We really have been going to school this last week in regards to learning how to drive LeuC. We learned how to handle freeways with their big rigs blowing by, country roads with their mule deer jumping across our path, narrow dirt roads with no guards along the steep cliffs, road construction with one lane closed and concrete barrier guards reaching out trying to grab LeuC’s sides, and sandy desert roads where you need to push through brush and cactus without scratching the bus. Well, today, we added a new lesson in driving a 40,000 pound bus: driving over mountains on a curvy, narrow, steep road!
Poor Mary Margaret had to sit in the passenger sit as I navigated LeuC up and over the last of the Rocky Mountain Ranges to reach today’s destination of Trinidad Lake State Park in Colorado. I say, “poor Mary Margaret” because it is always harder to sit and watch instead of actually having your hands and feet on the steering wheel and pedals, respectively. It was a white-knuckle day as we drove through the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Along the way, we discovered that US Route 64 is one of the top scenic routes in New Mexico. Fortunately, to help ease her anxiety, she grabbed our cameras and shot a lot of pictures to capture the spectacular views that presented themselves during our drive.
There are many tall mountains peaks within the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, some reaching an elevation of over 14,000 feet. Fortunately for us, US Route 64 twists and turns through the lower passes. I believe we topped out at an elevation over 8,000 feet but I was so busy man-handling LeuC through the mountains that I did not notice any elevation signs.
Here Is Our Route From Pilar, NM to Trinidad Lake State Park, CO
The scenery was breathtaking as not only were the evergreen trees and mountain sides beautiful but at this altitude, the fall color change was in full force with the Quaking Aspen trees covered in brilliant yellow. Along much of our route ran streams carrying the snow melt down to the deep valleys below. This must be a trout fisherman’s heaven as we saw many cars parked along pullouts and fly fishermen standing thigh high in the water.
Instead of trying to describe what we saw, I will let Mary Margaret’s photos do the talking.
These Are The Cimarron Palisades The We Passes As We Approached Cimarron, NM.
When we dropped down off the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, we entered the small town of Cimarron. Its slogan was “Where The Rockies Meets The Plains”. This could not be truer. We immediately were now in the flat grassy plains.
As we turned north to travel along eastern flanks of the Rockies, we saw numerous herds of wild deer forging in the open grassy plains. It reminded us of driving in Southern Africa with herds of antelope running free. We had visions of the pioneers crossing these plains in their covered wagons, being pushed to the south by the tall mountains acting as a barrier to their march to the west.
As we approached the Colorado border, we left Routh 64 and took I-25N for the last few miles. Trinidad Lake State Park is just a short way north of the border. The park is on a plateau overlooking the lake, which is actually a reservoir. Our day’s driving lesson would not be complete without experiencing the narrow road over the dam as pickup trucks coming the other direction squeezed by.
After we set up camp and enjoyed Mary Margaret’s delicious dinner of buffalo meatloaf, steamed chard and sweet potatoes, I went outside to build a fire. As I was splitting our wood, a camper from nearby came over and introduced himself. His name was Dale and he then proceeded to show me his “sure-fire” way of starting a fire. He had made a fire-starter by pouring melted paraffin into a carboard egg cartoon and then sprinkling wood chips into the wax. He completed his fire starter by poking a cotton wick into its center. By doing so, he had a dozen fire-starters. Dale then offered me four of his fire starters. The one I used worked like a charm and now I will be making Dale’s fire-starters from now on!
Another neighboring camper then came over and introduced himself. Rick had seen my Michigan sweatshirt and had to share with me he grew up in the Wolverine state. So far, we have discovered how friendly and helpful fellow campers are and it is wonderful!
Once again, our day ended in front of the fire, armed with a Cuban and a scotch. Such is the life of an RV’er.