Urban Boon-docking Adventures

I know I wish all RV camping could be in the remote parts of the wild. How do we get to the most scenic spaces without having to plan out each and every stop and spend a ton of money at private campgrounds along the way?  It’s all about urban boondocking.

What is boondocking?  Well, it’s sleeping in an urban location (most likely a parking lot) for free. This is not camping!  So here is the etiquette for boondocking….we don’t put our slides out or set out our camp chairs….we don’t pull out the grill.  We arrive there to sleep and perhaps have some dinner within the confines of the RV.  We are self sufficient.  We have our own water to drink and shower.  We have propane to power our refrigerator and our generator to power lights (but use this minimally). Please don’t put down your levelers.

Most importantly…Ask if it’s alright to park there for the night.  Also, ask where in the lot to put the rig. Don’t just rely on apps or websites.  Do your own homework.

On our most recent trip we caravaned with our friends Kali and Josh.  We traveled from Albuquerque to the Houston area and boondocked for two nights on the way to the Thousand Trails Campground on Lake Conroe, TX.

Boondocking Walmart Parking Lot Clovis, NM
Boondocking Walmart Parking Lot Clovis, NM

One of the best thing about urban camping is the ability to stock up along the way with groceries or other RV supplies.

Cracker Barrel Boondocking TX
Cracker Barrel Boondocking TX

The second night ate our dinner at the Cracker Barrel and asked if we could stay there for the night.  The manager was amazing and asked that we just made sure we had something there for breakfast and to make sure we did not park in the fire lane.

Here we are in Willis, Texas at the thousand trails.  Yes, we were hit by a huge storm where three systems converged over Houston, Texas!  There was flooding everywhere!  So, here at the thousand trails campground the power was knocked out by a tree on the property and we had water but no power!  Glad the generator was working, but our campsite became shallow waterfront property!

Campsite Flooding Lake Conroe, TX
Campsite Flooding Lake Conroe, TX

I really like using http://freecampsites.net/ and the http://www.allstays.com/ app for my IPad.

-Mara

PS – make sure to check our Kali and Josh’s VLOG at Freedom Theory.

Oldest Everything – Santa Fe, NM

Close up Santa Fe NM Cathedral
Close up Santa Fe NM Cathedral
Santa Fe NM Cathedral
Santa Fe NM Cathedral

Santa Fe, NM is a fascinating place full of history and unparalleled beauty.  The city has a feel and even commands a style of it’s own. Here is a place that has been around for centuries and you can feel the history! Santa Fe was settled thirteen years before the pilgrims settled Plymouth Rock!

Santa Fe is a beauty with the backdrop of the Sangre de Christo mountains and the pueblo style architecture.  The elevation of Santa Fe is around 7200 feet which brings warm sunny days and cool nights. It is a perfect blend for exploring the area.

Let’s talk architecture for a moment…there are some amazing displays of historic architecture in Santa Fe whether you are religious person or not.  The Loretto Chapel is home to the story of the Miraculous Staircase!  The identity of the builder is a mystery to this day and there are no visible signs of support.  How stunning is that? The fee to get in is only about $3 a piece when we were there this week.  See the full story here: Loretto Chapel Staircase

Miraculous Staircase Loretto Chapel Santa Fe NM
Miraculous Staircase Loretto Chapel Santa Fe NM

Santa Fe is super accessible for walking. We walked for hours from the plaza to the artist area of the famous Canyon Road to the Barrio de Analco Historic District (which includes the oldest church San Miguel Chapel and oldest house).

Sign Oldest House In USA Santa Fe NM
Sign Oldest House In USA Santa Fe NM
Kali From Freedom Theory Santa Fe NM
Kali From Freedom Theory Santa Fe NM

Oh wait is that Kali from The Freedom Theory in front of the Palace of the Governors Palace of the Governors?  See her YouTube Vlog on Santa Fe here The Freedom Theory – Santa Fe edition I love walking along the front of the palace and shopping for a new jewelry treasure handmade locally!

Los Alamos Historical Marker Santa FE NM
Los Alamos Historical Marker Santa Fe, NM

Remember a few posts back when we talked about the history of the Atomic Bomb here in New Mexico?  Well, on our walking tour we found the spot where all of the scientists and those employed in Los Alamos went to pick up their paperwork and transport to the secret city.  This is it hidden in a courtyard near the plaza in Santa Fe!

Door to Los Alamos in Santa FE NM
Door to Los Alamos in Santa FE NM
Los Alamos Historic Sign in Santa Fe NM
Los Alamos Historic Sign in Santa Fe NM

Such a quick overview of the city.  There is so much to experience!  I love the turquoise doors contrasting to the pueblo brown! The character of the city needs to be experienced first hand do not hesitate to let Santa Fe enchant you too!

-Mara

Time lapse – Albuquerque Int’l Balloon Fiesta 2015

This is the Dawn Patrol and the Mass Ascension from October 3, 2015 taken from the bluff (VIP East RV Lot) overlooking the field…  Music and video by David Lisauskas!  Enjoy!

Just look up! Albuquerque Int’l Balloon Fiesta 2015

900 Ballons at Mass Ascension Oct 3 2015 ABQ
900 Ballons at Mass Ascension Oct 3 2015 ABQ

Albuquerque is known for it’s rich cultural heritage, amazing sky, and some of the best artists in the world. Also, known for the Breaking Bad series (which you can take a tour in an old RV) However, people spend 10 days here in the first part of October for one thing… the world’s largest festival for Hot Air Balloons.  Visitors to Balloon Fiesta park in Albuquerque are treated to a spectacle (on a good day) of over 900 balloons floating peacefully through the desert sky.

Dawn Patrol Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta 2015
Dawn Patrol Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta 2015

I recommend going on a weekend to experience the full splendor of the balloons.  You need to get out of bed and get to the park no later than about 5:30 AM for the Dawn Patrol. Look for the green flag flying to signal the captains will be taking off.  About eight to ten balloons take off as the sun starts to rise.  They are the first few to check the prevailing winds.

Dawn Patrol taking off Oct 3 2015
Dawn Patrol taking off Oct 3 2015

Then there is the Mass Ascension.  There is only one thing to say….WOW!

ABQ Balloon Fiesta 2015 Mass Ascension
ABQ Balloon Fiesta 2015 Mass Ascension
Up on the Bluff overlooking Fiesta VIP EAST lot
Up on the Bluff overlooking Fiesta VIP EAST lot

There are all shapes and sizes!  A carousel, a dog, a clock, Darth Vador and Yoda!

Hot Air Balloons Mass Ascension
Hot Air Balloons Mass Ascension

We were fortunate to get an RV boondocking spot in the VIP East Lot right next to the bluff overlooking where the Balloons inflate and take off.  Oh yeah, did I mention we were in the front row! Full view of the field!  These spots do not come cheap at around $80 per night without hookups, however, rolling out of bed with that view is priceless!  There are a few other RV camping lots around the park. See the website  http://www.balloonfiesta.com/event-info/event-schedule for more details.  Camping spots sell out quickly and open up for reservations for 2016 at the end of October.

Kuma at the fiesta
Kuma at the fiesta

Let’s talk about the Albuquerque box for a moment.  According the Balloon fiesta website “The famous “Albuquerque Box” in the ballooning community is also a terrain-influenced feature. During the Fall months the predominant wind direction in the lower atmosphere is from the South or Southwest. The southwesterly wind occurs quite often during the afternoon in the Albuquerque area. However in the mornings, especially during the mornings after a fairly cloud-free sky overnight, a significant temperature inversion is present where the coldest air is near the surface. This cold and dense air from the higher terrain north of Balloon Fiesta Park “pours” down the valley through Balloon Fiesta, thus the surface wind in the morning hours is typically from the North while the wind direction above the surface remains from the predominant southerly direction. This wind from the North near the surface and from the South above the surface forms the infamous “Albuquerque Box”. When the sunlight comes over the Sandia mountain range and heats up the lower atmosphere the temperature inversion is lost and the entire atmosphere mixes, thus the southerly wind from above extends to lower altitudes and the Albuquerque Box dissipates.”

What does this mean?  Well, we had the Albuquerque Box on Saturday Morning October 3.  The balloons go up from the field and go to the south when they rise they go back over the field to the north and descend and come back south.  The result the balloons go over the field and come back and go over again!

Thor with Balloons Above!
Thor with Balloons Above!
Our motorhome at Balloon Fiesta VIP EAST LOT
Our motor home at Balloon Fiesta VIP EAST LOT

Balloon fiesta visitors are treated to a fireworks show most weekend nights with the most amazing ground show I have ever seen. Make sure to pick up some collectible pins to trade or take home as great souvenirs.  Each session is has a fee (one in the morning until 11am and one in the evening starts at 3:30pm). The cost is $8 at the gate or you can find discount tickets and local retailers or print them from Costco.com.

I have called this great city home a few times in my life.  Questions are welcome!

I can’t wait to show you an amazing time lapse video David made of the fiesta!  Stay tuned!

-Mara