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.
We stopped the first night in Casey, Illinois at a KOA. With the COVID-19 sensibilities and Illinois travel restrictions that were in place, we had been notified we could only stop there for one night which was fine with us. The campground, while nearly empty of occupants, was filled to the brim with the luminous shades of spring green on the newly leafed-out trees – oak and hickory – and the sweet new grass. Robins were busily jumping about, waiting to be noticed. We plugged into the power and water and immediately went out for a walk in the blustery, late afternoon sunshine, stretching our legs and rearranging the kinks and knots caused by extended sitting and driving. The campground was located adjacent to the wide open, newly plowed and planted fields of soybeans, popping up out of the rich, black soil like little green toy soldiers, waiting for new orders. The damp earth smelled of promise and possibilities.
Day 2 was a landmark day for us because we crossed the mighty Mississippi River, just north of St. Louis. There is something completely liberating for us every time we cross the river and we never tire of it. We stopped that night in Columbia, Missouri at a commercial campground we had first visited three years ago during a big University of Missouri football weekend and the place was packed with people. This time, it was very quiet, the restrooms and showers were closed and the entire check-in process was no-contact, all done with pre-payment and site assignments that were completed before we arrived. This time, it was largely occupied by temporary workers. Our neighbor, in an Airstream, was from Florida and was one of those temporary workers. There was a tentativeness and a slight edge to the limited conversations that we had, all socially distant.
Day 3 brought us to Kansas which measures about 400 miles east to west, too much to drive in one day. We had planned to stay in two different KOA campgrounds and add an extra night in the second one if we needed to rest up more. We chose to route across the northern tier of Kansas because we wanted to avoid the meat packing town of Liberal, KS where the pandemic was more serious. Our first night we stayed in Salina, a town of 40,000, where we needed to find a supermarket. We discovered Dillons which had one of the largest fresh vegetable departments we’ve seen since Florida, which was good; but very few shoppers were wearing face masks, which was not so good. We filled up with gas at $1.39/gallon, just about the lowest price we found on the entire trip. We watched the weather report, which in Kansas lasts about five minutes because of the sheer expanse of territory. Peter reminded me that the weather is critical to the significant farming interests in the state. There was a storm system moving in our direction later in the week and we decided to make our second night in Goodland, Kansas and then head immediately south through Colorado before dropping in to New Mexico.
Day 4, May 13, we crossed into New Mexico at the far northeastern corner of the state in the town of Raton. The town is known as the home of Jimmy Gilmer and The Fireballs whose 1963 hit, “Sugar Shack”, was Billboard’s top song of the year. Who knew? We found the KOA easily because their distinctive red and yellow signs are always listed on the interstate exit signs. The campground was small, immaculate and wide open. The air was sunny and dry and what we have come to expect from New Mexico and we weren’t disappointed. The bathrooms were closed here as well, which had not been the case in Kansas. It made no difference to us because we are self-quarantined anyway in T2.
Day 5 brought us to American RV Resort in Albuquerque, a place we have stopped often because of its easy access on and off the interstate. This was another no-contact check-in and we stopped by the office on our way in to pick up our receipt. We have a couple of favorite sites and were able to request and get one under a leafy canopy that provided lush shade and lovely, easy breezes at night.
Day 6 brought us to our final stop on this marathon trip, Sunny Acres RV Park in Las Cruces. We pulled in on Friday, May 15 in the mid-afternoon and were directed to the site that we had chosen last fall when we reserved the spot. This time of year, it was in afternoon sun and we were disappointed to discover the seasonal reality. The site is great but since we have to pay for our electric, the sunshine on an aluminum Airstream sounded ominous. The office manager, who knew the drill, was great to us and asked if we would be interested in a site with more shade. Yes! After checking out the options he offered a site with much more shade and we decided to move when it became available on Monday.
We settled in for the weekend in our temporary site, planning to move on Monday. Saturday was great because the state had begun to gradually re-open and masks are required in all public spaces. Social distancing is also required and we went to the just re-opened Farmer’s Market downtown Las Cruces.
We found local raw honey, fresh picked baby spinach, tomatoes, bell peppers and met some great local farmers. Of course, our first day in town meant a drive-by to Lujan’s Bakery where last fall, we picked up the Mexican pinwheels and the biscochitos of happy memories. They were open and allowing a limited number into the bakery at a time. Well worth the wait, I can assure you.
We were giddy with excitement at finally being here after our long, tiring and occasionally tense cross-country drive. We realized that after driving from Florida to Ohio to New Mexico for a total of 12 days, we miraculously ran into less than four hours of rain during the historically wet month of May. It’s no wonder that we both recognize how blessed we are. We are both well and happily moved across the park to our new mostly-shady spot at Sunny Acres RV. We’ll pick up there next time. Until then, here is the view from our new little community of the Organ Mountains which are about fifteen miles due east from us. Somehow, the mountains continue to call us both…
Peter and Liz have settled at last in Las Cruces, New Mexico in their Airstream and they will be exploring the new community for another six month.