While planning our trip we debated about stopping in Arizona, as there were lots of places we wanted to see, but many of them were much further north than our current route. We decided to stop overnight this time around, as we are hoping to return and spend time exploring the Grand Canyon and other locations more extensively next year. We had found out about a free camping website via The Adventure Dorks and decided to do our first night of Boon docking in Tucson. We have solar panels covering the roof of our RV and are now surrounded in enough sunshine to use them to their full capacity. Even so we were wondering how it would go with no hook ups. We took a chance, staying in the Casino Del Sol parking lot overnight and found it to be a really comfortable experience. Our batteries were well charged when we arrived, enough so that we were able to make up a yummy Portuguese Pea Stew One Pot meal recipe in the pressure cooker and keep lights on until bed time. We packed up and hit the road before 10, which allowed us to arrive in Las Cruces before dark.
We experienced a bit of culture shock when we arrived at the RV park. it was a bit rough around the edges as compared to many of the places we've stayed, but they honoured the Passport America discount and the location was fantastic to be able to access both Las Cruces and El Paso. We hooked up the RV and were getting settled in when we happened to notice a bunch of guys across the way loading up their shot guns before heading off into the desert to start shooting who knows what. Don't get me wrong, we were fully aware that guns are legal before crossing the boarder into the States, but knowing it and seeing it are two very different things. We brought the kids inside to get everyone sorted before driving into Las Cruces for groceries. We looked up Natural Food Markets in the area and found the Mountain View Market Co-Op. They had a fantastic selection of groceries and fresh produce, we found everything we needed for a delicious Red Curry Noodle Bowl plus some additional groceries for the next couple of days.
The following day we hopped back in the truck and drove out to Cloudroft, with a stop in Alamogordo on the way for food. We drove through town and noticed a group of pro-Trump demonstrators on one side of the street, followed a block later by a group of Anti-Trump demonstrators. We're not sure what prompted the demonstration that particular day, but it was interesting to see, for sure. Sadly the pro-Trump group was larger, an indication of where we are at present perhaps.
We drove up the mountain to Cloudcroft after lunch, the view was breathtaking and the change in temperature at the top was significant - almost 20 degrees Fahrenheit cooler! A professor Dominic knows has a cabin in the area for summer use, and we completely understand why after seeing the difference in temperature. It's hot enough during the winter months, we can't imagine what it would be like in the summer!
Cloudcroft is a lovely town, lined with shops and cafes. It feels a bit like stepping back into the wild west, with the structure of the buildings and the general feel of the town. It's much cleaner and not as fragrant shall we say as it would have been back in the day! We found a lovely tea shop, the Old Barrel Tea Co. with delicious raw and unfiltered honey. Our favourites were the cactus claw mesquite and plain mesquite, it's amazing to see the difference in flavour based on the plants and flowers the bees are pollinating. We stopped at the Old Apple Barn on our way back down the mountain for some snacks, including some delicious salsa and spicy pickled garlic. The Old Apple Barn is an intense shopping experience, filled with tons of food and tourist items. That being said, their salsa is killer, as is their pickled garlic! They have some lovely post cards also, we found out that the designs were created for Hallmark by one of the owners, how cool is that? We made one more stop on our way back down the mountain, to take in the incredible view. The dessert is a beautiful place, completely different than anything else we've seen thus far.
We drove to the White Sands National Monument just in time for the sunset. We spent some time climbing and sliding down the dunes, an activity made much easier by the kind donation of a sled by another dune climber. We had tons of fun, and got our exercise in for the day also! The dunes are impressive any time, but at sunset they are something else entirely. We have a soft spot for dunes now, after seeing several beautiful spots along the way. We seem to always hit them at sunset, something that definitely adds to the magic of the experience.
The next morning we attempted to visit The El Paso Museum of Archeology, only to discover that they are closed on Sunday. Boo! Dom has visited the museum before, and was able to tell us a bit about it as we drove to run some errands. Juliette is currently working on a Gluten Free Bread Baking Course and needed to pick up a few items for that (a cast iron skillet and bread pan) plus the girls have both had crazy growth spurts recently, necessitating the purchase of some clothes. We try to shop consignment as much as possible, but on the road this sometimes isn't possible. It took a few stops, but we found everything we were looking for. We then made our way over to the Eloise Cafe, Dom had found it on Happy Cow and we decided to give it a go for our namesake! It's inspired by Rushmore and Wes Anderson films in general, we are a big fan of his work and really enjoyed the ambiance, in addition to some incredible Shishito Peppers - our current addiction!
We made our way back to the RV park with enough daylight left for the kids to play at the park while Juliette caught up on some course work. We are looking forward to exploring Texas further, we have lots of fun stops coming up!
Las Cruces & El Paso Highlights:
Free Campsites.net - a wonderful resource for free and low cost camping locations worldwide.
Mountain View Market Co-Op - a fantastic health food store located in Las Cruces, NM.
Cloudcroft - A funky town located at 9,000 ft elevation. It has the feel of an old west town.
The Old Barrel Tea Co. - a lovely tea shop, with a fantastic selection of raw & unfiltered honey.
Old Apple Barn - a funky shop en route to Cloudcroft, with a great selection of in house salsa and pickled items (the spicy pickeld garlic is fantastic!)
White Sands National Monument - one of our favourite stops in this area. The White Sands dunes are spectacular, especially if you get a chance to visit at sunset!
El Paso Museum of Archeology - it was sadly closed when we went to visit, but Dominic paid it a visit on an earlier trip, and says it is well worth seeing!
Eloise Cafe - a funky stop in El Paso, featuring some delicious veg-friendly items. Our favourite was the Shishito Peppers!