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Old 01-04-2020, 01:54 PM   #1
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Trip Report - Houston TX to Albuquerque NM and return - Winter edition

The dear wife and I and our two dogs decided to make an epic journey this holiday season. My wife works at a church and the run up to Xmas is hectic for her, so we always try some down time afterwards so she can decompress.

This year we decided to use our still new to us (just two short trips so far) Flagstaff 25' and drive to see family in the Albuquerque area. We are pulling with a 2010 Ford F150 extended cab, it's a former oil field fleet truck with extra towing packages put on and some custom hauling ability added. The week before I switched the trailer tires out to Goodyear Endurances - excellent choice.

We left Christmas morning bright and early. The plan was to make it as far as possible that first day - we've driven across Texas so many times in the last 20 years of marriage, and 10 years before that individually, that it's just a "let's get it done" task now. We were aiming for MuleShoe, TX which has a free city RV park as our stop. But inevitable delays and early sunset only got us to Levelland, TX, which also has a free city RV Park. This was a 570 mile trip - yikes. Average gas mileage was crap - from some legs as low as 7mpg, to some near 9, but on avarage slightly over 8.

First overnight: Levelland TX RV Park, TX ( Levelland R.V. Park | Levelland, TX - Official Website )

It's basically just a lot with a few trees next to a highway and airport. But it's free for up to 3 days and has power & water hookups and a dump station - all three of which we used. (need your own water hose at the dump station). Traffic noise from the highway was there but bearable. The neighbors were a little sketchy - two trailers were there in the spaces for about 5, one with a broken window. Never saw the people but one of the truck for the broken window one arrived about midnight and was gone by 7 am (leaving the trailer). Found out later there are local oilfield workers using them.

Next day was only about a 250 mile trip, so we started late, around 930 after a small breakfast of biscuits and gravy in the trailer.

Just over the new Mexico border we stopped in Clovis NM for a real breakfast and early lunch at a place right on Hwy 60 called Cooks Restaurant - it's associated with the Loves Travel Stop right there. Excellent omelettes, interesting hash browns, and real nice customer service. Place was filled with locals and long haul truckers (we parked next to a Walmart rig) Would consider stopping there again if timing is right.

We stopped also at Billy the Kid's grave in Ft Sumner, just a ways down the road. We had visited it about 23 years ago when the wife and I were still just dating and did a road trip by car to ABQ, so it was a memory thing for us. The visitor center was closed, but the parking lot accommodated the truck and trailer without issue. The stretch of Hwy 60 between Clovis and Ft Sumner is paralleled by heavily used railroad tracks and we saw some trains with Amazon Prime cargo containers on it - a first for us. Told the wife they had to restock the local warehouse after her pre Christmas orders. This leg so far we were experimenting with speeds and rpms and cruise control. More on that later.

Turning north we headed to I40 and then east with a stop at Cline's Corner. I hadn't been there in maybe 30 years. It's a tourist trap rest stop, but fun to people watch and browse. Dog "duty" areas are sparse, and construction makes manuevering a trailer a bitch through it unless you want to park in their big rig lot and take a long walk.

We kept heading west on 40 and made it around Sandia Peak with their steep grades and into ABQ without issues. The wind was a little fierce at some points. Our end point was actually a little town north of ABQ called Bernallilo.

Nights 2-4 : Coronado Campground, Bernallilo NM ( https://www.townofbernalillo.org/dep...ound/index.php ).

This is a city run park right next to the Coronado National Monument and right on the Rio Grande river. We got space number 7, which is one of the three that faces the river and has a great view right out the window of Sandia Mountain. It also has power and water and a great shelter. We stayed 3 nights, all three of which fell below freezing temps and we had snow two days. The bad thing is their pipes are not wrapped and protected, so you have to disconnect from the water each night and let their pipe drain back into the ground so it doesn't freeze and break. Even with the heated hose we got for this trip, we couldn't use it because of their pipes (an experience we had again at the next camp). The park bathroom was kept very warm and the shower was nice and hot. Even with the water pipe issues, the views were worth it and it was a peaceful break from the city. Each morning we'd watch the geese leave the river and fly off for foraging. Right next door and a 5 m inute walk around the fence is the Bosque Craft Brewery and restaurant. The beers and cider were great (we went two nights and I had their Bosky Porter, Oatmeal Stout, and tried my wife's Cider - all great). the good was mediocre though (had the fish and chips - just average, tried my wife's burger - bland, and had steak quesadillas - steak was tough). But the fried cheese curds were very good. The other bad aspect is that Bernallilo is undergoing fast growth and hwy 550, which is what the park is off of, is undergoing major construction and is hard to drive with a trailer and jam packed most of the time. Exiting the park you have to go right and away from Interstate 25 and u-turn. They have a special place for that which is fine for cars, but not good for trailers - we continued a few blocks further and U-turned in the Home Depot lot. After visiting friends and family we left for our next stop - Villanueva State Park, where we are to meet my wife's parents. On the way out we stopped at the dump station to drop our black and grey tanks. First big issue of the trip : the tanks valves were frozen shut and I actually broke off the finger grip tabs on the black tank trying to open it. Finally got it open with nice grips, but both the grey and black tanks were frozen themselves and only a trickle came out. oh well.

Nights 5-7: Villanueva State Park, NM (
Villanueva State Park New Mexico )

Since we departed on the North side of ABQ, we took the northern route there - 25 North, skirting Sante Fe, and almost to Vegas. Hwy 3 South from 25 is a winding up and down track to the park through several tiny towns, easily manageable in the trailer. We also saw numerous old airstreams in yards and properties along the way - a rich hunting ground for a restorer. The inlaws came in from the south (Hey 40) with their 5th wheel. They reported a long boring drive up from 40 ending with a steep cliffside descent into the Hamlet of Villanueva. The park is in a canyon - no cell or TV signals (peace for a few days). Also due to the canyon, Dawn comes late and the sun sets early, it's cold, and the snow sticks around. It's also right on the Pecos River. We had spaces 6 & 7 (reserved ahead of time) - the spots are close, in fact the way we parked with the inlaws, we could almost toss packages from our windows to their door. They are both beside a small cliff and across the street from the river, and have power and water. Space 6 has a shelter, but 7 doesn't. The ranger stopped by and told us while we were backing in that we could take spaces 11 & 12 instead (first come first serve spaces) which are nicer looking and right on the river, but they don't have water. We decided to stay in 6&7. When we met the hosts later though, we found they were having the same freezing problems and that water had to be disconnected at night. After set up we also realized we forgot to stop at their dump station first to try and dump the tanks again.

We filled our fresh water tank in order to have water at night, but it quickly froze. (ours is an underbelly tank with no weather proofing). Luckily we had gallon jugs to use for water transport into the trailer.

The park itself is very nice with lots of nice walks and friendly people. The ranger was fun to chat with as we're the hosts, also winter fishermen using the river.

Walking up to the upper tent campground behind the visitor center was fairly quick and easy on the steep road. that part of the campground is closed to camping in the winter, but has great views down the canyon, is quiet , and actually has about 2 bars for cell signal. We observed hare, coyote, raccoon and deer tracks. Walks along the river were nice, and the river was frozen in many places. Unfortunately the ice and mud was slippery and my father in law took a tumble one day resulting in a banged up hip, ribs, and arm.

Our last day there was still cold, but warmer, and we decided to be take the Viewpoint Loop Trail across the river and to the top of the Mesa/Cliffs. It was steep in some places going up, but manageable. We (Me, the wife, her father, and our two dogs - one an old 14 year old hound, the other a one year old tripod) manged getting to the top without issues although the pups were tuckered out. We passed some old ruins from the Coronado expedition. At the top was where the problems started. The trail along the top of the Mesa was poorly marked, and with the light snow covering and sparse cactus and mesquite growth, we were soon off trail without realizing it. Using our phones we realized we had followed the wrong open spaces and ridge lines and were now on private land. We headed back towards the campground and trail by bushwhacking and had to cross two barbed wire fences, steep descents, and lots of laughter and cussing. We finally came back across the trail and followed it to the river and back towards the bridge. At one point the trail forked, with one part going back up a STEEP embankment and the other continuing level along the river. The riverside one was partially blocked by a low rock wall, but we, idiotically, decided to do that one rather than climbing again. Mistake! About 100 yards down the trail a rock crumbled beneath my foot and I took a nasty spill. I got new hearing aids a few weeks ago and that allows me to hear the cracking of bones in my foot. Yikes! At least we were not high up a steep embankment. I checked my foot for bleeding and gross mishapment (I'm a former combat medic), tied everything tight, and said "let's go on, I'll just be the slow one.". Well when we got in sight of the bridge, the trail was completely blocked. We ended up climbing a 15 foot cliff to the "new" trail. That was interesting with my foot, my father in laws injuries, my very short wife, and the two dogs. This time there was no laughter, only cussing. But we made it and got back to the trailers. I soaked my foot in ice cold water for awhile. Some serious swelling. I determined the ankle wasn't bad, but the foot was probably broken, but not life threatening. The next day was departure day anyways. Let me tell you, packing up and getting hooked up with only one foot is a pain.

But we managed and drove to the dump station. The cap for the ground drain was under 2" of solid ice. Using the lever that came with my Equalizer hitch for prying on the sway bars, and water from the dump hose (which shot out ice at first) we managed to chip and wash away enough ice to open the drain. I hooked up and the valves opened, but...... the tanks were frozen. Aaargh. My inlaws got to use it though. oh well.

We departed the park on New Year's Day heading south towards 40, making it up the steep incline my inlaws warmed us about with no major issues. I just kept the truck at about 45 and it made it. The host had warned that many people departed north instead, then headed west on 25 to another road heading south back to 40 to avoid that incline. I could see douing that with a very long trailer or week tow vehicle. My inlaws were about half an hour behind us and got their 32' 5th wheel towed by a High Sierra up without problems.

Our plans from there were to head back to Houston over three days, camping wherever at our whim. I had pencilled in a first night at either Palo Duro, Caprock Canyon or Copper Breaks State parks in Texas. Once we got to good cell signal land near 40, the wife started checking for availability while I drove. By the time we got to Santa Rosa NM for a gas stop, we had determined all three parks were a no-go - two were closed that day for hunting events and the other was full. And by that time my foot was not happy - it's the right foot and I was driving - go figure.

So we decided to head more directly towards Houston and make an early evening of it and returned once more to Levelland TX. The in laws also stopped there for the night on their way home (San Angelo TX).

Night 8 : Levelland again

We got to Levelland without further issues, hit the dump station first and dumped (yay) - we had already drained the fresh water tank by leaving off the low point drain cap on the way. We set up the trailer for the night, noting one of the trailers we say a week earlier was still there, just in a different space. So much for the three day limit.

We went into town that late afternoon to hit the Wally World for food and supplies - which now included ace bandages for my foot, sports tape, and pain relievers (combo some ibuprofen and Tylenol).

The next morning we departed about 9:30 heading E / SE. Plans were to find some place this (NE) side of Waco. Doing some quick searches the night before I ID'd several parks (state, Corp of Engineer, City, etc) and even a fall back of boondocking at the Cabellas in Waco. The first choice was Meridian State Park. When we got to the east side of Abilene the dear wife started checking and called Meridian SP, finding that they only had one space left that would fit a 25' and that the office closed at 445. Our timing had us showing up at 5ish, so she booked it sight unseen and paid over the phone.

Night 9: Meridian State Park, TX ( https://tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/meridian )

We got there at 5:05 and found our check in info hanging on a " late arrival " board that the rangers had - nice , and easily found out spot. The camping area is crowded and small, each of the spots half circle pull throughs. We probably had the smallest spot (#6), which was probably why it was the last one to be taken. But it did have full hookups including a dump drain. We got hooked up and collapsed for the night, dark settling in. btw: almost no cell signal in the park, and the wifi, even at the park HQ sucked and was almost unusable. There is also oddly another RV camping section for RV/Trailers of 19' max length only. that area was completely empty that night.

Last Day: We got up casually and packed up leaving around 10. We drove into Waco stopping at Cabela's for a few things. Then College Station for a bite and gas, and then finally back home to the SW side of Houston. We got the trailer to our storage lot, loaded the cold foods and clothes into the truck, then headed the shirt drive home where I unloaded the truck then took a shower before the wife drove me to the VA to get my foot checked. after 3 days of driving it was pretty colorful.

Of course dealing with an ER on a Friday night, and a VA one at that, is a waiting issue. We checked in at 7pm, I was triaged about 45 mins later, and sent to x-ray about 930. The doc finally saw me about 10, said the ankle was fine but I did break the foot, didn't look like surgery was needed, fitted me with a boot and crutches and put me in for an orthopedic consult next week. The tech dealing with me and I had some good banter. When he came up to me to get me to x-ray he said "I'll get a wheel chair for you", I told him "I'll hobble up there, I've climbed a cliff, hiked 1/4 mile, and been on it for three days of hopping and driving over 900 miles since I fell." He countered with "Let me guess, Army." "yep." He laughed and said "Wheelchair you grunt." (he was a squid).

So that was the trip report.

on the MPG issue - the return trip we averaged over 10 MPG. I determined on the way up a few things - I could balance the RPMs in the 1800-2800 range and get better mileage, even at 70 mph. And the trucks cruise control, especially in Tow Mode, was awful. It would regularly hit almost 4000 rpm for no reason, and if I tapped the gas it would go back down to 2500 but then pop back up to 4k a minute later. The Goodyear Endurance tires are a ton better and more fuel efficient than the original factory China bombs.

Overall trip was about 1950 miles.

various pics to follow.
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Old 01-04-2020, 01:55 PM   #2
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360 pano of the Meridian camping spot. I'm at the fire ring. Click image for larger version

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Old 01-04-2020, 02:00 PM   #3
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Map of Meridian State Park

Forgot to add that the park itself is beautiful. Lots of hikes, nice lakes, some CCC buildings and bridge, etc. Just the camping area is lacking. Click image for larger version

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Old 01-04-2020, 02:02 PM   #4
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The tripod (foreground) and old hound and dear wife (background) at the top the long illfated hike before we got sidetracked at Villanueva. And one of the views going up. Click image for larger version

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Old 01-04-2020, 02:03 PM   #5
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Site 6 at Villanueva, this was the last day. The two days prior the snow covered 80% of the site. Click image for larger version

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Old 01-04-2020, 02:04 PM   #6
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Some pics of the campground at Bernallilo NM. Click image for larger version

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Old 01-04-2020, 02:10 PM   #7
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Forgot to mention a segment in the report above.

Snyder TX - on the way home we were passing through this about lunch time and I asked the wife to find us a local place for lunch and a break. We like to find off the beaten path places. She found one.

We stopped at the Ponderosa Motel and Restaurant. Its on the west side of town and you have to get off the highway a bit and hunt for it. It's a place you'd pass without a thought. A real in the wall. But it was great.

I'm a big water, and being in Texas I live Mexican food and TexMex and eat it several times a week. And I have to say this place had the best Burrito, and maybe the Best Mexican food I've ever had in my like. I will return even if it's a detour.

Look up the place on the "Texas Bucket List" tv show (there's a video of their visit).

I had the Pastor lunch burrito (but it was big enough for dinner - I'm a fat 260 lb guy and I could only eat half) and my wife has the Asada burrito.

I'm about to heat up the left overs for lunch today, 2 days later.
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Old 01-04-2020, 07:57 PM   #8
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Interesting trip! Sorry about your foot.
I went to high school in Bernalillo in the early 70s. Back then there was not a lot, a mercantile, a cafe, a Lotta Burger that many of us hung out at during lunch and a gas station. Passed by in 2007 on our way to Santa Fe to bury my father's cremains at the National Cemetary, but it was too late in the day to stop. All I could see back then were the lights from the casino.
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Old 01-04-2020, 10:06 PM   #9
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Cool to read about your trip. I live about 10 minutes from Coronado and 5 from home Depot just west of there. Always wondered how Coronado was, thought about spending a night with the camper there just to safely enjoy the Bosque brews. It was unseasonably cold here during your stay, but now we're back up to mid to high 40s with today in the low 50s.
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Old 01-04-2020, 10:10 PM   #10
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Sounds like a pretty awesome trip, aside from the foot. Even took me down memory lane a little as I worked a job in Muleshoe TX a number of years back. I think the tumble weeds outnumbered the people in that town, but it was a nice area to visit.
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Old 01-05-2020, 07:07 AM   #11
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Thanks for posting your trip it was a great read and sorry about your foot, hope it heals ok.
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Old 01-05-2020, 02:11 PM   #12
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thanks for the memories. The wife and I ,and the dog and cat stayed at Bernallilo NM. last year in campsite 4 I believe. IT is a quiet park even being close to the hwy. Even lived in Katy for 20 yrs, before I retired.
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Old 01-05-2020, 02:35 PM   #13
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Interesting trip! Sorry about your foot.
I went to high school in Bernalillo in the early 70s. Back then there was not a lot, a mercantile, a cafe, a Lotta Burger that many of us hung out at during lunch and a gas station. Passed by in 2007 on our way to Santa Fe to bury my father's cremains at the National Cemetary, but it was too late in the day to stop. All I could see back then were the lights from the casino.
Yeah, it's really grown. I started visiting it in the Late 70s when Taylor Ranch was being developed in what became Rio Rancho. I miss Jackalope (it's a brewery now - but even a dozen years ago it had become overpriced tourist stuff).
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Old 01-05-2020, 02:37 PM   #14
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Cool to read about your trip. I live about 10 minutes from Coronado and 5 from home Depot just west of there. Always wondered how Coronado was, thought about spending a night with the camper there just to safely enjoy the Bosque brews. It was unseasonably cold here during your stay, but now we're back up to mid to high 40s with today in the low 50s.
It's worth a stay for $25 and the convenience.

We will definitely be back. Apparently it books up for the balloon fest (surprise!) At double the normal rate. We might return for the fest one day (it's been a long time since I say it, maybe 25 years when it wasn't crowded), but we will boondock in my mom's driveway in Rio Rancho.
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Old 01-05-2020, 02:39 PM   #15
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Sounds like a pretty awesome trip, aside from the foot. Even took me down memory lane a little as I worked a job in Muleshoe TX a number of years back. I think the tumble weeds outnumbered the people in that town, but it was a nice area to visit.
The cows definitely outnumber the people!
My in-laws love the Muleshoe free RV park on the edge of town.
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Old 01-05-2020, 03:06 PM   #16
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Great trip report. This Canadian is looking out at the motor home parked for the winter and enjoyed your trip very much. I bet you have a great time camping with that attitude. Not deterred by “minor” issues. Heal fast.
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Old 01-05-2020, 05:51 PM   #17
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It sounds like you had fun. The broken foot and frozen tanks are what make all the more memorable. I fractured my fifth (a bad) metatarsal and then walked on it for 20 days before getting it checked. I refused to go to the nearest hospital because I would of came out feet first or without a foot. Lucky for me it was on my left foot and was able to drive back from Tahlequah OK back to Harlingen Tx. I will have to look for Muleshoe and Levelland Tx. We travel the back roads of Tx and pull into picnic areas for quick overnight stays. Having a free place with Electric would be great. Hope your foot heals quickly. Mine would of needed surgery but I waited to long. Your discription made my foot hurt and eyes water.
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Old 01-06-2020, 09:36 AM   #18
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Thanks. A lot of north west Texas towns have free RV parks. They figure it's a great way to get travellers to spend a few bucks in their town for minimal investment (food, gas, etc)

We saw that Littlefield also has one called the Waylon Jennings RV park (he's from there and his brother runs a store nearby).
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Old 01-08-2020, 11:12 AM   #19
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Enjoyed your trip report! Even hiking vicariously. I used to live in Lubbock, so I've driven much of the area several times. If you ever get to camp in Palo Duro Canyon, it's wonderful and it's a destination in itself.
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Old 01-09-2020, 04:50 PM   #20
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Enjoyed your trip report! Even hiking vicariously. I used to live in Lubbock, so I've driven much of the area several times. If you ever get to camp in Palo Duro Canyon, it's wonderful and it's a destination in itself.
Palo Duro is definitely on my Bucket List. The wife has been there many moons ago, but I've never been.
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