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The long, long RV trip, Week 2: Friday the 13th, road trip woes set in

This week’s stops:

  • Pine Grove Campground, Cocinino National Forest
  • Twin Arrows Casino
  • Malpais National Monument
  • Sky City, NM

Week 1 of my long, long RV trip could not have gone better.  I met up with five old friends, explored some cannabis tourism opportunities in Las Vegas, experienced the majesty of the Hoover Dam, and had fun at a fascinating craft distillery in Kingman.

Week two, however, was not so blissful and contained some hard lessons about the importance of going with the flow when living on the road. Like there is any choice.

It started out well enough. I spent a comfortable but uneventful night in Kingman, AZ, boondocking at the Twin Arrows Casino Resort.

This is a terrific free overnight spot when in this area. There are lots of huge parking lots and they welcome overnighting RVers.

Much of the casino is still closed post-Covid and they are currently still requiring masks. However, there is gaming and food is available in the sports bar.

Week two road trip woes begin

My bad luck started when I went to turn my water heater on to take a shower. It refused to light. It worked just fine in Las Vegas when plugged into shore power, but without that hookup, for some inexplicable reason, it would not start.

It’s always something with RVs. I took a quick, cold, Navy shower and counted my blessings it was not something worse. After all, I can always heat water on the stovetop.

I’ll get it checked at the next friend’s house, where I can stay a while. I thought that was going to be my friend Vanessa’s. However, wildfires near her home in Lamy, NM, had her under threat of evacuation for more than two weeks. Not to mention the air was so smoky it burns the eyes and hurts the throat.

On trips like this, you always have to be flexible.

I headed off to the Pine Grove Campground in the Coconino National Forest in Flagstaff for a few days to see how things would shake out, and then decided to catch Vanessa on my next trip and head straight to Colorado.

Pine Grove Campground, Coconino National Forest

According to reviewers on Campendium, Pine Grove has a decent Verizon signal, so I expected to get some work done. Expected being the operative word.

It was excessively windy the first night, so I chalked up the spotty internet connections to that. The wind died the next day and the connection did not get any better.

Trying to work with an internet connection that is slow and unstable has to be one of the most maddening tasks of the modern world. I quickly tired of that, shut off the useless hot spot, and took the dog on a leisurely hike.

pine grove campground cocinino national forest

Pine Grove Campground is part of the Lake Mary Recreation area. Except that the lake that was overflowing two years ago is now almost completely dry. Nonetheless, the interpretive loop hike, accessed from the far side of camp, provided a scenic walk through the trees and a small pond that seemed to be a rest stop for migrating ducks.

The following day, we hiked part of the Arizona Trail, which crosses the entrance road to the camp. While the entire trail is 790 miles, Budley and I covered about 4 wooded miles of it.

The campground offered 5-minute hot showers for $3. Since my water heater was not lighting without hookups, I took advantage so I could start the next travel day fresh.

Helpful campground hosts have firewood (when fires are permitted) and ice for sale, too.  The campground welcomes both tent and RV campers.

hiking the arizona trail

RV road trip woes from bad to worse

The next morning, Friday the 13th no less, I headed off towards Flagstaff, stopped for gas, and without realizing it until I had to stop for gas the next time, lost my wallet. (Read about what to do if you lose your wallet here.)

After spending more than three hours on a Friday afternoon dealing with credit card companies (easy) and the DMV (not easy), I was frustrated and burnt out.

I never could get through to anyone who could help at the DMV, so decided to work on replacing my driver’s license once I got to my friend’s house in Colorado the next week.

The saddest part was I lost the LIFETIME National Parks pass I had bought the week earlier. I only got to use it once. This is an awesome deal, so I will replace it.

Rookie mistake causes more road trip woes

I was due at the Mujeres Valley 420-friendly campground the next day, so I decided to start driving in that direction and calm down.

However, in my frustration, I made a very rookie mistake.

I set my GPS and started driving without stopping to realize I was heading into an extremely remote area with no cell service or internet service. I should have written down directions to the camp, but I didn’t.

Long story short, I never found it and had no way to communicate with the owners at that point.

I boondocked for the night at the Fence Lake Community Center and set out for Grants, NM, the next morning.

The drive back through the El Malpais National Conservation area made it all worth it.

The views were breathtaking with world-class desert rock formations around every corner.  Lots of hiking trails originated here. While we didn’t have time for a long one, it was nice to take a short desert walk in such gorgeous surroundings.

Malpais National Conservation area

Bargain RV park at Sky City

After all that, I just needed to decompress, catch up on work and emails, and get my head back in the game. The RV Park at Sky City, NM, was just the place. Only $18 a night for full hookups! I booked two nights and settled in.

Sadly, the close-by Acoma Sky City Cultural Center and tours of America’s oldest continually inhabited city were still closed due to Covid restrictions, although the casino was open. I had hoped to visit this attraction but it will have to wait for another trip.

Road trip woes continue with tire troubles and a very bad dog

Unfortunately, this week of Friday the 13th and Mercury in retrograde was still not finished with me.

I noticed one of my trailer tires was low as I was packing up to leave the Sky City RV Park. I used my portable compressor and filled it up, vowing to stop at the first available place to get it checked out.

Not too far down the road, I found a tire shop across the street from a truck stop. By that point, the tire was flat and could not be repaired.

We ordered a new one but it would not be in until the next morning. The mechanic said I could park on the dirt service road in front, but warned me it was not the safest area of town and that people like to park there and party at night.

Wonderful. As evidenced by all the empty beer and liquor bottles littering the area, I had no doubt he was right.

Well, it is what it is. I have pepper spray, a panic button on my truck key fob, and no choice. Here is where I will spend the night.

It gets worse

As I was setting up and turning on the propane, I did not notice the screen door was unlatched. (I will never forget to TRIPLE-check that again.) My beloved dog, who loves to play keep away whenever he gets the chance, got out and started running. Across four lanes of traffic and in front of semi-trucks.

I aged at least five years in the next 15 minutes!

The more I pursue, the more he runs.

Others who see this try to help. The taco truck lady bribes him with meat, which he happily devours but does not get close enough to grab.

I am sure he is about to be flattened like a pancake at any second, and several times as he is playing in traffic I have to cover my eyes.

Finally, another RVing couple brought their dog outside. That was enough to make him stop and come over to check it out, and we were able to grab him.

Hours later I was still shaking

I love this dog, but if someone wanted to adopt him, at that moment I think I would have given him up. He is the only dog I have ever owned who cannot be trusted off-leash at all, and that is extremely stressful when on the road.

I suspect this behavior is how I ended up with this particular rescue mutt in the first place. I found him wandering the estuary near my beach home in Baja, Mexico, late one night waiting to be coyote food. My guess is a family brought him to the beach, he got loose and they could not get him back. I tried to find his owner but three years later he is still with me.

With the exception of this one particular bad trait that seems deeply ingrained in his personality, he’s a great road dog. But I don’t EVER want to go through that much stress again.

Thankfully, we all survived and I am extremely grateful for the kindness of the strangers who did everything they could to help me get him back.

It’s a good reminder in these stressful days of negativity that there are, in fact, many kind people in this world. (More on that this week here.)

Of course, I bought lunch at the taco truck and tipped generously. Although I was too upset to eat it.

The owner at Commercial Tire in Albuquerque was also terrific. Once he saw the situation, he let me move inside their gates for the night. 

It turned out the partiers I was warned about next to my boondocking spot were relatively quiet. 

Breathtaking view

But as the sun set, I realized why so many people do park here. Situated on a hill in the Commercial Tire’s parking lot I was treated to a breathtaking panoramic view of Albuquerque’s cityscape.

With luck, my tire will be here in the morning and I will be on my way to my friend’s house in Colorado.

I think I packed at least a month or more road trip woes into Week Two. May Week Three of the Long Long RV Trip be better than Week Two. Please.

See you then!

NEXT WEEK: Snow storms in late May!

##RVT1056

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Jane
9 days ago

Wow! You are brave setting out on your own. No doubt the travel woes you encountered has now made you an experienced camper.
I too used to have a runaway dog but since I’ve trained her on a shock collar 5 years ago, she comes right back. I only had to shock her once and while using the tone feature, only occasionally do I have to use the tone to call her back.

SJS
19 days ago

Cheri: Total respect for the very professional articles you’re putting on RV Travel. I appreciate that you include links to nearly everything linkable in your journey. (Not all articles on this site do so, and you serve as an excellent example for other contributors to follow.)

PS: We’ve got one of “those” dogs, too. Once he slips out he won’t come back for love nor money!

Cheri Sicard
19 days ago
Reply to  SJS

Awwww, thank you so much for the kind words. I started travel writing way back when in the print world where including a way of contact was just the way it was done. I like it when I am reading articles too though. Make it easy for people who are interested to get more information.

billh42
19 days ago

If you are going to be travelling in areas with little or no cell service you cannot rely on your cellphone GPS. The phone relies on the cell providers map database to work in conjunction with the GPS position information being received by the phone. There are two workarounds for this:

  1. Preload the maps for the area you want to travel in if your phone has enough memory to store the maps.
  2. Use a dedicated GPS such as a Garmin or any of the other brands. These have the maps already preloaded so you only need the GPS satellite position signals for it to work,
Becky
19 days ago

Boy, can I relate about the dog. I have 3 dogs, 2 are very sweet, well behaved little dogs that never wander off. Completely trustworthy off leash. Dog #3, who I took ownership of when my mom died and my step-dad went into assisted living, is a 50 lb. pain-in-the-{bleeped}. Sweet personality but bolts every chance she gets. Arrrrrgggg! 🤬 WILL NOT let you catch her. Can’t tell you how many aggravating hours I have spent chasing her. Love that dog but every time she gets loose, I think maybe I should just let her keep running. Pretty sure, as you suspect about Budley, she was at the rescue because she got picked up running loose.

Cheri Sicard
19 days ago
Reply to  Becky

I NEVER want to go through that much stress again!

tom
20 days ago

Auuugh! Hopefully all your trials are behind you. Make photo copies of all your important stuff in your wallet. Makes it easier to replace. Get a small fireproof safe for important documents.

William Arrington
20 days ago

I hope you are able to get another National Parks lifetime pass. Mine was stolen when my truck was broken into and I was told you only get one.

Bill Fisher
20 days ago

We are currently in our third lifetime pass. The first two were $10 each if I recall correctly and we lost or misplaced them. The last one was $80 and we are very protective of it. 😁

Cheri Sicard
20 days ago

I did indeed replace it. And boy do I have an incredible place to use it at coming up in a couple of weeks (sneak peak check out Minooka Park on Lake Wilson in Kansas — with the pass $11 a night lakeside with hookups! The place is amazing).

Rob
20 days ago

We found a great Harvest Host stop at the Rt66 Junkyard Brewery in Grants NM.

Cheri Sicard
20 days ago
Reply to  Rob

I have stayed there on another trip, and I could not remember which town it was in or I probably would have stayed again. Loved it. Nice people.

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