After our delightful and restful mini-vacation in Truth or Consequences, we moved back into our bus. Thoroughly cleansed after our summer renovation chaos, we considered it a restart to our adventures.
One of the personal conclusions we came to during our reevaluation, was that we had overcommitted ourselves professionally. We had spent much of the past 2 years dedicating a lot of our attention to some pretty major projects helping others launch their dreams, while trying to keep on top of ours. And as proud and flattered as we are to have been part of some pretty amazing things, we need to focus on our own goals.
We had a heart-to-heart with ourselves and our business clients, and resigned our future major commitments. Which meant we no longer had a schedule to keep, no place we had to be. And it has been exactly what we needed so we could get back to our intentions of living our lives at our own pace.
So that left the question… where do we go next?
While we really wanted to join back up with friends already out further west, we weren’t sure we were up for the long drive and hectic pace it would entail. But we did want to keep the option open and accessible. So we opted to continue meandering west.
The Mountain Pass
We eyed City of Rocks State Park as our next destination – highly coveted by RVers as a unique location, it had been on our list for quite a while.
From Truth or Consequences, there are two major routes for getting there. The long way, down through Deming and then back up at 113 miles. Or the short way at 88 miles over 152 and through scenic Gila National Forest.
We looked ahead on Google Earth, checked the EnRoute app for mountain grade conditions and read through blogs of RVers who have gone before us. Aside from two 12’8″ low clearance bridges (we’re only 11’6″) and a nice steady 6-7 degree grade up and down – the route seemed RV friendly enough.
Despite spotty cell phone coverage predicted along the way, we decided to save the miles and enjoy some scenic driving.
Famous last words, eh?
The drive is absolutely gorgeous, the most scenic driving we’ve had since our summer up in Alaska. The grades are manageable and our naturally aspirated 2-stroke diesel engine handled them like a champ.
But egads, is that road curvy! Lots of switch backs.
By the time we reached Emory Pass we were ready for a lunch break. There’s a scenic overlook at the pass, and we started to make the turn to the road that goes up to it.
But it’s not until after the turn is committed that there’s the dreaded ‘No Trailers’ sign.
With someone right on our tail making the turn too, even doing a quick retreat would have been risky. We had little choice but to discover just what ‘No Trailers’ meant. Did they mean no motorhomes too? No large vehicles?
We approached the small parking lot to find there’s little room for turning a large vehicle around. We parked as far off the side as we could to allow vehicles to pass, and took a break.
We’d have lunch, enjoy the view and wait for enough vehicles to pull out. Unhitch the MINI Cooper and manage a multi-point turn to get out of there. Worst case, we could always back down the road.
It didn’t take long for the parking lot to clear out enough to attempt getting turned around. So we took the opportunity.
As we were tightly maneuvering between two vehicles that had been left longer term (the parking lot is also the starting place of a hiking trail – which the owners of these two vehicles were clearly on), Chris felt the power steering assist go out. And there was oil gushing out the top of the steering box in the engine.
Here we were, pinned in and needing to make several small adjustments with no momentum, and we had no power assist. It took like what seemed a 1000 tiny hefty turns (it was probably more like 10) to get us free and clear. We parked the bus in a safe spot, and began to assess our options.
After some diagnostics (turning the engine on and turning the wheel), we were relatively sure it was just the O-Ring dislodged or cracked and not a blown hose, or damage to the steering pump itself.
We found some faint cell signal at the very edge of the overlook, and got a message out to a few trusted bus friends & mechanics to confirm the symptoms and ask for their advice (thank you guys!!).
The consensus was that we could get the bus safely down the mountain without power steering. It would be tough with the tight curves ahead, but the down grade would help with momentum.
After all, power steering was an optional accessory when our bus came out in 1961 – drivers regularly drove without such a luxury. We’d have to stop and top up the oil reservoir every few miles to make sure we didn’t run dry and destroy the pump.
We could also take the MINI into the nearest town and try to find the right O-Ring and replace it ourselves. It’s not that difficult. It would be a 40+ mile round trip, trusting the O-Ring was to be found and would have us very likely returning after sunset.
With a snow and ice storm predicted the next morning, we decided to try moving the bus down the mountain without power steering. We had plenty of extra oil with us, and we’d just take it slow. It was only 8 miles until we were down the mountain, and there are frequent large pull-outs.
We filled up the oil reservoir, and did some tests with the engine on and turning the wheel back and forth. We weren’t just seeping oil, we were gushing. We decided it was beyond our comfort level to attempt driving curvy twisty roads on a constant decline and risk burning out the pump creating a larger problem. Some things just aren’t worth risking, you know?
So, we decided to call Coach-Net for assistance. We bought this emergency road side assistance 4+ years ago when we acquired our bus, and it has saved our (vegetarian) bacon several times. Most notably, when our engine overheated in Montana in the summer of 2013. And this time was no different.
They sent out an excellent nearby mobile mechanic who called us in advance to make sure he had everything he’d need. He came with an O-ring kit that had our size (size 113 for our Vickers pump, for future reference), changed it out while teaching us how to do it ourselves and left us with a couple spares. Coach-Net paid for the service call and mileage to & from, we just paid for the part and an hour of his time.
Since it was nightfall, we decided to stay in the parking lot – enjoying the peace and quiet, lovely star filled sky and gorgeous overlook. With our cellular boosters, we were able to turn those barely usable signals into something we could stream a movie with. We got an early start in the morning to stay ahead of the snow storms, and safely ascended down the mountain.
While it all came down to a 50 cent part, and in the end all resolved well – we do have to say, it was a test of our patience so soon after resetting ourselves.
Just a reminder, that stuff happens on the road. You can’t really avoid it. Trusting in your own ability to navigate through lives challenges is where a feeling of safety comes from. Stay calm. Remember you have your house with you, and you CAN do this!
City of Rocks State Park
We pulled into City of Rocks (our review) safely and ready to put down for a few nights. The campground is indeed very unique. As you approach, you’re surrounded by big wide open plains, and then.. a city of rocks appears.
The campground has two sections – the full hook-ups, which are a collection of pull thrus and back-in spots all in one little area. They’re nice enough, with a great view of the city.
And then the no-hook up section is scattered campsites right amongst the rocks. Picking a spot can be a bit tricky, as each is completely unique. Some more suitable for tents and small rigs. And many of the larger sites were leveling challenged.
We selected a site next to the botanical gardens with towering rocks around us. We left the view to the wide open plains.
Before the predicted storms hit, we got out for a bit of hiking. There’s a nice trail around the park, and some trails through the campground that take you through the rocks. But once the storms hit, we were in high gusty winds and then snow flurries! We were rocking and rolling for a solid day, and having to rely on our generator for a bit of power (not much solar in a storm).
When the storm cleared, we discovered we only had a couple hours of light on our panels as the big gorgeous rocks we parked next to shadowed our panels most of the day.
We decided to move on, as much as we would have loved staying here for a bit. Next time we pass through, we’ll pick our site more carefully to optimize for sunlight.
Faywood Hot Springs
For years anytime we indicated we were in the area, we had an outpouring of recommendations to stop in at Faywood Hot Springs (our review) for a soak. Located just a couple miles down the road from City of Rocks, we made it our next destination.
We had a bit of a rocky arrival, as the check-in booth assigned us to Site 6 saying it was ideal for our 35′ size and would give us great access to the pools. This, was a mistake.
We really should have walked the area first before trusting the directions given to us.
First of all, the site – while it may be 35′ long – is not made for a rig of our size. It’s a really unlevel site and is best for a smaller rig to tuck back into. But more importantly, the roads in this section of the campground are extremely tight and we could find no easy way to back in.
After a couple attempts, we contacted the front desk and asked for a different site (which they had no problem accommodating).
Now the trick was getting there. The campground has gorgeous trees all around, which add to the challenge of maneuvering. It took us nearly an hour of careful maneuvering to make our way into the new site.
It was extremely frustrating, and left us quite jittery after a couple days of less than ideal conditions coming in. We came here to relax and soak after all, not add to the stress.
But the soaking did calm our nerves.
Faywood has three sets of public pools, each with a cool, hot and very hot option. Two of the pools are clothing optional, and one suits required. To overnight guests, the pools are open 24/7 and all have a visible view of the night sky. A bonus to us, as we love late night star gazing soaking.
Because there are so many pools, we generally had our choice to ourselves. But if one wanted a private soak, there are pools available for rent by the hour.
Overall, it was a nice stop. But between the frustrating arrival and having just recently had access to our own private mineral tub on the river for a week, it probably wasn’t as appreciated by us as the hype indicated it should have been. We’d stop in again however, and know which sites to ask for.
New Mexico Wrap-Up
That wraps up our New Mexico stay. We ended up sticking around just over 7 weeks this visit, and feel we have barely scratched the surface of what this state has to offer. There’s so much more we want to explore here, and we will be back.
For a re-cap of our adventures in New Mexico this time around:
- The Road to Albuquerque
- Launching a Dream into Reality – The Xscapers Convergence at Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta
- Guide to RVing at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta
- Commencing Operation Decompression
- Cochiti Lake, Tent Rocks & Taking Care of Ourselves
- Continuing to Explore New Mexico – Santa Fe & Truth or Consequences
Next up… our Thanksgiving stay in Arizona, and then onward to southern California.