view was amazing! At lunchtime, we walked back to the truck and ate the lunch we brought, then headed back to the slopes. We skied 8.8 miles and a max speed of 28mph.

Riding the gondola up!

View looking back to the base.

View looking up the mountain.

Tony at the top of the lift, 12,500 feet.

View looking southwest, we thought that lighter area in the distance might be White Sands National Monument.

Feels like you're on top of the world!

Me and the view of the base area. The red truck just to the left of my smile is ours.

Looking up to Apache Bowl Chair #6. We skiied down from there!

After we got home, we took it easy and had leftover steak for dinner. We watched some shows and I worked for a while. Tomorrow, more work is planned.

Getting our "mountain legs"

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Today, we decided to just take it easy and get used to the altitude, catch up on sleep and relax a bit after the long drive yesterday.

Frosty truck! View out the rear window.

Our site at the Circle B.

Another view of our site at the Circle B.

We lounged around a bit in the morning, then headed out for lunch to explore and run errands.

We drove through town see what looked new and what had not changed. Many of the older buildings looked like they had been spruced up with paint or new facades. Some things were gone, but other things were new. Things looked like the economy is picking up for Ruidoso.

Look! Snow on the Sierra Blanca Mountains!

After running from one end of town to the other, we headed back and stopped at Starbucks. We have a number of gift cards and we don't drink coffee, so Tony suggested we get some breakfast pastries, instead. So he went in and picked out a few.

We then went to eat at our favorite BBQ place, Circle J BBQ. Unfortunately the BBQ was not as good as it has been in the past.... But the apple cobbler was very good!

After lunch we headed to WalMart to get a few things, like meat and bread, and sunscreen which I forgot. The WalMart here is smaller than ours, but they had all we needed. Tony got some good looking steaks to grill!

We headed home, and I decided a nap was in order, since I didn't sleep well the first night we were here.

After that, I did some Hairball Creative work, while Tony set up the grill to cook the steaks. We had a great meal, then went for a walk around the park.

The evening was spent working and watching some of the great shows we like on History channel, like Counting Cars and American Restoration.

Walking around the park.

Tomorrow, we ski!

Springing for a Break!

Saturday, March 8th, 2014

Due to a wild turn of events we didn't know if we'd get to go on a trip or not this Spring Break. Tony had obligations and so did I, but the stars aligned and we were able to go, after all. After careful evaluation of time and money, we decided a trip to Ruidoso was doable. We knew we could get there in one day, and even if he snow wasn't great there was lots to do. They also had a good dump of 10 inches just a few days before we were to be there!

We brought Mammoth home on Tuesday and got her backed in, loaded and ready to go. We de-winterized her, so we wouldn't have to mess with it when we got to the park. She needed a bath badly, but we just didn't have time and knew we'd be driving in some rain on the way.

Ready to hit the road tomorrow!

We loaded up kitties and headed out about 7:45am Saturday. The kitties had their treats, and promptly went to snoozing. We made good time across the state, with only a hazy mist and light sprinkles part of the day. We stopped at a rest stop and had lunch near Abilene. With the big fuel tank filled up ($3.56 a gallon) before we left, we had no issues filling up as we went, avoiding the ever-rising prices.

On the road again!

First glimpse of mountains off in the distance, about 20 miles east of Roswell, looking west.

Roadside pullout before heading into the Hondo Valley.

We were concerned that the gps was putting us into Ruidoso about 6:15, which was later than we needed to be there... The office closes at 6. But as we got closer, the time adjusted. We opted not to stop for dinner, and arrived in Ruidoso Downs at The Circle B RV Park at 5:45. The kitties did great! They never fussed the whole trip, and we never took them out of the truck. They slept most of the time.

We'll be running off tank most of the time as nighttime temps are getting below freezing. Not a problem for us! Tony filled the tank once we got here. We got set up and had dinner, then collapsed for the evening. It was a long drive, but Tony said it was not a hard one. Traffic was light, and there was a slight headwind, but overall the drive wasn't too bad. We crossed into the Mountain time zone, but tonight we "Spring Forward", so it's a wash for us, for now!

We are so happy to be back in the mountains.