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Sugarite Canyon

June 10, 2006—Storrie Lake got noisy last weekend, as it usually does. It's like this at any campground, at least in the summer: weekends bring an influx of people, especially families, and families mean kids and dogs and noise. Choosing a site without hookups helps me to avoid the worst of this, because families usually want plug-in power for their TV sets and microwave ovens... but Storrie Lake is right on the main highway, just three miles from a sizable town, so even the dry-camping sites here fill up on weekends.

And then there are the powerboats zipping around the lake. Fun to watch... but on a June weekend they can sound like a swarm of bees—especially the jet skis. (Although I must admit that to this former motorcyclist, they look like a blast!)

Jet ski

After spending Sunday afternoon listening to the boaters buzzing around, and the extended family in the next campsite blasting "MEGA 104.1, NEW MEXICO'S NUMBER ONE LATIN HIP HOP STATION!!!" on their car radios, I decided to move on the next day. Besides, it was getting hot and sweaty, and I hate humid weather. Of course, as soon as I'd made up my mind and started to pack, evening descended, the hip-hoppers pulled out, and Storrie Lake treated me to one last beautiful sunset.

Sunset clouds

Monday morning I drove into Las Vegas, NM, where I stocked up on groceries and propane. Then I headed north toward Sugarite Canyon State Park, just a few miles shy of the Colorado border. The 115-mile drive over mostly flat countryside was uneventful until I reached the park... but then it got steeper and steeper.

Sugarite (pronounced "SHOO gah reet") has several campgrounds. I stopped first at the Alice Lake campground—the one with hookups—and looked around. Not only was it full of big rigs packed closely together, but there was absolutely no view due to the dense trees and the deep-in-a-valley location.

The host recommended the upper "Soda Pocket" dry-camping area. This was a bit like Villanueva's upper "El Cerro" campground, only instead of a few hundred feet of steep, twisty, rocky, dirt road, this one is at the end of two miles of steep, twisty, rocky, dirt road! I took it in first gear all the way, and much of the time Gertie was barely managing five mph—I wasn't at all sure she'd make it. The 7,700 foot altitude didn't help, of course. That's the drawback of having an old rig whose engine lacks computer controls that can adjust for altitude. Step too hard on the gas, and you'll just flood the engine. I didn't dare let Gertie stall on a steep, narrow road like this—I might have had to give up and back down the whole way!

So the climb was somewhat nerve-wracking, but I made it—and it was worth it! I had my choice of campsites, and picked one with a glorious panoramic view of mountains and valleys out my back window. The weather was cool and refreshing at this mile-and-a-half-high altitude.

Sunrise behind Gertie

The next morning I woke up early and went for a walk, keeping an eye out for bears (this area has lots). The sun was just rising, painting the cliffs above me reddish orange and the clouds pink.

Sunrise cliff

The next day Kate and Terry arrived, having fled the heat at Storrie Lake. Kate and I set to work on various projects, as we always do—the two of us are full of good ideas for each other's rigs. The current project was adding reflective trim, purchased from the StreetGlo website, which offers an amazing variety of reflective items, including fancy custom decals.

We started simple, by adding two 1/4" blue pinstripes all the way around Gertie. (I had already changed the rear "LAZY DAZE" logo to a bright red reflective version a couple of months ago.) At Kate's suggestion, I also outlined the Chevy logo on the grille with blue. By day, the pin-striping was unnoticeable. But after sunset, with headlights shining on the rig, it looked great!

Gertie's new stripes

We also added a little surprise under the hood for the next mechanic who works on Gertie. Encouraged, we tackled Kate's rig, "Cholula Red"—named after a brand of Mexican hot sauce that's popular here. I took this photo in the nearby Raton supermarket (which by the way was pretty poor, especially the produce section).

Cholula sauce

Kate had ordered a 27" wide custom three-color decal from StreetGlo, and we picked it up at the Raton post office the day after they arrived. After removing the oval "LD" emblem from the upper part of her spare tire cover, we carefully followed the StreetGlo directions. (They even provide an installation video on their website.) Two hours later when we slowly peeled off the backing, the result was magnificent—and it looked even better by night!

Cholula decal

The day had been overcast (which was good for applying the decal), and late in the afternoon a thunderstorm erupted, followed by a spectacular double rainbow that arched all the way across the valley behind us.

Cholula rainbow

Later, as the sun sank and the storm clouds dissipated, Terry took this wonderful picture of Gertie. This is boondocking at its best!

Gertie and cloud
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