While our pace of getting from Elkhart to Alburquerque was not as relaxed as we would have ideally liked, we made the best of it and worked in a couple of longer stays in scenic locations to get some catch-up time.
We generally followed Route 66 the entire way from St. Louis. When we last updated on our travel progress, we had just casino camped on the Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma border. That covered just about 1/2 the distance, and we had 9 days left before we were due in at the Balloon Fiesta.
Heyburn Park – Kellyville, OKWe don’t generally plan our stops too far in advance. When we have an idea of the direction we’d like to head, I bring up a couple different campground locator apps (Ultimate US Public Campground Project and All Stays being my current top choices) and look for spots that would be on the way, and potentially interesting.
Scenic locations and publicly owned campgrounds are some of our favorites. I spotted a few lakes in Oklahoma, and something in-between Oklahoma City and Tulsa seemed like a great target for a few nights to rest up. There was a Corp of Engineer’s park along Heyburn Lake (our review), and when I looked at their online reservation system and saw there was a sweet water front site available for three nights – we snagged it. Done.The stop was absolutely perfect for our needs. Our site felt pretty private, so we could leave the lakefront window shades open day and night. We also had a little clearing to the lake at our site – a perfect excuse to inflate our Sea Eagle 370 kayak for some paddling. We continue to love our little inflatable kayak, it’s perfect for us when we come across opportunities like this without having to dedicate much storage space to it.
We got a lot done during our three short nights – catching up on writing some content, filming our renovation tour, some cellular booster testing and some naps. Yes, there were plenty of naps!
Oklahoma City OvernightFriday, September 25 was the iPhone 6S launch day – and with my iPhone 5s now smashed thanks to too much time spent in the shop – we had incentive to get one ASAP so Chris could upgrade and pass me down his 6.
What transpired is a perfect example of some of the challenges of being nomadic.
It started with making multiple reservations at Apple stores along our route, since we didn’t know where we’d be. It turned out that Oklahoma City would be our stop, where only a Sprint based phone was available. No problem, Sprint was the only carrier we don’t have on board to test with – and we really should have them on board as well.
We left out of Heyburn Park in the late morning to make our afternoon appointment. We parked the bus in the neighboring Walmart parking lot. It was pretty hot outside, so we left the air conditioner running off battery to keep Kiki cool, thinking our 2 hour run time should be sufficient.
We got assigned to our Apple guy, and he got us our phone. But Sprint was completely offline for creating new accounts. When it finally worked, we were flagged because we used to, in a galaxy far far away, have a Sprint unlimited aircard plan (oh, what memories of our initial years on the road!). Once we got that cleared, Sprint’s system went down again and were unable to activate our phone, which is a requirement of the new Apple iPhone payment plan. We ended up agreeing to pay full price for the phone to walk out the door – but then our credit card company, Chase, flagged the transaction as fraudulent. Argh. That happens every so often when moving about new cities as frequently as we do. We finally got that cleared, and were able to walk out the door with our new iPhone.By this time, it had been just a bit over two hours since we left Kiki in charge of the bus. We had been remoting in to our Victron control panel, and knew we were close to battery shut off. Unfortunately, we don’t yet have the ability to control the air conditioner remotely.. and our upgrade to our Victron system to remote start the generator hadn’t yet been implemented (it is now, thanks Victron!). Thankfully, by the time we arrived back to the bus, the inverter had only shut off 8-minutes ago… so the cat was still quite comfortable.
We got the generator running, cooled things off further (yes, our 2500w generator runs an A/C just fine!) and moved on down the road to El Reno, OK to overnight at a Walmart. Where we did a grocery store stock-up.
Fritch Fortress – Lake Meredith Recreational AreaWhen we were in St. Louis and looking ahead to our routing to Albuquerque – we both looked at each other and said ‘Lake Meredith’. We knew what that meant.
The perfect place to stop and recharge for a bit. On our initial year on the road together way back in 2007, this little spot a bit north of Amarillo was the very first free camping spot I discovered.
Just looking at a map I spotted a lake, then researched further to discover a free campground at Fritch Fortress (our review). It was the start of my love of the road, and of boondocking. I still fondly remember that first sunset we experienced upon that cliff front.
We’ve been back before, right after we purchased Zephyr on our first cross country. And we’ve also wished we could return again and stay a while. It’s dry camping – with an amazing scenic overlook right by Fritch, TX. The connectivity is rocking, with solid cellular signals on non-overloaded towers.
We ended up staying 4-nights this stay, and it was absolutely lovely, enchanting and awesome. A perfect place to get regrounded after the chaos of the past months and before entering a highly social event.
Logan & Tucumcari, New MexicoWe spotted a state park of North Ute Lake (our review) in New Mexico that would be along our route in the Albuquerque. With 330 miles left to make, we could either do it all in one straight shot, or find an overnight along the way. We really needed to dump the tanks (since Lake Meredith’s dump station was closed) and load up on fresh water before 10 days of boondocking at the balloon fiesta.
Since it was on the way, we decided to check it out, even though it was a bit sooner than we’d prefer to stop. As soon as we pulled in, we heard air gushing out of the rear of the bus and we were having trouble maintaining air pressure in the brake and suspension system.We of course took that as a sign to stop for the night.
A bit of diagnosis, and we determined it was a stuck valve on the newly installed (in 2014) air dryer. We called ahead to a truck repair shop in Tucumcari, and they could see us first thing in the morning.
Thank goodness for our newly installed electric Viair air compressor – we were able to maintain just enough air pressure to keep the emergency spring brakes from engaging during our 30-mile drive and got safely to the shop. Since our air dryer is a standard truck part, they had a replacement valve in stock and got it swapped out in swift time.
What’s Up Next?We arrived to the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta last Thursday, camped amongst the Xscapers group. It’s been an absolutely mind blowing experience thus far.. and we’ll update later on these adventures!
After the balloon fiesta.. we have absolutely no idea where we are heading. And it feels good to have no definite plans on our calendar for many months. We suspect there will be lots of amazing boondocking, and lots of catching up. We still have not yet even begun to decompress after Elkhart, the long drive to get here and now the amazing experience of the Balloon Fiesta.
We crave some true down time. Soon.
But first… balloons!!!