Day 71 - Viva Mexico Nuevo

Trip Start May 19, 2008
Trip End Nov 08, 2008

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Where I stayed
Santa Cruz Lake Recreation Area

Flag of United States  , New Mexico
Monday, July 28, 2008

What we hadn't realised when we arrived at the campsite in the dark last night was that it was sat at the base of some really spectacular mountains. This morning the sky was blue and almost cloudless and they looked absolutely beautiful.

We left the site around 10 am and drove the short distance west and north to Great Sand Dunes National Park. It's a really weird site to see, the tallest sand dunes in North America, directly in front of some of the tallest mountains in North America. The dunes themselves sit at just over 8000 ft above sea level! The dune field covers an area of 30 square miles and the tallest dune is 750 ft (229m) high. It would have been pretty cool to have hiked to the top, but then it wouldn't have been, as the temperature was pretty high already. If you're thinking of visiting, best to get there early in the morning or late afternoon when it isn't quite so hot.

Another short drive west and then south brought us to the sizeable town of Alamosa where we found Wal-Mart with relative ease. As Chip was due another oil change and it had been so quick and painless when Wal-Mart in Richfield had done it last time, we figured we would let this lot do it for us now. After checking to make sure they had the oil we wanted and that they knew what they were doing with our engine, Neil stayed with the bus and Mel went off to do the shopping. About an hour later the oil still hadn't been changed and as Neil was having serious doubts about their competence (one mechanic was about to open the sliding door to get to the engine from inside the bus!?) we decided to pass on getting it done there.

We had been at Wal-Mart a total of about an hour and a half whilst they had faffed about pretending to know what they were doing and in that time some serious storm clouds had built and were heading our way. Despite it being lunchtime and us being starving hungry we hot-footed it south in a bid to escape the approaching storm. About 35 miles south we crossed the state line into New Mexico having successfully avoided the bad weather. At one point when we looked back, Alamosa wasn't visible at all through the huge black clouds. A lucky escape we thinks. We had heard on the radio this morning that the area around the town of Ruidoso in southern New Mexico had experienced flooding from torrential rain, brought in on the edge of Hurricane Dolly. We also heard that 200 homes close to Yosemite had been evacuated because of a wild-fire that was raging in that area. Over the last couple of days we also heard about a fire in the Custer National Forest in Montana, another area that we have passed through and in fact spent the night in one particular area of it. There seems to be a very high frequency of events that we are being fortunate enough to miss by anything from a few days to a maximum of a couple of weeks.

A few miles into New Mexico we came across a rest area where we were able to pull in and get some lunch. It was a brief stop as we still had a way to go before we would reach a camp-site that wouldn't take us too far off our planned route. The difference between the scenery of Colorado and New Mexico is quite a dramatic one. The change in the weather is very noticeable too. No storm clouds in sight and although it has been hot the last couple of days there has at least been a cooling breeze coming through the windows as we have been travelling. By the time we reached the town of Espanola late afternoon, the sun was burning fiercely and the breeze was definitely warm.

After successfully navigating our way through Espanola we headed out towards the countryside and our campsite. The road took us through some really quaint little towns and villages with adobe houses, and there was a distinctive Hispanic feel to them. We both remarked on how it felt that we were no longer in America but actually in Mexico or even Spain.

We left the main road and after a climb up a scary, narrow, twisty road arrived at our camp site to find that we were the only ones there. Not surprising really. We only picked up signs to it at the entrance, so with the exception of the locals, people probably don't even know it exists, which is a real shame as it's a beautiful location. We had our dinner and got washed and ready for bed, all the time thinking "there's still time for more people to turn up", but they didn't. And so we spent the night alone, in the middle of nowhere which was a little disconcerting.

Miles travelled: 203

Total miles travelled: 6169

Days on road: 51

States visited: 11

National Parks visited: 10
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