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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

VACATION - Towing through mountain passes - White Sands National Monument

(this blog is about yesterday's adventures, but being posted today) 

We are preparing to leave Brantley Lake State Park, NM this morning and get the rig road worthy.  We decided to add more water to our apprx. half tank of fresh water yet from home.  We have a 100 gallon tank on our motorhome for the fresh water, and grey and black tanks are both 50 gallons each.   We liked using just our home water for drinking, cooking and filling the dog's water dish.  Once we have added *new* water to it, we have an extra 5 gallon jug in reserve for the dogs water.  Our collie has a *sensitive stomach* and I will warn you, having a dog with long hair at the back end is NOT pretty if she is having ... ummmmm ... bathroom *difficulties*!

Steve poured a pitcher of water from the campsite spigot.  It was nice and clear, didn't smell like anything, and we tasted it and it seemed fine.  So we added it to what we had and now have a full tank again.  We are not sure if and when we will have a chance to fill again, so having a full tank is reassuring. Our gross vehicle weight is figured with full tanks, so it isn't an issue of being overloaded either.

Once the water was full, I got the rig *road worthy* and off we went, Steve driving ahead in the rig and I followed in the Tracker to the dump station.  Once he took care of the dumping duties, we now have empty holding tanks and are good to go for another week again. The grey tank was more full than the black of course, but both were dumped while the dump station was accessable.

Then we hooked up the Tracker on a straight section of road (you need to pull ahead to lock the levers) and we were good to go!

The landscape is changing as I type this while we are rolling along... gone are the flat desert lands of yellow grasses and low shrubs. We are now getting hillier, the plants are changing to larger shrubs of a different type, and we are seeing trees here and there.  The ground looks realy rocky and jutting out layers of rugged craggy ledges are appearing.  Ahead we see mountains!

We headed north towards Artesia, and then turning west on Route 82 across to Alamogordo.  This route has some 6 and 7% grades as warned in our Mountain Directory West book, but looks do-able.   I might get out and drive the Tracker separately if it looks precarious, but I think we will be fine.  

Yes.. we found SNOW in the higher elevations.  It's hard to believe that one week ago, Steve out out snowblowing away 12 inches of this stuff...especially from in front of the motorhome so we could ESCAPE!

We made our way across route 82 and as we got closer to the mountainous area, we stopped at the brake check pull off and removed the Tracker from the tow bar.  I hopped in the Tracker with Ducky as my co-pilot and we had the CB radio to call back to Steve and Duke as we went ahead.

I let him know where the flat areas were to allow passenger cars to pass us (our motorhome speed limit was 35 and cars were 45)  Steve set the rig in 4th gear and let the engine slowly take him down, and in Tracker I rode it at 3rd gear and let the engine do the braking, with a few stabs along the way.  The diesel rig also has an exhaust brake engine retarder, but Steve didn't even need to use it.

I aimed the camera over my shoulder--- 
took about 10 shots before I got one of him behind me coming down the pass!

Yes, there was even a tunnel! 

AND---- the Light at the End of the Tunnel! 

 We got all the way down down down and rehooked the Tracker up at the bottom.  Wheeeeeee  up ahead we could see the alkaline flats beyond Alamogordo.  We took the relief route for trucks around the center of town, and soon were on our way to the White Sands National Monument.

The front parking lot had RV parking available which was nice, about 8 big slots.  BUT.... there was no way to go around the building upon exiting.  So if you tow a toad vehicle, you HAVe to unhook to get out of that place.  The gal in the information center said yes, we could take the entire motorhome and toad back into the white sand dunes!   No thank you, blasting sand on our paint job and sand in our rear radiator does not spell good sense.  We decided since we were unhooking the Tracker to turn around, we would use that to go into the dunes area and leave the motorhome just where it was.

Entrance fees were just $3.00 a person, no charge for parking and no charge for the dogs====

Now... this place is VERY hard to describe!  It's a whole nother world, I tell ya!   

The dunes creep ahead a couple inches a year and the terrain is ever changing.  Some scrubby plants manage to live in the dunes, but not for long as they are soon covered, or exposed and blow away, root and all.

 It's really gypsum.  It comes from the mountains to the west, gets caught up in the winds, drops down from the clouds when it reaches the dry valley and lays in flat moist watered areas like alkaline pits.  As the gypsum dries, it blows to the east and forms dunes.   This is the only place like it in the US.

 The dogs were allowed in the dunes too...  We loaded up cameras, water and a dog dish, along with our other bag of trail mix from the grandkids

They rent sleds in the main building, and we saw people soaping or waxing the bottoms.   Here are some kids we saw having a blast!   Maybe someday we can take the grandkids here?

They run snowplows there throughout the huge 275 square mile park to keep the dunes back off the flat areas that are drivable.  Only the first part of the park is pavement.  The rest are all sandy roads.  There was a motorhome in the dunes, with a whole camera crew.  They were filming a movie? commercial? music video?  Some women were getting made up in a tent and crews were all around to set up the gear.

We drove  all the way through and found a nice spot to park, with nobody around.  The sand was amazing.... it ws so WHITE!     It was very cool to the touch, not burning like beach sand.  And the deeper you dug, the cooler it got.  And it was very firm, blown into place where you could walk without a problem.

Awww this will only last a short time in the sand, but our love lasts forever!   (Steve added the heart) 

We played on the dunes, and the dogs were just so funny running around.  At first, Duke tried to lick the sand with his tongue, expecting it to be snow???   Then he had to try to spit it out again... what a hoot!

We had some fun and then sat in the shade with a windbreak for a snack of our trail mix.  

The dogs had their break too....

After a few hours, we saw all we had to see and went back to the rig.  We had to turn it around first, which the parkinglot had nicely thinned out.  Then we hooked the Tracker back up and headed south...

We went past the bombing test area for a missle range.  If the lights are flashing on the sign on the road, you have to stay there and wait till the bombing mission is done.  Because they send the missles up and over the road and down on the other side????   Good excuse when late for work?  "Sorry Boss, the bombing missles made me late!"

Again we had another mountain pass to go through, the San Augustine Pass, which was only 5% so we left the Tracker on and made it up in 4th gear, then 3rd gear.... and back down the other side in 4th gear just fine.  We watched the engine temp rise a bit on going up, so we changed it to 3rd for the rest of the way, just to be sure.  And yes, the temp dropped when the engine revs higher, just like the guys on our SafariFriends list said it would!  Thanks Guys! 

We drove on through Las Cruces and over to Deming.  We has planned to stop at the Walmart for the night, but it was their BIG delivery truck night and they needed the room for multiple semis to come in and out.  So we parked in the empty Kmart lot next door with about 10 other RVers.  The parking lot security guy was right, they had at least 15-20 semis coming and going and lining up at any given time, so we really did need to stay out of their way.   We got a nice night's sleep at the Kmart, and went into to shop a bit to say Thank You for letting us stay.  I forgot to bring my iron from home for steaming the wool socks for customers after they are knit.  Since I had to get 2 pairs out in the mail, I needed the iron.  So it was a win-win for both of us. Thanks, Kmart! 

and I leave you with:

272 miles traveled today
1,881 total miles traveled so far


  1. We really enjoyed White Sands NM. I also like the location and the name Alamogordo. Neat! Glad you're having a good time!

  2. Thank you for the description of going over the mountains. I feel a little more knowledgeable now.

  3. thanks for the great trip to White Sands!...love your co-pilot!!..so cute!!!

  4. We are enjoying your excitement at seeing the great southwest for the very first time:))

  5. Looks like a really neat place, like being at the beach and somebody stole the ocean.Hey tell Steveo I like his change in hat, that is a lot better than the Packer ball cap.Glad to see you guys had no trouble with the hills, I guess Duckie didn't have to worry about spotted cows to bark at.We're enjoying the ride with you keep it coming. Not much going on here at the Weeb Ranch. Although we will have 60 degree temps for two days again. Be safe out there.. Sam & Donna...

  6. I love that pic of you sitting in the sand.......and I am so envious of your trip. I could never get my husband to do anything like that......but it looks like a fantastic time.
    I am so glad for you.

  7. Your almost doing our exact trip from last year... I am glad your having such a great time... Love the pictures especailly the one of you sitting in the sand... CUTE! Have fun & travel safe

  8. So funny about the doggy thinking it was snow! I'll bet that gypsum doesn't taste very good...

  9. It looks like you're not just having fun, you're having a blast! Can't wait to see where you go next...

  10. Love the picture of the dogs in the white sand. What a great shot. I also love the "Karen in the Sand" one. Great post, I almost feel like I've been there.


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