The governor finally reopened some state parks to NM residents with reservations only. My favorite park close to me did not re-open so time to head to Bottomless Lakes State Park outside Roswell, NM 60 miles away. The drive up was lovely now that the front end on my Roadtrek van is fixed. Naturally, I stopped in town to pick up some Panda Express for dinner (and next day breakfast) since I can’t get it near home. Spent some time with my long lost cousins too.
Bottomless is another 10+ miles outside Roswell. I reserved the same spot I was supposed to have previously when I was unable to go there due to car trouble. It’s on the hill against the canyon wall across from the restrooms. Big mistake. That is where two very fat raccoons live. Every night they ransacked the trash cans nearby. I have heard of them eating vehicle wires and causing lots of problems. My magnetic motion activated lights seemed to help keep them from spending too much time close to my rig but didn’t totally keep them away. Don’t leave anything out there you don’t want them to get.
My fridge worked fine on propane which was a pleasant surprise since it failed to work mid-summer in 108 degree weather. I ended up clearing out the ice chest I brought just in case.
The park has WI-FI but the signal was weak where I was. Deploying a WI-FI booster antenna that plugs directly into my laptop through a long USB cord fixed that issue. It worked both outside on the windshield and inside on the dashboard. I got it on Wish dot com.
I was able to stream TV through my phone’s internet and Amazon Firestick. Good signal there. I also used my portable satellite dish for the first time. Roadtreks have a cable port in the side storage area so I connected to that to get the signal to the inside TV port.
I took my first bath in the van. The restroom showers are closed for Covid. Toilets are open though. Go figure. My van doesn’t have a water heater or shower. I haven’t finished building a shower curtain yet so I just took a bath using a 5 gallon solar water bag, a collapsible bucket, a folding dog pool that fits in the closet, and a battery powered USB portable water pump with shower attachment. It worked! I may just keep doing baths since it was so easy and I can sit in the narrow pool in my center aisle. I used Dr. Bronner’s eco-friendly soap though I read that my homemade glycerin soap is also eco-friendly. I had all the water I needed. When done, I used the water pump again to pump the water back into the bucket then tossed it outside.
Everything worked great and I was very comfortable.
I was camped at Lea Lake campground with water and electric for $4/night with my annual pass. There is a sewer dump on the way out. My space had a nice covered table and patio. The view was fantastic with red rock all around, the lake, an excellent well-done beach and picnic area, and a walking bridge trail through a marsh. I walked a LOT! That gave me a chance to try out my camcorder I bought some time ago and of course I took lots of pictures.
There are also numerous boondocking areas around the other lakes there. They also have covered tables and I wouldn’t mind camping at those either.
I used to just toss whatever I thought I needed into a suitcase or RV cabinet. No special prep. When I started cruising, I discovered rolling clothes instead of folding them uses less space and leads to fewer wrinkles. That helped but after years of digging through my suitcase to find what I wanted and trying to keep the dirty items separate from the clean items, I decided a better system was needed.
Luggage packing cubes are mentioned a lot on travel sites. I wondered if they live up to the hype. Supposedly they save more space and make it easier to find what you need. I bought a large set of them with all kinds of sizes including a shoe bag and clear toiletry bags. See YAMIU Packing Cubes 7-Pcs Travel Organizer Accessories with Shoe Bag and 2 Toiletry Bags(Blue) Notice: There are affiliate links in this article used to help fund this site. This review does include my own opinion after actually using the item(s) linked to.
For the test, I used them on a flying trip to Oregon. Here are the results:
I don’t believe they actually saved me any space in my suitcase but they did help me limit what I was taking so I didn’t have to sit on my suitcase to close it this time but still had plenty of clothes with me. I tend to over pack. If space is that big an issue, the kind of bags where you vacuum out the excess air might help though I would go with the ones you roll the air out instead so you don’t have to hope a vacuum is available or bug anyone for it.
They did make it easy for me to separate types of clothing such as shirts in one bag, pants in another, under garments in another. Each morning it was very easy to find what I needed to change clothes. I really liked that! No digging needed and my suitcase always looked neat rather than like a teenager’s bedroom.
My shoes had their own bag so they didn’t soil my clothes and the bag looked a lot nicer than the grocery bag I usually use.
The clear bags for the toiletries made it easy to see what I had with me. Again, no digging to find what I needed and I could see what I brought.
For the dirty clothes, I kept them in a separate laundry bag I brought until it was time to go home then I shifted items around to empty out some cubes, rolled the dirty items again, and fit them back into the cubes which I placed at the top of my luggage so they would come out first and immediately go into the laundry hamper at home. Unpacking my suitcase actually took very little time since I just had to yank cubes out of it then could put it away immediately to get it out of my way.
When not in use, the packing cubes flatten and fold up into almost nothing so they take up very little storage space.
Conclusion: Two thumbs up for packing cubes! I will be using them from now on. They may not necessarily save space but they sure do make packing, daily travel life, and unpacking much easier. I recommend them.
For my new Class B RV, I used the packing cube concept to buy clear shoe boxes that I keep in the RV in all my cabinets. Some hold items that stay in there permanently to organize them and keep them from rolling around. Other boxes I pull out to pack them in the house then carry them back out when loading. Actual packing cubes would work too but I prefer the open tops of shoe boxes for quickly grabbing items. If your cabinets won’t hold the plastic boxes due to size or contour, give packing cubes a try and leave them unzippered during the trip. You could also combine the two items to fit your space as needed.
I don’t know what other states do but New Mexico has a really great camping pass, especially for seniors. It let’s you into day use areas free and you can boondock/primitive camp for free or pay another $4 per night for electric and water or $8 per night to include sewer hookup and it is good all year. It’s a huge savings for those of us who camp a lot. With one state park within 10 miles of me and another within 60 miles, I plan to camp as much as I can.
For NM residents the annual pass costs $180 as of this writing. For non-residents it is $225. Seniors 62+ and disabled residents pay $100. A day use only pass is just $40. They give you two stickers, one for your RV and one for your vehicle so you can both camp with your RV or just picnic and boat the lakes. Keep your receipt in a safe place in case you need to replace your sticker. I waited to put mine on my van window because I knew I would be replacing the glass.
There are a couple places that do not accept the pass. One is Living Desert Zoo in Carlsbad.
I have only seen two of their state parks so far but they are both terrific! I can’t wait for them to reopen post Covid so I can get a change of scenery while socially isolating.
I was supposed to camp at Bottomless Lakes but had a battery problem that prevented me from taking my van. Instead, I drove my truck up to the park outside Roswell, NM for a day trip to look at what I missed.
The sites here are not paved but are still pretty well spaced. One section of the camp area has utilities. As with Brantley Lake, this park is in the heart of the oilfields so you will find some campers are workers who stay for 14 days then bebop to another park. They are nice enough and gone a lot. The bathrooms are well maintained as is the group picnic shelter. There is a very nice swimming hole here with a stone building facing it. There are several ponds around the grounds with plenty of boondocking around them. They snuggle up against cliffs. This would be a great place for friends to camp together which we are hoping to do as a group some day.