New Mexico started of with a bang, or maybe we should say more of a screeching sound coming from the rear axle of our truck. We had just pulled out of Durango, Colorado and were on a long stretch of highway headed toward Albuquerque, New Mexico and something on the truck didn’t sound right. We pulled into a gas station to take a look. After looking over the rotors and breaks nothing seem to catch our attention as an immediate issue. We hopped back in and kept driving…..screeeeeeech!
Luckily we made it into Albuquerque that evening and found a campground, I made a call to Pep Boys, knowing they specialize in brakes and such and usually have parts on hand. We took the truck in at 7:30 the next morning for the free consultation and knowing that something was wrong. To kill some time we walked down to Starbucks for coffee. At 8:30am we got the call from Pep Boys. Everything was wrong. Our brake pads were almost gone, our shoes and rotors were rusted together, and the back brake shoe had snapped in half. (That was the terrible sound we had been hearing.) The total damage? Just north of $1500. That was a blow we were not expecting. W e sat in stunned disappointed silence for a while, wondering what our next move was.
As we sat pondering our life we thought back to our childhood stories we used to hear, Robin Hood, The Lion King, and even Toy Story. An epic journey always always comes with setbacks. Have you ever seen a Disney movie where the hero marches into the village to save and princess and all adversaries lay down their weapons and slow clap him into victory? No. Did Simba quit when Rafiki hit him in the head with his stick? Did Woody stop when there was a snake in his boot?! No!! They kept fighting until they reached their prize! We had no choice but to continue the journey. Unfortunately the fix that was only supposed to take until noon, took until 4:00pm. This presented another problem because we were suppose to check out of our campsite at 1:00pm. I had spoken with the campground office three times updating them of our status of “no wheels on the truck” and they were fairly accommodating to our plight. When we arrived back at the campground the office had closed and the camp “host” was all that was there. I stopped by her trailer to pay for our extra night. “I hear you are a lucky boy!” She said mockingly. “Why is that?” I asked in obvious confusion. “Well, your trailer didn’t get towed, we had that site reserved for tonight.” I tried to remain calm and explained that I had my truck in the shop all day getting fixed and had no way to come back and move my camper. Not only that, there were 40 other open campsites at this campground, it was a Tuesday. “Well, maybe next time that happens you should call and tell someone,” She replied. “I called at 9:00am.” I told her flatly and left the office. Later that evening as she walked her small dog around the loop of the campground, Olive got up and barked hysterically at her and the dog. Olive usually doesn’t bark at people, but I guess she is a pretty good judge of character. Every good hero needs their noble steed when the time is right.
The next morning we packed up and hit the road headed south for Gila National Forest. We had planned to stay at a forest service campground (for free) over Memorial weekend but wanted to get there early knowing everyone loves to camp on that weekend. As we twisted and turned down the highway that navigates the forest our breaks began to smell like burning rubber. We had roughly 7 miles on highway 15 to get to our campsite. Seven miles of nail biting, downhill, 7 percent grade miles, in 90 degree heat. Just as we reached the campground our breaks started smoking, we pulled over and got out to let them cool and stretch our legs. “Fire! Shit!”, I yelled pointing to the front wheels and running around like an idiot. Tara grabbed the camper key and flung the door open, I grabbed the fire extinguisher off the wall and pulled the pin like a hand-grenade, throwing the pin 40 feet into the woods. My park and rec training took over and I pointed the nozzle at the tire and let it rip, no doubt saving countless lives, and my truck tires, and possibly the entire Gila National Forest.
We limped the truck and trailer to a camp spot and let it cool the rest of the day, hoping the brake pads would bounce back. We planned to do an overnight backpack to Jordan Hot Springs the next day, Saturday of Memorial weekend. We were both looking forward to, partly because nothing could go wrong with the truck when we weren’t using it.
The hike started out hot and dry, but after only two miles it slowly began to descend into a canyon. Usually there is a stream that runs along this part of the trail but New Mexico is severely dry right now, it hasn’t rained in over 60 days. As you descend further into the canyon the heat begins to subside and before you know it the West Fork Gila River appears four miles into the trek. We followed the river Northwest for the next three miles, crossing it back and forth, until we came out at a flat clearing with multiple tents set up. That was are cue that we had made it. We found a flat spot and set up camp, threw our suits on and set out in search of the hot springs. They were roughly 20 yards up the mountain and dammed with a wall of rocks creating a soaking pool large enough to fit 15 people. We slid in and soaked away the aches of carrying a backpack 7 miles over the mountains.
Sunday we hiked out and decided to head to Silver City. It was Tara’s 28th birthday and no one wants to spend their birthday at a hot campground in the middle of the desert with no phone reception. We packed up the camper, said a little prayer that there would be no more fire, and headed south for civilization. We were apprehensive that we would able to find a spot on the last night of Memorial but fate was swinging back in our direction. We snagged the last spot at Silver City RV park, located near Downtown, grabbed showers and headed for a beer at Little Toad Creek Brewery. The beer was good but the live music was even better. The place was packed but we managed to grab a table to enjoy the evening.
We spent three days in Silver City, enjoying the ease of town life. Showers nearby, WiFi, TV, and all the nice perks of town. We did take a day trip to City of Rocks State Park which is basically a pile of huge boulders in the desert. Now that may not seem very cool, but it was worth the drive. The boulders have paths through them where you can go up, over, or around creating a playground for adults…and kids too, I suppose.
Our last stop in New Mexico was Head of the Ditch Forest Service Campground just outside of Luna. We didn’t expect too much but picked it because it had a creek and was free. We loved it. It was full of large Ponderosa Pines and hardly anyone was staying there. We ended up staying an extra day. Tara sunbathed and Olive and I went on an exploration hike. We ended up finding this amazing cliff for sunset and even saw some Elk near the stream. As 7:00 pm approached we hiked up a nearby cliff and tied the hammock on the ledge. We mixed up some Moscow Mules and enjoyed the sun setting over the mountains of the Gila National Forest.
The battle was over and the heros had overcome the many obstacles New Mexico had presented. They had fought through fire and heat, and throngs of people over the Memorial Day weekend. They had found their way through the boulder field to reach safety. And now, they had climbed the highest mountain in search of sunsets and refreshments, finding both and ending their quest. New Mexico was indeed a journey but perseverance usually ends with great rewards.