“OK, so let me get this straight,” said the Innkeeper – well, strictly speaking he was a shopkeeper, but we won’t let little details like that get in the way of a good story – “you three strangers have travelled far from a Kingdom in the East.”
“Er, yes, we’re from the United Kingdom, just outside London actually.”
“And you have arrived here on Christmas Eve in the middle of a terrible storm seeking shelter and lodging?” he was beginning to sound more and more sceptical.
“Sort of just a place to park up really, we won’t be any bother.”
“Well there’s no rooms here, but you can stay for as long as you like in the stable, er, carpark I mean.” And so began threeinavan’s first Christmas on the road…
We had actually been aiming to spend Christmas Day at Fenton Lake State Park in New Mexico’s Jemez Mountains, a spot that is apparently incredibly scenic, great for fishing and of passing fame as a filming location in the 1967 film The Man Who Fell to Earth. However, as we passed the birthplace of the atomic bomb at Los Alamos the snow had started falling and grown increasingly heavy as we gained height travelling through the Valles Caldera National Preserve. It was one of those difficult situations, with the weather being not quite bad enough to turn back, but clearly getting increasingly more serious the further we pushed on and the more height we gained. Eventually we realised that we probably wouldn’t make it to Lake Fenton, and even if we did there was a real chance that we wouldn’t be able to make it back out again. Turning back we remembered seeing a small building standing almost alone next to the road some miles back, and that is what brought us to Amanda’s Jemez Mountain Country Store an hour or so before it closed on Christmas Eve.
As things turned out we had an amazing white Christmas Day, which started with a long forest walk with bright blue skies above and fresh powdery snow under foot. For the rest of the day the van kept us warm and snug, and of course there was no shortage of food, cheese, wine and port on the table and the traditional Christmas film Die Hard on the TV. We managed to drive out of Jemez on Boxing Day during a break in the weather and within hours found ourselves a couple of thousand feet lower in desert and sunshine. Albeit unplanned, we think our first vanlife Christmas can be called a success… I wonder where we’ll be next year?