It’s Not What You Would Expect

If our gas heater hadn’t screwed the pooch on a freakishly cold night while we were dry camping in the mountains, and if we hadn’t ignored our struggling electrical system until it was fried, we would never have ended up singing and playing music with Toni and Rick in the clubhouse of a tiny campground in Silver City, New Mexico.

We got there by way of a road we had inadvertently chosen a few weeks ago when we decided to camp in the Chisos Basin in Big Bend. Like two giddy nitwits, we ran our battery down and fried the circuit board of our furnace. Choosing to ignore the many symptoms that our camper was sending us with its various bleeps and flashing lights, we kept going and made our way as far as Silver City where we discovered, at the end of a very long day of driving, that our electrical system was toast.

Exhausted, cold, and frustrated, we threw up our hands and checked into a hotel, intending to find an RV repair place the following day.

Seeing our distress, the campground hostess mentioned that there was another couple in the campground with a Casita who had also had electrical problems. On our  way to the hotel, we knocked on their door.

Toni and Rick could not have been any nicer or more helpful. They recommended a repairman in Deming, NM and offered to loan us a voltmeter—as if we would have known what to do with it— and off we went to an Econolodge for the night.

White Sands National Monument

White Sands National Monument

Coincidentally, it had been another set of weird circumstances that had lead us to Silver City in the first place. After Marfa, Texas, we thought we would head north toward Carlsbad, New Mexico so that we could see the caverns and visit White Sands.

I had imagined that Carlsbad was a adobe oasis of quaintitude, and that the caverns were made of crystal. I was wrong about the town and the caverns, proving once again that expectations are a waste of energy. The caverns were awe-inspiring for sure, but what I could never have imagined or predicted was the unparalleled excellence of our tour guide, Alicia.

We hiked through the natural entrance, down 800 feet to The Big Room where a food concession loomed up unexpectedly. We met up with about twenty other people and obediently assembled in front of Ranger Alicia. Over and over she stressed the need to use the bathroom before embarking on our ninety minute tour, admonishing us that if we found ourselves spontaneously incontinent in the caves, we would have to have recourse to a “convenience bag”, which she would provide.

Before long, My Royal Consort and I were snickering and cracking jokes, which thanks to the cavernous echo, was overheard and volleyed back to us by two equally hilarious guys walking behind us. What made Alicia’s grade school presentation bearable was her verbal tic of ending each sentence with a sotto voce drawn out, pre-orgasmic porn star, “yeeeah”, which, because of the cavernous echo, everyone could hear perfectly. “These monumental columns of calcium-rich limestone were formed when the stalagtite touched the stalagmite. Yeeeaaahhhhhhh.”

The weather was freakishly cold and miserable, and unbeknownst to us, Carlsbad, where we had decided we would stay, is in the middle of an oil boom and is a toxic dump of the highest order. We ended up paying fifty bucks a night to stay in a KOA, the only place we could find that wasn’t too gross, except for when the shit winds blew the foul reek of the oil and gas rigs over the campground. After touring the caverns and buying a space heater, we decided we would head west to Arizona as fast as we could.

This business of light shooting down from above is the real thing. I've seen it a few times now.

This business of light shooting down from above is the real thing. I’ve seen it a few times now.

On our way west out of Carlsbad, the landscape changed from desert to New England mountain ski village back to dessert, finally ending in the spectacular mountains and grasslands of Silver City, NM, where we spontaneously decided we would go after seeing billboards announcing that Silver City had over thirty art galleries and three hundred and fifty species of birds.

The next morning we bolted from the Econolodge and backtracked fifty miles to Jimmy’s RV in Deming and confessed our many sins. Jimmy quickly got to the bottom of our electrical problems. Not only that, but he patiently answered all our embarrassing electrical questions while keeping a straight face.

Trying hard to not have expectations, we ended up delighted by the misfortune that had lead us back to Deming. As we drove to Jimmy’s, we tried not to speculate on worst case scenarios. I was secretly worried that the electrical problem might have been caused by our truck’s charge wire and that we would be stuck in Deming with no way to escape.


The artists did all sorts of representative images on the vessels, but I personally like the intensely graphic and geometric designs the most.

The charge wire was fine, so Jimmy sent us away for a few hours while he worked on the camper. Deming turned out to be a sweet little western town, with one of the most comprehensive local history museums I had ever had the pleasure of visiting. Aside from the highly entertaining collection of old western saddles, geodes, toys, medical devices and everyday objects, the museum has a beautiful collection of Mimbres pottery.

When we got back to the campground where we had tried to stay the night before, Rick and Toni invited us into their tiny Casita for a glass of wine. We got along famously and that is how we ended up singing and playing music together in the clubhouse.

The camp ground, owned and operated by the gracious Mr. and Mrs. Manzano, is one of those unexpected gems, where creature comforts are met in a very understated, yet practical way. There is an immaculate clubhouse with laundry, shower, a kitchen, a room filled with jigsaw puzzles, and a lending library of videos and magazines. The campground itself is small and lovingly tended.

Silver City turned out to be a beautiful place filled with interesting architecture and unselfconsciously fun places to eat and shop. The triumph of the day was finding a baggy full of curtain hooks, which we had coveted ever since we saw how Rick and Toni had used them to create hangers in their Casita. No sooner had we gotten over the curtain hangers, we stumbled upon artwork worthy of consideration for our Casita Pimping Initiative. We actively resisted the urge to go to a bar, preferring to save that adventure for another day, after we had hiked any one of the surrounding trails.

I have no expectations of how that will be.


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  1. Al Fermeglia says:

    You are such a good writer. Thanks again for sharing these great stories.Enjoy the next leg of your journey.

    1. admin says:

      Thank you, Al. You are such a good reader! I really appreciate your loyalty and all your fun comments.

  2. Ken says:

    Two quick things… “desert” only has one S. I think your spellcheck may not be playing nice.

    Second, if you pass through Tucson, I can highly recommend El Sur on 22nd and Craycroft for inexpensive, but really good Mexican food. We used to live just up the street from there… Also, further down on Craycroft is Mama Louisa’s, if you are in the mood for Italian (get “Joe’s Special”).

    Happy trails!

    1. admin says:

      Thank you! I love Tucson and can’t wait to get back there. We might even have eaten at the Mexican place you recommended–I do remember having some really nice Mexican food while we were there last year. Thanks also for the spell check…writing while drinking (just kidding). I caught the dessert/desert thanks to my good friend and personal pro bono copy editor, Peter. Take care and thanks for commenting.

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