Spring in Northern Arizona and New Mexico means wind. Lots of wind. Wind that comes out of nowhere, jolts you from sleep, and shakes the whole house. Wind that can easily knock an RV like ours out of its lane or off the road entirely.
Over the last several months, as we’ve traveled to places like Albuquerque and Santa Fe, we’ve faced one windstorm after another. In response, we’ve frequently changed our travel plans to avoid driving through it.
That brings me to an app that has really come in handy as we’ve navigated these constantly changing weather conditions. WindAlert is a free app that provides wind forecast information from weather stations all over the country.
Forecasts are available several days out, so we can look at wind stations anywhere along our intended route and see what conditions will be like on upcoming travel days. By way of example, here’s what one of our recent Colorado Springs forecasts looked like on WindAlert:
Basically, at 4:00 p.m. winds were sustained at 22 mph, gusting at 36, it was 37 degrees out, and it was snowing. If you look inside each of the individual bars, you’ll see a triangle/arrow. The arrow is pointed in the direction of the wind – helpful information when deciding which direction to park the RV and whether or not to bring the slides in.
(Fun aside: at 10:00 p.m., when it was 23 degrees, snowing, and winds were gusting at 54 mph, and ‘someone’ had to take Thor out, and that ‘someone’ was me, I was not a fan of “living the RV life.”)
Anyway, back to Winslow… after leaving Homolovi State Park, our plan was to spend one night at a campground in Holbrook and then make the long drive east to Albuquerque. However, the news was reporting a huge incoming storm for much of the midwest and west – the Bomb Cyclone that created blizzard conditions in much of the region.
WindAlert showed that winds along our intended route to Albuquerque would be sustained in the mid 20’s and gusting in the mid to upper 30’s. It also showed rain and snow during parts of the afternoon.
While there are plenty of people who would drive in such conditions, there are also plenty of people who crash their RVs every year because they’re stupid, and we do our best to avoid stupid. So, we extended our stay in Holbrook and spent the afternoon watching numerous beleaguered drivers exit I-40 and pull into the empty spots next to us.
By the following day, all was normal and we proceeded with an uneventful drive to Albuquerque. Just the way we like it.
As for WindAlert, we’ve been using it almost daily as we’ve traveled this Spring. In places like Northern Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado, wind comes on strong and, oftentimes, without warning. One minute the skies are blue and the sun is shining, and the next, the skies are blue, the sun is shining, and the winds are gusting at 45 miles per hour. In fact, the wifi password for the RV park we stayed at in Santa Fe was “StowYourAwning” – because people who leave for the day without first retracting their awning often come home to an awning-less motorhome. This app has been a lifesaver and a property saver and we highly recommend it.
(*And to be clear, I have no association with WindAlert and am not touting their product in order to make money. Though, also, to be clear, if someone knows the folks over there and could get them to pay me, that would be great.)
When we got to Albuquerque, we were pleasantly surprised to learn we had booked this enormous private campground during their low season. For the duration of our stay, we never had more than a handful of neighbors. Oftentimes, we had our whole section to ourselves.
Even better, when I went up to the office to extend our reservation, the front desk person decided to input every discount she could come up with to save us money (what can I say? I’m charming…) Next thing I knew, we were paying $13 per night for a site that usually costs $50 per night. Sweet!
Waaaaay back when we visited Galveston we met Curtis and Tami. Soon after that, they bought a condo in Albuquerque and have been traveling part-time ever since. When they’re not on the road, they work as “extras” in several of the Netflix series that are being filmed in Albuquerque these days. So, basically, they’re movie stars which means we’re friends with movie stars which means we’re basically famous.
New Mexico was the 6th state in which we’ve met up with our friends Celena and Shoam (Texas, Vermont, Maine, Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico), which is pretty crazy. Even crazier, they are also friends with Curtis and Tami. So, we all got together a couple times while we were in the area.
We also hung out with friends Ben and Lanni, whom we last saw in Austin. They, too, put down roots in ABQ and are now part-time RVers. They took us around town, showed us the Old Town area, grabbed lunch with us at El Vado (a newly restored Route 66 era motel with several fantastic restaurants surrounding an outdoor courtyard), and took us on a walk through one of the local nature preserves, before we headed out for dinner.
Finally, one of my closest friends in college grew up in New Mexico and his mom and her husband live in Albuquerque. Over the years, when they would come visit Chad in D.C., we would all spend time together. We last saw them at his wedding in 2015. Anyway, when I mentioned to Chad that we were going to be visiting Albuquerque, he responded “Mom will murder you if you pass through town without telling her.” And since the only thing we try to avoid more than ‘stupid’ is ‘dead,’ off we went to two lovely lunches with Gwyn, Tracey (Gwyn’s husband), and Jackie (Gwyn’s sister). Jackie happened to be visiting from Michigan and gave us lots of great tips for what to see and do when we make our way up there.
As for Albuquerque itself, it’s an interesting city. Of all the locals we spoke with, everyone a) loved living there; and b) cautioned us about the rampant property crime affecting the city. As we explored, we noticed that, unlike most places, there were no “good neighborhoods” and “bad neighborhoods.” Everything is very mixed. In any given area, some homes and businesses will be really well cared for and others won’t. Many houses have bars on their windows, but the city is full of incredible artwork (like the mural in the featured image at the top of this post). While we saw a lot of litter in some places, elsewhere, we saw nothing but interesting architecture, great food, pretty parks, and really nice people.
It is obvious the city does not have the resources to deal with all the various issues it is facing. However, it is also clear that Albuquerque’s residents are proud of their hometown and many are working hard to improve its rough spots. We can see why our friends love living there and hope it continues to grow and attract new investment.
When we left Albuquerque, we were in the rare position of not having reservations for the night. I had found this Army Corps of Engineers campground just outside Santa Fe and it looked great – but they are first come/first served until April 1. We decided to roll the dice and give it a shot. And, lo and behold, when we got there, we scored one of the best sites in the place.
Our spot was huge and overlooked the reservoir. Thor immediately made himself at home on the patio and enjoyed the warm breezes and quiet…
And given how long it had been since we had had more than a day or two of decent weather, we made the most of it, too.
Kasha Katuwe-Tent Rocks Monument
Cochiti Lake is located right near Kasha – Katuwe Tent Rocks Monument, so Celena and Shoam joined us for a hike. There are two main interconnected trails, the very easy Cave Loop Trail and then the more challenging Canyon Trail that climbs about 600 feet to the overlook above.
The Cave Loop Trail was a fun and easy jaunt…
As we traveled its route, we started seeing some of the famous rock formations that give the park its name. Volcanic eruptions 6 to 7 million years ago left the deposits of pumice, ash, and tuff which make up the formations.
The trail up to the mesa was steep, rocky, and at times, exposed. But, what do you know? When you have hiking boots that have tread on the bottom, it’s a LOT easier to hike on challenging surfaces. Who knew???
Once we were at the top, we enjoyed the views of the Sangre de Christo, Jemez, and Sandia Mountains, as well as the valley below.
We then made our way back down and called it a day.
I had originally considered combining our visits to Albuquerque and Santa Fe in one post, but quickly realized there was just too much to talk about. I mean, our new friend Fred here…
…is gonna take some explaining.
More on that next…
Where we stayed:
American RV Resort, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Cochiti Campground, Pena Blanca, New Mexico