2011 RUNNING & TRAVEL ADVENTURES

 

   
 
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   CANYON TO CANYON: CAPROCK TO
LOS ALAMOS + CAMPGROUND INFORMATION

SUNDAY, MAY 15

 
"To expect life to be tailored to our expectations is to invite frustration."
 
~ unknown
 
 
The same thing can be said of traveling, which is a big part of our current life. Something usually happens that forces us to adapt.

This entry covers our 418-mile trip today from the campground at Caprock Canyons State Park in the Texas Panhandle to the Eastgate-Sunrise RV parking area on the eastern city limits of Los Alamos, NM. Since I have only a few photos from the trip itself, I'll add some views from our campsite at Los Alamos to break up the text.

THE ROUTE:  TX 86 west to I-27 north to I-40 to US 285 north in NM through Santa Fe to NM 502 west to Los Alamos


"Welcome to New Mexico, Land of Enchantment"

DISTANCE & TIME:  418 miles, including 3-4 bonus miles to shop at Walmart and Sam's Club in Amarillo; about eight hours (doesn't include those two stops but does include losing about hour on the freeway in eastern NM waiting for a wreck to clear up and gaining an hour at the state line when we crossed into the Mountain Time Zone).

TRAFFIC & ROAD CONDITIONS: 

Traffic moved well except for two areas -- the wreck that delayed us east of Tucumcari, NM, and traffic lights in Santa Fe. We don't know of any faster way through this city.


One of several bridges with Native American motifs on US 285 in northern Santa Fe;
this one has the word "Posuwaegeh" on it.

All the two-lane roads (TX 86, US 285 in NM, and NM 502) are smooth and fast, fine for RV travel. Both I-27 and I-40 were in good shape (i.e., relatively smooth).

REST AREAS:

We didn't pass any on I-27 between Tulia and Amarillo, TX. There are several parking areas without restrooms along I-40 through the TX Panhandle.

In New Mexico two of the westbound rest areas were closed (MM 302 and 254) but the eastbound rest areas were open. We couldn't tell why they were closed. The only westbound rest area that was open that we passed before exiting at MM 218 was the one at MM 220.

DIESEL PRICES: 

We missed the opportunity to buy fuel at the Walmart/Murphy's station on I-27 at exit 121 south of Amarillo, not realizing it was there until we'd buzzed by. The price was $3.92/gallon; I don't know if that included 3/gallon off with a WM shopping card. There is no diesel at either the Walmart at I-40 exit 72 or Sam's Club at exit 71 in Amarillo. Jim unhitched the truck from the camper while I was in Walmart and got diesel at a nearby Shell station for $3.94/gallon; it was not a large RV-friendly station. There is a Flying J at exit 76 but Jim's got a love-hate relationship with FJ and he didn't want to go out of his way to get there.


Another colorful Santa Fe bridge (K'uuymugeh)

We passed a Flying J at Tucumcari, NM (exit 333) with diesel priced at $4.05. We didn't stop. Prices in Santa Fe were also over $4/gallon. We were able to drive all the way from Amarillo to Los Alamos so we got fuel there a little cheaper the next day.

We again maintained an average speed of 60-62 MPH on the freeways and most of the two-lane roads and got decent mileage of 12-14 MPG depending on the hills and headwinds.

WEATHER:  pretty good for driving -- 70s to 80s F., some wind, hazy in TX, sunny in NM.

We passed electronic signs in both TX and NM warning motorists of "severe crosswinds" and "extreme fire danger." Both states are experiencing serious drought conditions and wildfires have been a problem. Several areas of rangeland in NM were burned right up to the freeway west of Santa Rosa. I assume the freeway had to be closed because of that.

SCENERY & TERRAIN:

After we left the canyon area at Caprock the wide-open rangelands were fairly flat until we approached our turnoff at US 285 halfway through NM. Then the terrain was hillier and more treed (mostly evergreens).


Storm clouds gather over the Jemez Mountains; Los Alamos is very dry, too.

Through the Texas Panhandle and eastern New Mexico the land was mostly very dry, dusty, and brown. We didn't see much greenery or wildflowers.

There were plenty of grazing cattle, however, some stinky stock yards, tall grain elevators, and wind mills with their long, thin blades whirring in the breeze. We also saw a sign that said "Watch for Wild Hogs" along TX 86. Haven't seen that before! (Wild hogs, yes, a sign warning about them, no.)

The terrain was decidedly more interesting to us on US 285 in New Mexico from Cline's Corner to Los Alamos. We like hills, mountains, and trees better than flat prairie or desert.

The very best views of the day were driving west on NM 502 toward Los Alamos, with the Jemez Mountains in the background. This is a hilly road, especially climbing up, up, up to the small city, but the road is mostly four-lane and smooth:

We could see a little bit of snow remaining on the 12,000- to 13,000-foot peaks east of Los Alamos in the Sangre de Cristo Range. Although the Jemez and Sangre de Cristo ranges got more than their normal amounts of snow this past season, they didn't get dumped on nearly as badly as the more northern ranges in the Rockies.

Snow shouldn't be a problem during the Jemez races unless the mountains get more snow this week.

SURPRISE OF THE DAY:  the Santa Fe Century bike ride

A few miles south of Sante Fe on US 285 we started seeing dozens of cyclists heading northbound on the shoulder of the road. They were obviously in an organized event, which we soon determined from signs was a popular 100-mile bike race.

No problem. They were on the shoulder and not interfering with traffic:

The surprise came when we turned west on I-25 for eight or nine miles, where US 285 runs contiguously with the freeway. The cyclists rode there, too!

Yikes! Usually bicycles are prohibited from freeways. There are very good reasons for that!

Although we've occasionally seen bikes on remote stretches of freeways out West, this is the first time we've ever seen hundreds of riders using a freeway in a race. I can't imagine riding only a few feet from freeway traffic, including big RVs and semis whizzing by at speeds up to 75 MPH.

DESTINATION CAMPGROUND:

For at least five days we'll stay at the Los Alamos County parking area AKA Eastgate-Sunrise Park and RV Station on the eastern edge of town.

When we arrived about 4 PM today we were happy to see only one small RV parked next to the rest room and no one else in the lot. We need a lot of room to position our camper where we want it along the chain link fence at the edge of the mesa, with the back end toward the new building next to the De Colores Restaurant. I took this photo after another trailer came in and parked parallel to us:

L to R in the photo above:  De Colores Restaurant, another guy's trailer, new building that was constructed last year, our truck and camper. A bunch of county maintenance buildings are below us to the right; we watched them being built two years ago. Part of them are in another picture below.

NM 502, the eastern entrance to town, is to the left but you can't see it in that photo.

We've stayed here two times previously. It's the only place in or near town that is "legal" and has enough room for our rig, other than the parking area near the race start/finish on North Mesa. We will move to that area this Friday-Sunday during race weekend, but that's the only time the city/county allows RVs to camp there. We might return to Eastgate-Sunrise for a few more days after the race. We have a few days to kill then before we head to Colorado Springs.

Parking at Eastgate-Sunrise is on pavement. I can walk Cody to some dirt or gravel to do his business. Although there are no hook-ups, there is a rest room, a covered picnic area, a dump station, and fresh water at the other end of the parking area:

Campers pay a $10/night fee at the county aquatic center on Canyon Road; county employees come around every weekday to ascertain that RVs have a valid receipt adhered to a window.

This site has its drawbacks but it is convenient and the views to both mountain ranges east (Sangre de Cristo) and west (Jemez) are terrific. Our elevation on this mesa is a lofty 7,050 feet.


View of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains from our camping area;
several 12,000-13,000 foot peaks have snow on them.

We have excellent TV, phone, and MiFi internet signals, and the location is convenient to a bike path and whatever we want to do in Los Alamos. If Jim wants to watch a movie on his laptop or download a large file, he can get free WiFi at the library and other locations in town.

Each time we've been here there has been some construction going on nearby. This time it's farther away from us; we can't hear it but we can still watch the heavy machinery move rocks and dirt and "supervise" from our location (family joke). You can see where they're playing in the dirt in the next picture:

The Jemez Mountains are in the background; one of the county maintenance buildings is to the right in the foreground. Our camper is next to the fence above the facility on the left and out of the picture.

We also get to watch small planes on their approach to the nearby airport; they usually fly over Pueblo Canyon next to us, going west into the headwind. Noise is only an issue if they buzz us awake at 6 AM:

Additional downsides to camping here are traffic on weekdays during rush hour (12,000 people work at the nearby Los Alamos National Lab, and I swear most of them use NM 502 to get there!) and sometimes-crowded parking next to our camper on weekdays at lunch and dinner when De Colores is open. There are more parking spots available for restaurant patrons this year so our lot shouldn't get as crowded as it has the last two years.

We've learned to live with those inconveniences since our options are extremely limited. Besides, the mountain views make up for any perceived "problems." Sunsets, cloud patterns, and storms can get pretty spectacular around here:


Incoming storm behind our camper

Scenes like that are worth $10/day! I'll include more cloud drama in another entry.

Next entry: photos from the Bayo Canyon and Canyon Rim trails

Happy trails,

Sue
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, and Cody the Ultra Lab

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2011 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil

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