Arizona exceeded our expectations. After spending more than a week in New Mexico, we thought we had experienced the most varying landscape of our trip. However, Arizona is not one to be upstaged by its neighbor.
We entered the State in dramatic fashion from southeast Utah, which upon entering you are immediately in the one of the most photographed western landscapes, Monument Valley. Monument Valley is a place of towering monoliths of weathered rock standing like sentinels in the rugged arid vast expanse. They are seen from at least 30 miles away and greet you with a strong, quite solitude, even when you get to the park and among the tourist bustle of the visitor center. This is a Navajo Monument, and this being the case all of the prices are inflated, but the views from the road are free and almost as good as inside the park itself. After leaving, the scenery calmed down a bit, perhaps in homage to the almost surreal visual experience awaiting us at the Grand Canyon.
New Mexico is fondly called the land of Enchantment. I am unsure what the true meaning behind this is, but for me it describes the ever changing landscapes and history rich in Native American lore. We drove from the southeast to the northwest of the state and hit several points in between. In New Mexico the landscapes seem to change dramatically every 30 miles or so. One minute you are in a dry flat desert and the next climbing up a snow capped mountain surrounded by Ponderosa Pine. We even found ourselves in areas where we were looking at 4 or 5 distinctly different landscapes at one time; desert, shear cliffs and buttes, canyons and Rocky Mountains.
South Eastern New Mexico is stark and barren. This is desert flat country with large stretches of varying hues of beige punctuated with small shades of green from junipers, desert palms, prickly pear cactus and brown mountains in the distance. In one of these mountains is Carlsbad Caverns National Park.
The National Park, one of the earliest, is remote but once inside it is every bit worthy of its designation and the trek. The National Park Service has out done itself with a fantastic 2.4 mile trail and just the right amount of lighting to accentuate the features. This place is of such uncommon grandeur and so other worldly that its description is defies my vocabulary. On at least two occasions I turned a corner and literally lost my breath, something that has never happened before. I have been in other caverns, so the subterranean world was not completely new, but this was an overwhelming visual overload.
Texas is, well… Texas. Coming from the east coast I have always had an idea of what Texas is and it did not disappoint, but it is also more than I expected. It has a fiercely independent spirit and does not take its freedoms for granted even if some of them are harmful. Gun shots are heard regularly and driving fast is government sanctioned. It is true; everything really is bigger in Texas, especially the trucks. However, supporting small and local business is a part of the culture. The country music has an edge and leaves the popular stuff for Nashville. Good Mexican food is everywhere and Sushi is hard to find.
Life in campgrounds and RV parks has its own code. It is sometimes is almost an ideal community. They are places where friendly waves and nods are the norm, and the conversations with your neighbor are easy and can turn into more. If you are having trouble or need a ride, it usually is not hard to find if someone doesn’t offer first. In many parks it is not uncommon to see expensive fancy motor coaches, next to very modest travel trailers and for the most part everyone is cordial. Since close proximity is usually the case, as is sharing of facilities, model civility is practiced with the occasional less than desirable behavior. Commonly the park managers set the tone with cleanliness and regular maintenance.
General practices (in most campgrounds):
Be respectful of neighbors
Keep your campsite neat and leave it clean
Be mindful and observe quiet hours
Clean up after yourself when using shared facilities
Make sure trash is properly disposed of, fire-pits are not trash receptacles
Do not walk through your neighbors campsite
Drive slowly, campground speeds are usually very slow
All pets must be on leash except in designated areas, and always pick up after them
Do not burn plastics and other objects that release noxious chemicals
Extinguish fires completely when away from campsite
The adventure has begun and so has the education. We have learned the value of level campsites after sleeping in a slanted driveway, added more padding to our bunk after a couple of sore mornings, have come to appreciate state highways over the Interstates, and that RV travel is is more than 20% slower than by car. Already we have lost a gas cap and a wheel cover (recovered) , and drove to a campground that was full (call ahead). On our second day we drove narrow mountain winding roads and a potted steep dirt driveway, no RV has any business trying to navigate, on a mission to visit family. On our forth day we drove 300 miles in a high wind advisory, sometimes slowing to 40 miles per hour (partially in the neighboring lane).