Heading Back to San Antonio (September 29 – October 13, 2017)

Our arrival in Barstow, CA marked over 6,800 miles since we left San Antonio on May 9, 2017. We still had over 1,500 miles left in our return trip to San Antonio. When we began our trip, we had not had a specific return date. However, Phil accepted another two week contract job in Malta in late October so we must be return to San Antonio by October 13th.

On September 29th we drove 199 miles to Golden Valley, AZ where we spent the night at Tradewinds RV Park. Although the first part of the drive was on I-15, we then turned on to state roads and the drive became more challenging. There were many steep climbs and descents along the way. The campground was largely a gravel parking lot but our site was plenty large enough. There were lots of old pieces of farm machinery scattered around the campground.

On September 30th we drove 155 miles to Prescott, AZ. Most of the drive headed east on I-40; then the last 50 miles headed south on AZ-89. Although the drive was relatively short, it was another challenging drive with only one stop along the way. After three straight days of driving, we were exhausted when we arrived. We spent five nights at Point of Rocks RV Campground. The campground is among rocky hills but all the roads are quite dusty, prompting one reviewer to refer to it rather unflatteringly as “Piece of Dirt” rather than “Point of Rocks.” We were assigned site 56 in the upper section of the campground. It was a back-in site but was fairly easy to back into. We were under some large tree branches so we had no chance of using our satellite dish. The campground didn’t have cable but fortunately we were able to get 24 channels over the air.


On October 1st we wandered down the trail from the campground to Watson Lake. The lake is a beautiful shade of blue and is surrounded on three sides by large granite boulders. There is a combination of hiking trails that loop the lake but we were not prepared that day for a 4.5 mile hike. In the neighboring park, we discovered that the city was having a large dog show that they called Dog-tober. We watched part of the costume contest on our walk back to our campsite.

On October 2nd we decided to hike the Watson Lake trails that loop the lake. The weather was sunny with a nice breeze and temperatures in the low 70s.  The beginning of the hike was fairly easy and took us around the southern tip of the lake. However, the final two-thirds of the hike was quite challenging. We saw a sign that warned us that the trail required climbing on some steep rocks and would be quite strenuous. We decided to hike the strenuous route since our alternatives were either to return the way we’d come or walk along a vehicle road that wouldn’t have provided much of a view of the lake. It was a beautiful hike but clearly longer and more strenuous than hikes we’d done previously. Including the trail to and from our campsite, the hike took us over five miles. However, given the amount of care we had to take to walk along the rocky trail, the hike seemed much longer. Since most of this portion of the trail was over rocks, it was often difficult to follow the trail.  Fortunately, someone had painted small white dots on the rocks along the trail so we were able to follow these dots.  We were glad we chose to take the strenuous route but were very happy to relax when we got back home.

On October 3rd we drove to historic downtown Prescott and strolled along Whiskey Row several times trying to decide on where to have lunch. We finally decided on The Palace Restaurant and Saloon. The Palace is both the oldest business and oldest bar operating in the state of Arizona. It opened in 1877 and was rebuilt in 1901 after a disastrous fire swept a four block section of the downtown district. Wyatt Earp, Virgil Earp and Doc Holliday frequented The Palace in the 1870s before they headed to Tombstone. Wyatt Earp was involved in several gunfights behind the saloon, killing two men. Doc Holliday also killed a man in the saloon during a knife fight. Our lunch at The Palace was much more peaceful and our appetizers of chicken wings and fried artichoke hearts were both very good. The wait staff were all dressed in period costumes, including the sheriff who was seating patrons.

On October 5th we drove 187 miles to Holbrook, AZ where we spent two nights at OK RV Park. The name was appropriate as the campground was only OK. We were parked in a site that they seldom use and we found out why. Because of the placement of the electrical box, we had to pull up to the front of the site. This put us door-to-door with our neighbor who was facing the opposite direction. It also us under a tree which meant we couldn’t use our satellite. That shouldn’t have been a problem, since the campground provided cable TV with 50 channels. Unfortunately, we were expected to use their coaxial cable that ran underground to a splitter bar at the neighbor’s pole. The campground rules made it clear that we were not supposed to disconnect their cable. When Phil wasn’t able to get help from the office staff, he ignored the rules, connected our own coaxial cable to the splitter bar and the problem was solved.

Welcome to Holbrook Arizona sign

We arrived early enough to allow us time to explore the nearby Petrified Forest National Park. We started at the Painted Desert Visitor Center at the north end of the park where we watched the park film. Then we drove the 28 mile road through the park and stopped at numerous scenic overlooks. We ended the drive with a stop at the Rainbow Forest Museum at the southern end of the park.

We learned that a log is petrified when all of the original plant material is replaced by minerals. Approximately 216 million years ago, trees dies and fell into a river. They were covered by layers of silt, mud, sand, and volcanic ash, which protected them from decay. Mineral-laden ground water percolated through the layers, carrying silica from the volcanic ash and other trace minerals. The absorbent dead wood became saturated with these minerals. The silica, or quartz, crystals slowly bonded with the cells of the tree replicating the organic material in perfect detail. Eventually, silica replaced the wood material. Now this petrified forest is not made of wood, but of stone.

We began the following morning by returning to the Rainbow Forest Museum where we first walked the self-guided .4 mile Giant Logs Trail. This included a stop at a 35-foot petrified log nicknamed Old Faithful.

We next hiked 2.6 miles along the Long Logs Trail and the Agate House Trail. The Long Log Trail took us through the site of a Triassic log jam where we saw a large number of especially long petrified tree trunks. The Agate House, originally built with petrified wood blocks and mud mortar, likely housed a single family between 1050 and 1300. The house was reconstructed by the Civil Works Administration in 1934.

After a picnic lunch, we drove the Blue Mesa Road and hiked the 1 mile loop trail. This steep trail took us through vibrant blue, purple and gray badlands dotted with colorful petrified wood. We ended the day by hiking the .8 mile Crystal Forest loop trail where we viewed numerous beautiful petrified logs.

On October 7th we drove 153 miles to Milan, NM where we spent the night at Bar S RV Park.

On Sunday, October 8th we drove 73 miles to Albuquerque, NM where we spent three nights at Enchanted Trails RV Park. We arrived in Albuquerque shortly after noon so we were still able to attend the evening session of the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. Since we’d read about how bad the traffic would be, we arrived at the Balloon Fiesta around 4 pm for the events that were scheduled to begin at 6 pm. Unfortunately, the winds were too strong for the balloons to be inflated until about an hour late. We were seated near the Canon balloon and, since Canon was the primary corporate sponsor, they were the first balloon inflated. However, we were unaware that there were approximately 600 other balloons being readied to be inflated immediately after the Canon balloon. Once the balloons were inflated, they began what is known as the “Balloon Glow” where the burners of the tethered balloons were ignited, illuminating the night with colorfully glowing envelopes that guests were able to wander amongst. After the Balloon Glow, we stayed for the Laser Light Show and the AfterGlow Fireworks Show.

We set our alarm for 4 am and got up and headed back to the Balloon Fiesta at 4:30 am. We arrived for another Laser Light Show that began at 5:45 am. It was around 50 degrees but the wind made it feel much colder. Once again, the winds caused the events to be delayed. The next event, the Dawn Patrol, consisted of the launch of a small number of balloons to enable the pilot to determine the day’s winds aloft conditions. After the Dawn Patrol, the other hundreds of balloons were inflated and most of them set sail. We walked all over the infield watching the balloons being inflated and launched.

We took a day off from the Balloon Fiesta on Tuesday to take care of multiple errands, including picking up our mail at the downtown Albuquerque post office and rinsing out the hot water heater.

Even though Wednesday was a travel day, we decided to get up early (4 am) and attend the Balloon Fiesta before we hit the road since it was our only opportunity to watch a Mass Ascension. A Mass Ascension occurs when hundreds of balloons lift off and fill the horizon over about a little more than an hour. On Wednesday, they held the Flight of Nations Mass Ascension which began with select pilots from participating countries lifting off carrying their country’s flag. This event recognizes the international community that participates in Balloon Fiesta to help make it the largest of its kind in the world.

The traffic was much heavier than it had been on Monday. The police redirected us to another entrance so we had to watch some of the preliminary events from our car as we sat in traffic. It was 39 degrees when we arrived at the Balloon Fiesta but, fortunately, we had learned from Monday’s experience and had dressed more warmly. We walked all over the field and were able to watch from close-up as hundreds of balloons were inflated and took off into the sky. Before long, the sky was filled with hot air balloons and it made for a beautiful site. Attending the Balloon Fiesta was definitely a bucket list event for us but we would love to attend again some time. Although pictures don’t adequately capture the beauty of the event, Jan took hundreds of photos during our three days. It was very difficult to select a few pictures to include with the blog.

We left the Balloon Fiesta before the last of the balloons had ascended but we were cold and needed to get back on the road. We left the campground around 10 am and began our 237 mile drive to Clovis, NM. As soon as we pulled away, Phil discovered that one of our trailer tires was 10 lbs. low so we had to return to add some air. After having gotten up at 4 am, driving 4+ hours was not enjoyable but we successfully completed the trip without further incident. We spent the night at the Travelers World Campground outside of Clovis, NM. The odor made it clear than Clovis is cattle country. We went to bed early and had no trouble sleeping despite being situated between a highway and train tracks.

On Thursday, October 12th, we drove 307 miles to San Angelo, TX where we spent the night at the San Angelo KOA. This was the longest drive we had made since beginning our RV life but we managed to make the trip successfully. This was also our 2-year anniversary of when we began our RV life. It seems like it’s been much longer since we’ve had so many memorable experiences in the past two years.

On October 13th we completed our return to San Antonio with a 220 mile drive. We arrived at Traveler’s World at 2 pm and successfully executed our back-in. We chose not to back into the site completely since there were tree branches that would have blocked our satellite signal. We managed to find a middle ground, one that allowed us to get a satellite signal but still leaving enough room to park our vehicles so they are off the road and not on the grass.  We will be at Traveler’s World for a month.  Phil leaves for a 2-week contract assignment on October 14th.