FARMINGTON — Neither destructive rainstorms nor the shutdown of the federal government deterred a caravan of 64 people from hauling their iconic recreation vehicles across the Southwest to explore the natural wonders of the region.
As part of a package set up by Wally Byam Caravan Club International, 34 groups of people are wrapping up a two-month trip through New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado and Utah. The club is an RV organization named after the inventor of the Airstream travel trailer, which can be recognized by its distinct, round aluminum body.
Parked Wednesday in a corner of the McGee Park parking lot near the San Juan County Fairgrounds, the 31 Airstream trailers and three motor homes formed an L-shape whose shiny, metal exterior reflected across the parking spaces. The group arrived in San Juan County on Tuesday and departed on Friday morning, bound for Albuquerque and the International Balloon Fiesta.
John Larson was traveling with his brothers, Harold and David, and sister-in-law, Donna. They used the caravan to spend time together as a family.
"We are on the Southwest caravan, where we will travel the Southwest in one big circle across 50 days," Larson said. "The trailers are very distinctive in contrast to other trailers."
The goal of the trip is to visit regions of the four states that casual tourists doesn't see.
Of the national parks the group has visited, Larson said the only park they were unable to see was the Aztec Ruins National Monument because of the government shutdown.
When attempting to visit the Capitol Reef National Park in Torrey, Utah, the group ran into some of the strong rainstorms that plagued the region in September.
"When we got there, the big rainstorm had happened and most of it was washed out," Larson said.
For one group of travelers, the desert climate of the Four Corners area was a change of pace from their Georgia home.
John Neely and Sylvia Swain, who live in Butler, Ga., have been good friends for about 40 years. The pair have traveled together the last four years after Neely's wife died five years ago and Swain's husband passed away 10 years ago.
"She likes to see new things. We both do," Neely said. "We've been north of the Arctic Circle. We've been to Newfoundland to Key West (Fla.) to the Texas border."
Swain said she always wanted to travel, and Neely gave her to opportunity to join him.
"Mesa Verde (National Park) was one of my favorite places," Swain said. "It's all been interesting. The mountains have been beautiful. The colors are great."
Returning from a trip Thursday to the Salmon Ruins in Bloomfield, Rae Gilbert said she enjoyed the camaraderie the group of travelers has formed during the trip. Traveling with her husband, Ronn, she was excited to tour the country after she retired from working as a nurse.
"When you work 40 something years in a career and you retire, you never had a chance to see America until then," Rae Gilbert said.