I have a new name for all the KOAs we’ve been staying at: Kamper’s Anonymous. I didn’t realize until today, but there is a strange fact about all these KOAs and that is that no one talks to one another. You might be able to strike up a conversation with the desk clerk or the night watchman, but not usually with other kampers, unless they are mentally challenged like the Rain man we met in our virgin Salt Lake City experience who was a man that had memorized every highway exit and corresponding city on every major highway in the US. Other than this odd bird you are not likely to strike up a real meaningful conversation with anyone while staying at a KOA. These Kampsites are filled with closet kampers that aren’t even willing to admit to their neighbors that they kamp.
But today we had a great experience at the KOA in Las Cruses, New Mexico. We are kamping next to a family of fellow Washingtonians that has totally blown my mind. Mom has 6 kids, but is only traveling with 5 at the moment. The ages of the kids are: 9, 11, 13, 15 and 19. I’m reluctant to tell you that the Mom’s name is June, lest anyone derive any “Leave it to Beaver” images of what this family might be like. June is a no-bullshit, open, likable woman who we’ve really enjoyed talking to over the last day (has it only been a day, so far?). She quit her job and decided to take her kids on a road trip for the summer. She ousted the 11-year from their tent and is making him sleep in the car since he decided to gnaw a hole with his teeth in the air-mattress they had, just so his sister couldn’t use it. They’ve already been to Georgia and are now on their way home. She separated from her husband 4 years ago – so that means she is traveling with 5 kids on her own. Hats off to you June, you’ve got balls, and patience that could duly be spread over all our blog readers. Every one of her kids is interesting and polite. This morning we went swimming with the two youngest and the oldest is starting to become really interested in other cultures and was excited when he met a guy from Italy in the bathroom. Today I overheard her reprimanding a few of her children since they hadn’t completed a journal entry since they had arrived in Las Cruces. How cool is that? I hope William and Julian become as likable as all these children someday and that we can have great family energy like this group of six one day. We spent the entire day sharing food and campsites. All 10 of us made a mad dash for the pool at ten minutes to eight tonight, only to get kicked out shortly after closing time (8 PM). That was ok because we all went back to our campsite and sat around the picnic table and talked for a few more hours.
Over the past week we made it to Albuquerque where we spent 4 days with my Aunt. We had a great time visiting with her and seeing a bit of Albuquerque. We decided to head south through Alamogordo since my mother lived there as a kid. It was interesting to see where my Mom grew up and also where my grandparents are buried. However, not so interesting that any one of us would like to stay.
Alamogordo was very hot (lower 90’s) and quite humid due to all of the rainfall. We didn’t have a campsite so we decided to swing by the Visitor’s Center first. We heard about a campsite nearby that used to be a KOA. The fact that it once was a KOA, but no longer, should have been an omen to us that it would be bad. But Matthias and I thought “Oh, it used to be a KOA, which means it probably has a pool.” Salivating we drove quickly to the campsite and paid the hefty 27 dollars for one night’s stay. The 2 cop cars in front of the building, and the two policemen in the waiting area gathering evidence didn’t faze me one bit. The fact that this campsite was devoid of retirees in neat yellow polo-shirts bustling about deciding what project to undertake next (like painting the mailbox yellow so every one can see it) didn’t send up warning flags either. The dorky guy my age with a pony tail who offered me a discount for AAA membership didn’t scare me off either. What finally made me nervous was the rusty playground. And the gaps between shower stalls were so wide that you couldn’t really consider them private. The wi-fi cut out after every 15 minutes and required a full reboot in order to re-connect. But what really made me realize what a shit-hole this was was the pool. We walked up to the pool and you couldn’t see the bottom. The water had this greenish-brown tinge to it and was utterly disgusting. What was even more repulsive was the fact that we went swimming in it – TWICE!!! It is really hard to explain to a 2 and a 4 year old why we can’t go swimming when we are all standing next to the pool in our bathing suits. The first day we just took long hot showers afterwards. The second day was even worse since the pool was then filled with a brew of mosquitoes and gnats. I couldn’t even tell one toe from another in 4 feet water. My advice to any of you traveling through Alamogordo (other than STAY AWAY!) would be to splurge on a hotel, I mean MOTEL room.
After leaving Alamogordo we visited White Sands National Monument. Matthias considers this the highlight of the trip so far and I think I might have to agree. White Sands is nearly 300 square miles of pure white sand dunes in the middle of the desert. It is possible to drive out into the dunes and walk around (which we did). It was at least in the mid-90’s out on the dunes, but so absolutely cool. William and Julian had so much fun sliding around on the sand. It felt like we were in a totally new world.
After this we settled in Las Cruses. We are staying here two nights and have enjoyed the truly wonderful pool (we went swimming 3 times today) and the great company. It is so hard to describe the thunder storm we witnessed our first night. For hours we were surrounded on all sides by lightning in the distance. Slowly as the night progressed it moved closer and closer. We woke up in the middle of the night when it was finally directly overhead. I’ve never heard thunder that long or that loud in my life.
Next we head to El Paso and then into Mexico. We are anticipating crossing into Mexico on the 31st. This will begin a new chapter of the trip. We’re not sure what to expect, or when we’ll have internet the next time. By the way, does anyone know if there are Kampgrounds of Mexiko?
Tags: New Mexico, US-Mexico