Tuesday, March 5, 2013


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

We didn’t leave the campground to head toward Holbrook, AZ until nearly noon.  We had already calculated we would rather get to Holbrook before dark. Set up at a leisurely pace and then visit sites tomorrow to celebrate Thanksgiving.

On our last trip through this area in 2008 it had been very cold, rainy and with a prediction of heavy snow moving in, so there were many beautiful things that we’d hoped to see that we’d been unable to do so.  The forecast for the next two days was beautiful so we have great plans.

Today we would be leaving New Mexico and heading into Arizona.  A word of note to all of you that plan to travel to Arizona and do so on your debit and/or credit cards.  Many, many banks will not accept debit or credit card purchases made in Arizona, especially those issued by smaller banks.

I make a habit of letting my financial institutions know when we will be traveling out of state to avoid being very embarrassed due to a decline of payment.  Not one due to my lack of funds because if we don’t have the funds we don’t travel.  I do it because of an incident we once had many, many years ago while traveling to Walt Disney World. 

It was back when we were still using charge cards like they were magic, that will tell you how long ago it was.  At WDW you use a room key or now a wrist band to add purchases to your bill.  Then when you hit a certain amount on that bill they run a charge through on either your debit or credit card to pay for it.  Then you can start your “charges” to your room again.

Because I knew that we’d arrived with a zero balance on our charge card I was startled when guest relations notified me my card had be declined.  I was extremely embarrassed to say the least.  I called the charge card company to find it was a security measure, we were out of our normal area and they were concerned when the large charge came through over 1,000 miles from my home.  A verification that it was us and all was well. 

Ever since then, as I have said before, we have notified the companies when we’d be traveling and to what states.  When I approached our banks about this latest trip each and every one of them warned me that in all likelihood charges in Arizona would not be allowed. 

When I asked why one explained to me that it was not because Arizona itself was a bad state, but because there was a large web hacking ring in the state and they periodically hacked into the central clearing hubs for all of the debit and credit card purchases, grab all the information they needed to create new cards, then sell those cards all over the world.  They had decided that rather than take such a risk they would simply ban all such purchases in that state.

Arizona is one of seven states my banks have this ban on, all for the same reasons.  So before traveling, always check with your bank to avoid embarrassment and inconvenience.

The bank recommended we either travel with cash or with the type of pre-paid cards you can pick up at any number of stores like Wal-Mart, CVS, Walgreens, the banks themselves and many other locations prior to visiting Arizona and the other six states.  So we prepared for this before leaving home.  Or at least we thought we did. More on this as time goes on.  I recommend you check with your own bank before leaving to make certain you don’t find yourself in a bind.

First let’s talk about the rest of New Mexico as we traveled.   We had no plans to make any further stops in New Mexico during this part of the trip so we’d get to Holbrook in plenty of time before dark.  So this next part is about our trip down this stretch of highway in 2008.  Specifically about the Bandera Fire and Ice Volcano and Ice Cave. 

We visited this location in 2008 and were fascinated by the contrast of the two natural phenomena on the same property.  We had camped at a KOA just outside of Grants, New Mexico on the edge of an ancient lava flow. Unfortunately I do not remember the name of the campground or the fees.  I do remember they were very nice people that offered free cereal, coffee and donuts in the mornings and I purchased some interesting critters made out of broom straw to hang on my Christmas tree there. You can figure their rate was low because we have always looked for less expensive places to camp.  Thanks to a few photos I have of the campground you can see it was a very basic campground and the scenery was that of a lava flow.

Like I said earlier,  in 2008 the weather was cold, but that day it was not wet so we decided to drive up to Bandera Snow and Ice. As we drove we climbed higher and higher and was soon surprised to see snow on the trees and ground in various areas. 

We followed the signs for the volcano and ice cave and eventually came up to the gift shop for both.  I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I do remember being surprised that it looked to be a bit ran down and that the fee was a wee bit more than I expected to pay.  But we decided to chance it and pay the fee. 

If you like natural wonders you will enjoy this attraction.  Being from Green Country Oklahoma the stark lava rock with trees struggling to grow up in it was fodder for my camera for certain .

While at that time I was a lot lighter in weight than I am now I still found parts of the climb strenuous and had to seek out places to sit down more than once.  The family that owns the land work hard at keeping the trails in good shape and have added a few benches along the way.  We were most thankful for those benches.

About three fourths the way up my husband tired out and I suggested he wait there while I finish the climb.  While I am normally cautious by nature I was also very curious to be able to actually see down into a volcano, even a dormant one.  So I pushed onward.

I knew I was near the top when guard rails suddenly appeared and I was also suddenly quite happy they were there.  The view was great, but it also made me uneasy.  So if you have any fear of heights this might not be the best activity for you.

After snapping photos, while clinging to the guard rails I eased my way back down to where I’d left my husband, only he wasn’t there sitting on the rocks I’d left him on.  He’d moved on down back to one of the benches and was quietly resting in comfort.  Once I had got my breath back from the strenuous hike we went on to the ice cave that is on the same property.

The hike to it was much flatter and enjoyable.  They had some ruins areas for exhibit and the area was clean and well maintained.

I have to admit I don’t know what I was expecting with the ice cave, but I was a little disappointed. 

After having visited many caves in my life the shallow ice cave just kind of fell flat in my expectations.  It was pretty, and the water that filled the opening was definitely frozen solid, naturally.  But it was shallow and you weren’t allowed to even enter it.  The walkway down into the cave is a long set of steep stairs that, while are easy to navigate going down, will make you thankful for all the places to stop and rest going back up.

Would I recommend visiting the Bandera Fire and Ice, yes but be in very good shape when you do.  I definitely wouldn’t consider it if I had trouble walking or moving around.

Now back to 2012.  We remembered from our previous trip that the cheapest fuel to be found in our trip would be just as we crossed into the border to Arizona at the Painted Cliffs.  So we made certain we had the cash in hand just in case the debit cards would not work before leaving New Mexico.  It is a good thing we did, because even that close to the border the debit card didn’t work.

The photos at the right were taken in both 2008 and 2012.  It was raining when we were there in 2008 and so they were taken from the dryness of the truck.  The 2012 ones were taken at the rest area there when we stopped to have a snack and enjoy the view. 

The gift shop shown in the photos was closed while we were there both times.  So we never got to visit the Yellowhorse Gift Shop.

After leaving the Painted Cliffs We moved on toward Holbrook, AZ our destination for the day. 

We reached there safely and set up for a two night stay at the OK RV Park With our discounts the fee was $26 per night and we arrived just prior to the office closing down for the holiday.  The campground was nearly empty so we pretty much had our choice of sites.  All were level and pull through which suited us just fine.  We were warned to disconnect our water hose at night due to possible freezing temperatures.  We were also warned that if the forecast was below a certain temperature the water to the entire park, with the exception of one bathroom would be cut off until the temperatures climbed back up.  Fortunately the forecast was not for that low, so all was good.

I noticed a sign in the registration lobby I’d never seen before, but saw it again several more times later on in our travels.  It stated that recreational vehicles older than a certain age would not be allowed in the park without prior inspection.  I guess this is a sign of the times when more and more people are keeping their older rvs to live in fulltime.   Luckily our fifth wheel was new enough it did not require inspection. 

I mention the sign as a head’s up to people who are thinking about getting an older RV for travel and full time living.  You may run into such signs all through the US as more and more campgrounds get strict about the age of the rvs.

Once we were all set-up I fixed Sausage Balls for dinner.  I know they are suppose to be served as an appetizer, but that was the type of food we were interested in that night.  So that is what we had.  What can I say we are baaaad people. LOL!

We went to bed early because we had a full day of activities planned for the next day, which was Thanksgiving.

Jan who enjoyed her trip immensely away from OK

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