Which way to go?
Since we are in the last week of our trip, we are looking ahead every day to try to figure out how to make the most out of the time we have left. Yesterday morning at the Datil Well BLM camp we realized we could just stay put another day rather than pressing on (as had been our intention) to Arizona. As I mentioned, Datil Well is a nice spot, and it satisfied our general attraction to quiet and beautiful places that are off the beaten path.
The alternative was to continue to Fool Hollow Lake Recreation Area in Show Low, AZ, which we knew was a nice place along our general route but also very popular. That might mean a shut-out if the park was full, and we’d be abandoning a place we knew we liked. Also, if we stayed two days at Datil Well, we’d have to sprint from Show Low directly home, which would result in a long drive on our final day. I hate arriving home after a long drive, because arriving means lots of tasks in order to re-settle into the house. (Sometimes we resolve this by staying in the Airstream another night in our own carport, so we can tackle the job of transferring to the house in the morning.)
We couldn’t decide without a look at the map. In the Tour of America days these early-morning talks would mean I have to throw on some clothes and grab the atlas from the car. These days we pull out the iPad and start browsing the map on the AllStays Camp & RV app. This allows us to see all of our options for camping while we look at possible routes. (I don’t have a picture of this; you’ll have to imagine Eleanor and I sitting up in bed sharing an iPad.)
From where we were (green dot on the map), options to get back to Tucson were few. We could turn around and take NM-12 south to NM-180, eventually ending up in Arizona at Safford. We’ve driven most of this route, and it’s scenic but slow, and there wasn’t anything along the way we wanted to visit. (The famous Catwalk is along this route, near Glenwood NM, but weather conditions have closed it too.)
That left only one way to go: continue west on NM Rt 60 toward Arizona, our original plan. This would inevitably bring us to Show Low (red dot on the map), since the only alternate route south toward Tucson is the famous “Devil’s Highway” (Rt 191, formerly Rt 666), and trailers over 25 feet aren’t allowed on that road.
The bad news was threatening weather. Show Low and most of the towns along the Mogollon Rim in Arizona were expecting serious thunderstorms. When the weather service reports strong thunderstorms, the boilerplate statement usually says something about the “possibility of large hail” and “gusts up to 60 MPH.” I’m not particularly concerned about gusts to 60 MPH when we are parked, because I know the Airstream can handle that, but “hail” is a word that strikes fear into the heart of any aluminum trailer owner.
So you can see that with all of these factors to consider we needed some time in the morning to figure out what to do. I can’t think of a better place to have such a conversation that in a warm bed while waiting for the water heater and coffee maker to finish their jobs.
We eventually decided to compromise: we’d stay at Datil Well until checkout time (1 p.m.) and then migrate over to Show Low for a single night, then head south to some place in the desert for our final night and a short drive home the last day. Pie Town was a bit of a bust since it’s off-season and the famous “Pie-O-Neer” is only open Thurs-Sun this time of year, but we found a decent lunch a little further on in Quemado.
The only weather we encountered was along the final leg of Rt 60 and it amounted to a feeble shower left over from the thunderstorm line that had threatened Show Low earlier in the day. By the time we landed in Show Low it was sunny and gorgeous again, and of course being Sunday we had no trouble finding a space at Fool Hollow, so it was generally smooth sailing all day.
Emma has pointed out that until we arrived at Fool Hollow, our trip seemed to have an insect theme. We picked up lots of spiders in Vermont and Ohio, a few houseflies in Missouri and Kansas, ladybugs in Capulin, butterflies in Mountainair, grasshoppers at the VLA, gnats at Valley of Fires, and at Datil Well the campground was nearly covered over in fat black fuzzy caterpillars. Along the way we have evicted a few bugs from the Airstream, but mostly the damage has been more to the insect population than to us. The front of the Mercedes and the Airstream look like we’ve been driving through chum, so I was grateful for the little showers we encountered on the road. Our last stop before going home will be the local truck wash.
Fool Hollow has turned out to live up to its reputation. The lake is small but pretty, with canoe and kayak rentals available. There are nice gravel walking trails around the lake, well-designed camp sites, and even an ice machine and book swap in our loop. The neighbors did of course fire up the mandatory state park “campsmoke” (can’t really call it a fire—I wish more people had Scouting training & could build real fires) which forced us to close up all the windows, but other than that we really enjoyed the place.
Despite the pleasantness of this place, it’s time to get serious about going home. We could do it in one day if we left early this morning, but since we have a little time our plan today is only to get about 150 miles south and then arrive at base on Wednesday in the early afternoon.