November 12 – December 7
The third and final week in Albuquerque was a lot like the first two…visited another Mega Church just to experience it, more libraries, more trips to the Explora (for a final total of 4 visits!), the New Mexico Museum of Science & Natural History (twice), and took advantage of coworking spaces in the city. Some of the other highlights, or at least memorable moments from our time in ABQ:
Brad ran into Holly Holm, one of his favorite UFC fighters, twice. Their conversation went:
Brad, “You’re awesome.”
Holly, “YOU’RE awesome.”
He still gets stars in his eyes when he retells it.
We learned a lot more about camping in Stumbo in temperatures as low as 17 degrees. We have no trouble staying warm & snug inside the trailer, but at those temps keeping all the pipes flowing is a challenge. We’ve invested in heated hoses.
Albuquerque is a really cool city with some great universities, interesting blends of culture, and beautiful scenery. Unfortunately it’s been ranked as one of the worst cities in the US to raise a family due to the extremely high rate of violent crime. We learned that the locals like to change the state motto from “Land of Enchantment” to “Land of Entrapment” because it’s very common for people to break down in the area, fall in love with it, and stay forever.
We visited Petroglyph National Monument to see hundreds of petroglyphs of various ages on the volcanic rocks. We also got to watch roadrunners hunting in the rocks and enjoy jumping around outside after lots of cold days of cabin fever in the trailer. The rocks in the park are so covered with petroglyphs that at one point the sentence, “Dad, you’re sitting on a petroglyph!” was uttered.
I left my favorite REI jacket in the shower facility overnight, and it had disappeared by morning. Ironically, this is a jacket that had been stolen from me once before and returned. I suppose it was just never meant to be mine…
The people at Enchanted Trails RV Park were wonderful and accommodating to us. The community building with shelves full of books & puzzles, pool table, TV room, laundry, and gift shop were all used and appreciated by our family. They made it easy for us to stay as long as needed while we waited on our new galley tank, and even allowed us to pay the monthly rate which brought our cost per night down to the lowest we had paid on the trip so far.
We learned that much like making breaded fish tacos at home, frying fish in the camper leaves a lasting smell. I used a recipe that I thought was less likely to create the issue, but it ended up being worse. The main difference between a lingering cooking smell in a regular house vs a trailer is that every actual item that we owned smelled like fish for over a week. Brad smelled it longer than anyone else, so eventually we just started believing that the residual smell was hanging out in his beard.
We experienced our first windstorm in Albuquerque. Stumbo didn’t rock back and forth as much as I thought it might, so it wasn’t too bad. The only damage was a disconnected hose from a large tumbleweed flying by.
Attack of the tumbleweeds:
We hit our 100th day on the road the week after Thanksgiving, and took the advantage to create our own family holiday based on the milestone. We had a special dinner, decadent black skillet brownies, made silly party hats, and worked a 100-piece puzzle.
There was also enough time in ABQ to look back on everywhere we’ve been so far on this adventure – both geographically and emotionally. In the last couple of months I feel like I’ve come down from the emotional roller coaster that I was on during our transition from regular life into this trip. I didn’t want to proclaim victory over the insanity too soon, in case it was just a phase, but I have finally been feeling like myself again. The process of deciding to take this trip and launching was the most stressful, emotional 6 months of my adult life. I was still definitely feeling the effects of that during the first couple of months of being on the road. Looking back I realize that my emotional dial was always cranked up to 12 – the highs were very high, the lows were very low, and I never felt rested. As the entire family adjusted to a new dynamic, there were moments of very intense frustrations and anger. But I’m really happy to report that things have calmed down immensely. I feel like my emotional dial is back down to the 4-7 range like normal. The four of us have all gotten better at being together for days on end without driving each other crazy. We’ve all worked on new techniques for regaining calm when we DO drive each other crazy. And things have just been good. I feel like my relationship with the girls is in a healthy place, and I’m not sure I could have said that for the past couple of years. It seems like they may actually be getting their fill of “mom-time”, and I feel like that was a crucial need for them at this particular point in time. I’m so grateful for winning the opportunity lottery so that I can pour myself into them during these important developmental stages. And my relationship with Brad is in a good place too. A couple of major improvements came from our realizations that he wasn’t getting enough alone time, and that it’s not fair for me to expect Brad to fill every emotional need in my life just because he’s the main adult that I see everyday.
I also realized that there are some things about our life before that I miss. It’s funny and surprising what kinds of things make me feel sentimental – school photos, pictures of class plays, Christmas traditions. At first I found myself trying to justify to myself why the way were are doing things this year is better, so I shouldn’t be sad. But I think that I lie I was telling myself out of pride and an attempt to distance myself from feeling pain over the things that I miss. I think that the truth is…no matter what path you choose in life, your choice steers you away from the alternatives. So even though I am so glad that we are on this adventure this year, there are things that would have been our reality had we stayed – and I mourn some of those things. If we had decided not to take this trip – there would be things about life on the road that I would have had to mourn. There’s no better way. There’s no right choice. We are just privileged to have a lot of options for the way to live at this moment. So there’s just the way we are doing things – hopefully making a good choice with the cards we have in our hand at any given point – and with each lifestyle choice you have to sacrifice the alternative. So now when I see a picture on facebook of a family attending a Christmas festival that we’ve always attended or hear about a Christmas Eve service like one we would have been involved with or get emails about volunteering at the upconing Elementary School Family Fun night, instead of feeling competitive or angry or left out, I just try to let the sadness of missing that experience be felt fully and then fade away, and I focus on being grateful for the wonderful experiences that we are having on this path.
Our new tank finally arrived in Albuquerque on a Friday afternoon, and the amazing crew at Aloha RV scheduled us for an all day appointment the following Tuesday. We knew there was a slim chance it would take longer than one day to replace, but we were optimistic and made tentative plans to get out of ABQ on Wednesday.
We dropped Stumbo off at Aloha RV shortly after 8:00am with a dozen donuts and relieved smiles that we could finally get the new tank and be on our way. The four of us celebrated our day of homelessness at the ABQ BioPark Zoo. The downside of going to the zoo in December is that it’s chilly and some attractions are closed for the season. The upside, however, is that you basically get the place to yourself! It was a really impressive zoo with a ton of very interesting animals. Some of them – especially the sea lion, gray wolf, and baby orangutan seemed excited that a few humans had come to interact that day.
Who knew it could be so gross to watch a hippo eat?
When we touched base with Aloha RV at 4:00pm, eager for news on whether or not we would be sleeping in our trailer or in a hotel that night, we got the news that they had been able to complete the installation of the new tank – hooray!! But the bad news was….it was leaking in the same spot that our old tank had an issue. Keystone had shipped a defective tank. We talked through a few different options with Aloha to remedy the issue – from waiting another week in ABQ for yet ANOTHER new tank, to having it shipped to a city ahead of us for repair. At the end of the day, Aloha opted to give us every cent of our money back as well as specific details and part numbers for the tank and sent us on our way. With all the hassle they had been through to figure out which kind of tank was needed for our rig and rushing to get the job done for us, a dozen donuts ended up being their only payment. The were great to work with, but I think they were probably relieved to send us on our way. They did cover the leaking area in sealant, so it buys us some time until we will likely have to begin the process of trying to get the tank replaced again.
So on Wednesday, December 7, after 22 days in ABQ waiting on a repair, we finally left the city with a brand new tank, but exactly the same problem.