It may be 102, but it’s a dry heat…

Our site includes a cottonwood tree and lots of blessed shade. The sunscreen we put up helps to keep the sun off T2. I love the potted plants that Peter created which we enjoy both inside and outside.

Las Cruces, New Mexico is working out well for us after seven weeks.  With so much uncertainty in all of our lives these days, just being able to write that feels like a gift.  Top of mind for us is what we call our “COVID lives” and we are both healthy and hopeful even as the cases spike here in recent days.  Dona Ana county, where we are, has seen an increase in COVID infections. Here in our RV park, the owner came by on July 3 to remind us of the need to wear masks, and to socially distance as we used the laundry, the common areas or the bathhouse.

We continue to limit our time in public markets and drugstores and while we certainly see some people not wearing masks in public spaces, the majority of people, including those we meet along the walking path along the Rio Grande River, are wearing masks here.  There is one notable exception to either of us spending any amount of time indoors.  Peter has been volunteering at El Caldito, the community soup kitchen.

Inside El Caldito where Peter is volunteering and helping to feed about 125 people a day here in Las Cruces.

Two days a week he offers about four hours of his time in preparing food to feed around 125 people who come for the mid-day meal every day.  In his own words, Peter says that while he thought he would help with the cooking, he has learned from the experienced cooks just how little he knows about preparing food for over 100 people.  While he thought he would give a little of his time, he has learned how much he has gotten back for his efforts.  In his words, it is humbling to be in the kitchen and have this real-time reminder of the abundance of our own lives.

El Caldito has been in operation in Las Cruces since 1984 and is a well-established and essential service in the city.  As near as Peter can tell, all the food is donated from local markets, restaurants, and even individuals.  There is no way of knowing what menu will be prepared any given day because it completely depends on the donations that arrive each morning.  In the hands of the extremely talented volunteer chefs, magic happens.  One day last week, Peter spend hours taking the meat off 15 twenty-pound freshly cooked turkeys.  Sometimes he spends the time chopping vegetables or dicing fresh fruit for fruit salads.  Occasionally, he assembles the clamshell dishes containing all the food – entree, vegetables, salad, and dessert – that is passed out to the clients when they arrive to receive their meal.  He is loving his time there.

Our site is looking more and more like we live here.  I re-did the interior colors in T2, moving to a “cooler” palette.  If you are interested, check out the April 5 post which shows the previous colors in the living area. Our outdoor chairs from Airstream are a new addition and on the cool mornings, we sit in the shade, enjoy our breakfast and start the day with gratitude.  We found a wonderful local nursery and bought large pots and filled them with plants that can take the full desert sun.  You can see the results in our opening photo above.  An herb gardener at the Farmer’s Market sold us a little basil plant that has gone on to do its own imitation of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes and is keeping us in fresh basil daily.  The abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables, including things new to us like more varieties of chilis than I even knew existed, continues to inspire eating and cooking adventures from this culinary place.

Pecan groves line Highway 28 south of Las Cruces.

Our excursions into the surrounding area have been limited.   A late afternoon trip to the Organ Mountains National Monument was spectacular since they are the dominant geological feature in the valley, after the Rio Grande.  That’s where the selfie of us below was taken in the glorious golden light. Earlier today we drove south along the river and into the miles of pecan groves which flourish here alongside the open fields of chilis and maize.  Life in this valley is completely centered on the Rio Grande which is the source of water for the countless canals and irrigation channels that slake the thirst of the crops raised by local farmers and ranchers.

We have two favorite places to walk in the nearby area.  The first is a city park just 5 minutes from us.  Named La Llorona, it has a 4.5 mile recreation path that hugs the east bank of the Rio Grande and it has just re-opened after the shutdown.  Our second favorite place is a neighborhood that surrounds Pioneer Women’s Park in the older part of town which dates from the early 1900s when the railroad came to Las Cruces.  There are lovely homes here from that time with wrought iron fences and adobe walls and hidden gardens and riots of colors that capture what I love about New Mexico.  Murals are widely used in public spaces.  Here are a few of the images from this neighborhood.

Private gardens and riots of color.

Las Cruces uses this beautiful graphic in many of its official signs.

Beautiful tile work adorns outdoor areas.

My favorite little house, Maud Witherspoon’s, from 1910.

You know something lovely lies behind this garden door.

Murals speak of local priorities.

We had hoped to do a road trip north to Wyoming and Montana to visit friends this month but decided to postpone any travel due to the rising case numbers.  In combination with the fact that the campgrounds along the 1,200 mile route were completely booked for the next couple of weeks we decided to stay put.

We continue to flourish in this desert climate grateful for air-conditioning and our wonderful cottonwood tree.  The really impressive temperatures initially felt eye-opening but we are adapting.  Here is a screen shot of what we are looking at in the “borderland” for the period 7/8 – 7/16.   And these aren’t even record-breaking temperatures.  The news that El Paso tends to be a little higher every day than we are (they are 49 miles further south and east) was a surprise.  Silver City which is about 100 miles north and about 2,000 feet higher in elevation than Las Cruces is the “cool” spot in the area and generally 7 to 10 degrees cooler.  We may head up there on a long weekend if we can find an airbnb with air-conditioning!

Sending wishes for good health and happiness to you all from the Organ Mountains here in Las Cruces.  Peace.

Peter and Liz are settled into Las Cruces in T2 where all is well as their pilgrimage to here enjoys some time off the road.

Cross-country quarantine trip, part 2.

Here’s the route we ended up taking.

When we left Airstream in Jackson Center, Ohio on Sunday, May 10 we were aware that we would soon be leaving the eastern third of the country, excited to be heading straight west, to New Mexico.  We got onto I-70 and headed over the border into Indiana. As other full-timers have reported, the Indiana section of the interstate is in terrible condition, rough and uneven like a washboard.  I imagined that the inside of T2 would mimic the mayhem of Lucille Ball’s experience from the classic on-the-road cult 1954 movie, The Long, Long Trailer.  Fortunately, there were no boulders stored under the couch to roll around, as in Lucy’s escapade.  The by-pass around Indianapolis on I-465 was eerily jammed with tractor-trailers, a scene unlike any we had witnessed since leaving Florida. Continue reading

Six states and our mobile COVID 19 quarantine unit

Exhilaration being on the road again, here heading north on I-75 in Florida.

A good journalist once said that when telling a story, focus on the personal stuff if you want to engage your reader.  After our first week on the road, here’s some of our personal shutdown story.  To re-cap, we left Estero, Florida on May 3 because we had a specific place to go (first Airstream in Ohio, then New Mexico) and felt we could safely travel there.  The day we left we were completely giddy with the sense of freedom and the joyful change of scenery.  Traffic was very light on I-75 north and we sailed along to our first night outside of Gainesville, Florida.  We reserved at a KOA and upon arrival, were met at our truck by the host who was wearing a face mask and gloves.  He led us to our site in his golf cart.  He did something we’ve never seen before: he wiped down our water, and electric connections at the site.  It was an immediate confidence booster.  He said the restrooms were open though we didn’t plan to use them.  The great curiousity in the campground was the one large family with six kids, two dogs and an inflatable wading pool who were in a tent set up near the restrooms.  Aside from that, everyone else was in an RV or trailer.  This random tent siting would turn out to be a complete anomaly in the nights ahead.  Every other place would have a ban on tents. Continue reading

Our lessons of grace in the shutdown

The past two weeks of the pandemic shutdown in Estero have brought some new challenges, surprises, and accommodations.  First, the challenges.  Last time I mentioned the record-breaking heat that we were experiencing the week of April 13. We wanted to have our air-conditioner checked because the heat was really oppressive and we were running it nearly all day and into the night.  We had made an appointment months ago for our annual Airstream service, but that was off since the factory in Ohio was on shutdown. Continue reading

T2 updates from Estero, Florida

Sometimes we feel like we are living in a Petri dish here in Estero, Florida. Is the universe conducting some great experiment in human adaptability and flexibility? We are finding ourselves called to perform daily course-corrections that might test even the elasticity of Gumby.  There are two variables at work here.  The first is the new reality of COVID-19 which continues to color our lives now affecting many of the scheduling details from shopping trips, to food planning and prep, to our morning walk, to the search for the essential face mask. It’s an influencer, but it’s not the only one. Continue reading

Moving on down the road, 2.5 miles

It’s remarkable that my last post was just two weeks ago because so much has happened in our lives.  As noted last time, we had gotten an OK to stay in the park and finish up our respective programs, even though the park had officially closed. The week of March 23, we started doing administrative stuff and began to feel like things were heading into a good direction for the interim. One week ago, we decided to look into renting a spot in one of the planned communities in the area since we decided once we left the park, we did not want to get on the road for a couple of months.

Continue reading

From Estero, FL, the paradox of these times

These days, a trip to the Publix Supermarket in Estero, Florida is a surreal experience with understocked shelves and the haphazard displays of the kinds of frozen pizzas that people don’t want to buy.   As I attempt to find words to describe this, my memory takes me back to my days as an English major at the University of Connecticut. One of my last semesters, under the guidance of my academic advisor, Professor Blanchard, I took a nineteenth century British literature survey course.  There, I regularly walked the Hogwarts-like hallways of the University’s bricks and mortar library, encountering Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, George Eliot, the Brontë sisters, Oscar Wilde, William Blake, William Wordsworth, Lord Byron, P. B. Shelley, Mary Shelley, John Keats, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Robert Browning, Christina Rossetti, and Lewis Carroll. Continue reading

Day trips around New Mexico, part 2 and it’s a wrap.

Sierra Blanca with its first snow when we visited in mid-November.

For years, we have heard about the high country and remote beauty of the land around Sierra Blanca, one of the four sacred mountains to the Mescalero Apaches standing at 11,981′.  An artist-friend of ours had talked of the nearby little town of Lincoln calling it especially lovely and filled with a very colorful history. We decided to take a day and check out the land and learn more about Lincoln. Continue reading

Day trips around New Mexico, part 1.

During our time here at Oliver Lee Memorial State Park we have had time to explore more of New Mexico. I wanted to share some of our discoveries, hoping that some may make it to your bucket list of things to do here in the Land of Enchantment.

Visitor Center at White Sands National Monument.

Last post I mentioned that we visited White Sands National Monument.  I wanted to comment on their Visitor’s Center because it is really worth a stop.  It is architecturally  interesting having been built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s.  The traditional Pueblo-Revival style building includes a center courtyard, native plant garden, museum, a lovely gift shop and a theater that shows a wonderful orientation film called A Land in Motion, which tells about the formation of White Sands.  The film is shown on the hour and half-hour and its very well done. Continue reading

Camphosting in New Mexico

Early morning light on the alluvial fan of the Sacramento Mountains creates dramatic shadows highlighting the desert greenery.

Our time here at Oliver Lee Memorial State Park in Alamogordo, New Mexico is flying by.  As I write this, we are just over the halfway mark of the ten weeks we are here serving as camphosts. There is one other couple here sharing the daily assignments with us in this 44-site campground.  And for those inquiring minds out there who remember reading about our summer camphosting on the Cape, thankfully, cleaning bathrooms is NOT one of our responsibilities here! Continue reading