Our next planned stop after Carlsbad was Las Cruces, which on the map looked like a good spot to hang out and take a side trip to White Sands National Monument and the New Mexico Museum of Space History at Alamagordo. Once we got to the Hacienda RV Resort in Las Cruces, however, the hour-plus drive to Alamagordo wasn’t looking too appealing, and we opted instead to just chill out and hit some of the local wine bistros, which took us into Mesilla, which adjoins Las Cruces to the south.
First, a quick review of the Hacienda RV Resort. We were VERY impressed with this place: it’s very well laid out, has wide paved roads throughout the park, a (nice!) hotel quality office and lounge area, and spacious sites, both back-ins and pull-thrus, covered in crushed rock. It’s close to I-10 without being too close for road noise, and in case you’re itching to look at a new RV or need something repaired, there are two RV dealerships right next door.
Speaking of RV repairs (sorry, I have to digress a moment here!), I wanted to give some kudos to Larry of Larry’s RV and Marine Service. Larry provides mobile on-site repair services, and he was kind enough to fit us into his busy schedule so we could finally get our rig’s power cord (which had been submerged during the tropical storm before we left Florida and had water in it!) replaced. Aside from doing the actual replacement, he took the extra time to find a replacement cord, which is a bit hard to find in local shops. It would have been easy for him to tell me he couldn’t get it done in the time we had, but he went the extra mile, had the job done fast, and was a very nice guy. So, if you’re in the Las Cruces area and need something fixed, please consider giving Larry some business!
Okay, back to our travels! The trip from Carlsbad to Las Cruces on US-180 was, again, pretty uneventful. I’m sure the lack of excitement (like big rigs running over things) is to lull me into a sense of false security, but I am determined to remain vigilant to all forms of natural and man-made disaster!
Speaking of which, one of the things I’ve put on my Amazon to-order list is a CB radio. No, I don’t want to sit there and play “Breaker, breaker!” with the truckers, although that could be fun, too. In truth, some of our travels have taken us over some pretty desolate and not well-traveled roads where even roaming cell phone service was pretty iffy, and I’d like to have another means of communication in case we get stuck out in the middle of nowhere. The other reason is for traffic: we’ve been caught in several jams in the past that, had we been plugged into the truckers chatting about what’s going on and how to get around the problem, we might have been able to avoid. So, when I’m done writing this I’m going to order one to have delivered to the campground where we are now.
Onward to Las Cruces: to be frank, we really didn’t see much of Las Cruces itself other than the Walmart, where we picked up a few items. All the rest of our time was spent wandering around Mesilla, which adjoins Las Cruces a bit south of I-10. Mesilla is just one of those old (from the mid-1800s, in this case) towns that have a ton of character crammed into a small area. While our main targets in our wanderings were the wine bistros, there are also enough shops and restaurants to make any tourist happy for day of handing over your credit card to very nice people so they can take your money in exchange for goodies.
I have to confess that before we began planning this trip, I had no idea that New Mexico and Arizona had so many wineries. Fortunately, this ignorance has now been dispelled! In Mesilla we visited three bistros and wine bars while we wandered the streets like the tourists that we are. Now, I’ll tell you up front that we’re not wine connoisseurs in any way shape or form. But we enjoy wine a lot, with sweeter wines getting the nod over more traditional varieties.
The first place we hit was Luna Rossa, which not only has a wine bar, but serves some of the best pizza you’ll probably ever find. The best part is that it’s just around the corner and in easy walking distance from the Hacienda RV Resort (which is great if you overdo in the wine tasting arena!). I have to confess that while we had some wine with our pizza dinner, we didn’t really sample any of the others, which is doubtless a tragic oversight. Regardless, if you’re in the area and enjoy pizza and/or wine, make sure you stop here for lunch or dinner.
The second place we hit was Josefina’s Old Gate (a.k.a. Josefina’s), which is a gorgeous, quaint little restaurant. I had a chicken quesadilla, which was quite good. Jan had a chicken salad sandwich that she said was the best she’d ever had (and she knows chicken salad!), along with some of the best potato salad either of us has ever eaten. We also sampled some of their wines, and walked out with a bottle to save for later.
Stop number three was at Vintage Wines, which is billed as a premier wine bar (in a very quaint, attractive way) in downtown Mesilla, and from what we saw when we went in, the claim definitely fits. While they have some awesome-tasting wine (we walked out with another bottle), the highlight of our visit was one of the owners, Nicki O’Dell. She was incredibly nice and we had a great talk with her while she was pouring our wine and making some fresh sangria (which, upon reflection, we should have tried, too). For wine-lovers or even wanna-be likers, this is a must-stop place in Mesilla.
The fourth stop we’d planned was at St. Claire’s, which also is close to the RV park (in fact, you could walk to all these places if you’re up to a couple miles hoofing it). Unforunately, we arrived during what signs there announced as “Yappy Hour.” The place was absolutely packed! Not only was their parking lot full, but cars were parked in the dirt lot across the street and curbside everywhere. It was like going to a county fair or something. We figured out the “Yappy” part of Yappy Hour when we saw people emerging from their cars with their dogs, heading into the bistro. Had the place not been so jammed, we would have gone in, but neither Jan nor I are generally big on crowds of people, so we opted out. However, should we pass this way again, we’ll make sure to stop here and see what all the barking is about!
Now, my last comments may ruffle a few feathers (or not). When looking for a restaurant for dinner the night before we were to leave (we spent two nights here), I got a LOT of recommendations for the La Posta Restaurant, so we went there. Now, it’s almost worth going there just for the ambience: this place is sort of like a Mexican-themed Rainforest Cafe. The drinks we had were also quite good (and, in the case of whatever it was that I had, quite potent!). The food, however, was meh, at best. I had the Combination Plate #1, which included a tamale (I love tamales) and a couple other tidbits, and Jan had some soft chicken tacos. Pretty much everything was bland and fairly tasteless, except for the salsa, which was so hot that Jan (who loves Indian and Thai food) couldn’t eat it, and I could only manage it in little dabs on the chips, and the tamale was pretty darn dry. Fortunately, the food there isn’t expensive, but after that it’s not a place I’d recommend when there are other places around like Josefina’s or Luna Rossa with much better food.
And so, with our cache of wine stored away in a cabinet inside the RV, we got ready for the next stop on our trek, which will bring me back to the state where I grew up: Tucson, Arizona.