Day 20: 01/15/2016 – Joshua Tree National Park

Day20RouteDestination: Jumbo Rocks Campground, Joshua Tree National Park

Route: I-10W, National Park Roads

Mileage: 133 miles                                New state: California

Dutch and his pup.
Dutch and his pup.

It is time to hit the road again! But before we go we spend the morning hanging out with Marilee and the Toyota crew. They are great people and it is educational to check out their rigs to see the modifications they made and pick up tips on living in a condensed space. One such person is Dutch. A Texan who met his wife in Colorado (where she is visiting family at the time of our stop in Quartzsite), they sold their house and became rubber tramps a couple of years ago. Great person to get ideas from and learn about full-time RV living. We finish up our time in Quartzsite chatting with Marilee; we need to leave in relatively good order so we can grab a site in the first come first serve Jumbo Rocks campground.

Lunch of champions: pulled pork fries and funnel cake.
Lunch of champions: pulled pork fries and funnel cake.

As we are leaving, we decide to stop at our favorite food truck and get lunch for the road. Abandoning the poutine, we opt for the pulled pork fries and the funnel cake. Lunch of champions people. Alex got fries and pulled pork, but fruit is substituted for the funnel cake. Alex falls asleep with bits of pork on his shirt, which Penny so kindly cleans (very gently, can’t wake the toddler) off of him.

SignLA
Follow the green signs!
SignCALine
Hello California! So glad we made it.

As we approach the highway, it is straight ahead, at full speed! California, here we come! Approximately 30 minutes on the road, we see the sign we have spent 20 days driving towards – the California state line! We still have a hurdle to cross before we can be officially admitted into the state – the agricultural inspection station. As we slow down to stop, the agent just waves us through and seems annoyed that we slowed down. Onward!

We reach exit 168 that will take us into Jumbo Rocks. As we are approaching the park entrance, who do we see boon-docking on BLM land? The Wynns from Gone with the Wynns! The solar array on their motorhome and teal logo on their smart car are pretty solid identifiers. Full-timers in a class A, we have picked up helpful tips and hints from their website. Especially in the regard to solar power and coach batteries. A quick stop to say hi and thanks for the inspiration, and we are on the road enter Joshua Tree National Park.

Joshua Tree is located where the Mojave (western half of park, 3000 feet plus above sea level) and Colorado (eastern half of park, below 3000 feet above sea level) deserts converge. Mojave flora includes pinyon pines, junipers, scrub oaks, Mojave yuccas, Mojave prickly pear cacti, Parry’s nolina, and, of course, the Joshua tree (a species of yucca). Mojave fauna includes antelope ground squirrel, yucca night lizard, black-tailed jackrabbit, common raven, American kestrel, loggerhead shrike, red-tailed hawk, Scott’s oriole, western screech owl, and the southwester speckled rattlesnake. The Colorado desert’s flora includes palo verde, ocotillo, smoke tree, brittlebush, chuparosa, sand verbena, pencil cholla, and dune primrose. The kit fox, kangaroo rat, zebratail lizard, LeConte’s thrasher, tiny checkerspot butterfly, and the western diamondback rattle snake are the fauna that inhabit the Colorado desert.

The piles of boulders are impressive to see.  The rocks are granite, formed by magma intruding on the Pinto genesis formation underground. As the granite cooled, horizontal and vertical cracks were formed. As the granite was uplifted, ground water caused chemical weathering, which widened the cracks and rounded the edges. The soil eroded, resulting in the heaps of monzogranite seen today.

We arrive at Jumbo Rocks, and there aren’t many spots left. Fortunately, there are a couple of other campground options that we drove by that seemed sparsely populated with campers. Luck was on our side, and we found a spot to wedge ourselves into. Not nearly as bad as our first night at Big Bend, but not ideal. After we settle in, we take a short hike to Skull Rock. Nothing too strenuous and it gets us out of the RV after the day’s drive. We don’t want to be gone too long since there is a special program at the amphitheater tonight.

While we are eating dinner, there is a knock on the door. It was Ranger Doug informing us about the program at the amphitheater. We had planned on going, hence the early dinner time, and finish up so we can be on time. The desert night is a bit chilly, so we bundle up and walk to the amphitheater. Ranger Doug is traveling across the country informing people about the posters the WPA (remember those school lessons about the New Deal?) printed for the National Parks between 1938 and 1941. Many of the original posters have been lost or forgotten in archives. Multiple versions for a single park have also been discovered. It is a fascinating talk at the time and effort into the reproduction process is staggering. If the opportunity presents itself to hear Ranger Doug speak, one should seize it; he is enthusiastic in his mission and knowledgeable. As always, it is early to bed, for what we hope is an early to rise.

Day 19: 01/14/2016 – Quartzsite, AZ

Destination: Quartzsite, AZ Day19Route

Route: I-10W

Mileage: 238

We are on the road again after a hospitality filled stop with Nils and Felicia! We are off to Quartzsite, AZ to meet Dave’s cousins Tom and Marilee at an RV rally for Toyota chassis RVs. We will be parking in the SOB (Some Other Brand) section of the Toyota group, which we can only hope is not next to portable toilets.

Quartzsite’s population, as determined by the 2010 census, was 3,677. The population swells during the winter months as RV, looking to escape the snow and cold, descend like locusts to enjoy average high temperatures in the mid-60s to mid-70s. Folks leave before the summer heat begins.  National Geographic Magazine sets the scene.

By mid-January the mechanical car counter at the Interstate 10 exit is ticking off 26,000 vehicles a day. Within weeks 175,000 RVs cram inches apart into 9 trailer parks, onto front yards, and spill out seven miles on either side of town. Every year more than a million people reset their internal navigation and drive from Everywhere, North America, to this western Arizona dot on the map. Luxury motor homes, fifth wheels, cab-over campers, trailers, and converted school buses plunk down on the same patch of land.

QuartzsiteToyotas
Abby hiding among the Toyotas

We arrive and are welcomed warmly by the group. Abby is a giant among the Toyotas and we tuck ourselves in at the end of the area roped off for the group. There is nary a porta-potty in sight. Marilee is still traveling from Pasadena, CA, so we settle in and decide to go exploring.

QuartzsitePaintedBus
Driver side of the converted school bus.
QuartzsitePaintedBus2
Passenger side of the converted school bus.

The National Geographic description is spot on. RVs keep pouring into campsites in town as well as heading to the surrounding BLM land. And they are coming in various shapes and sizes. Our walk down down the main drag brings us across this converted school bus. Not the most luxurious vehicle out there, but it gets the job done. The artwork is rather impressive. We are thrilled when we discover a food truck with poutine! True poutine with cheese curds, it is not. But the fries are hand cut and the gravy is quite decent. It is topped with mozarella cheese, but we can’t be poutine purists in Arizona. It is a fantastic mid-afternoon snack and Alex approves.

Refreshed, we continue our wanderings. If you need to find something for your RV, there is likely a vendor here selling the part or can get the part for you. Crossing Central Boulevard, the swap meet expands to epic proportions. If you need some sort of mineral, you need to visit Quartzsite. We start browsing the display trailers at the RV show; no intent to replace Abby, just curious to see what is out there and we don’t make it past the fifth wheels. There are some appealing floor plans, like the one with a second bedroom. It might be nice sleeping more than 3 feet away from Alex.

Quartzsite_Buses
Converted buses in Quartzsite, AZ

With the display trailers being locked up, we abandon exploring and head back to camp to chat with Marilee and get dinner going. The converted bus contingent has grown stronger in our absence.

 

Day 17 & 18: 01/12 & 01/13/2016 – Oro Valley, AZ

Destination: Oro Valley, AZ Day17Route

Route: US-60W, NM-12E, US-180E, AZ-78W, US-191S, I-10W

Mileage: 390 miles

New state: Arizona

We have a schedule to keep, and Guy and Sharon have commitments. We had a wonderful visit and hit the road around 9 am. Guy gave us some excellent advice on a scenic route to Oro Valley. Since we can’t achieve 65 mph anyway on the highway anyway, the scenic route fits right into our agenda.

VLA
Cell phone photo of the VLA.

The drive does not disappoint. We drive by the NRAO Very Large Array (VLA – think the movie ‘Contact’) and are surprised that it is so compact. We cross railroad tracks and discover, with a bit of research, that the tracks are for moving the arrays around the valley. There are beautiful high mountain meadows along the drive.

 

We see snow again the Gila National Forest, and, alas for Penny, do not stop. It should be noted that this part of the trip is pretty desolate and there are not many opportunities for gas and even fewer for diesel. We are glad for the topped of tank before leaving Socorro and stop in Safford, AZ to fill up and purchase Powerball tickets (did not win).

On I-10, it is very strange to see so much traffic after the isolation in West Texas and New Mexico. We arrive at our friends Nils and Felicia’s house around 7 to a delicious dinner. The dogs are thrilled to be allowed into the house; all our previous stops they stayed in the RV overnight. Alex is put to bed and laundry is done while catching up.

Dave_RestoCycle
Dave hard at work at RestoCycle

The next day, Nils takes Dave to visit his business, RestoCycle, which does  vapor blasting and restores Japanese motorcycles. Jess, sensing that this trip could take awhile, opts to relax at the house with Alex and Felicia. This is a wise call because Dave is shanghaied into motorcycle repair. Although, one could argue, he seems awful happy about it. Another fantastic dinner and off for to sleep on a real mattress one last time before our final week in the RV. It was a great rejuvenation stop with Nils and Felicia.

Day 15 & 16: 01/10 & 01/11/2016 – Socorro, NM

Destination: Socorro, NMDay15Route

Route: US-285N, US-380W, I-25N

Mileage: 236

Today we head to Socorro, NM to visit with Dave’s cousin Guy and Guy’s wife Sharon. They have horses so we have been working hard with Alex that horses are not cows and therefore say ‘neigh’ not ‘moo’. It doesn’t appear to be sticking.

We arrive to a warm welcome and settle in. We originally planned to stay in the RV, but after looking at the weather forecast, we opt for the guest house. The temperatures are supposed to drop into the high teens, too cold for us to stay in Abby.

Settlement on our house is coming up in a few days. We confirm we filled out the paperwork properly and fax the notarized documents back to Dave’s real estate office in Delaware.

After a relaxing dinner, we break out Horse Monopoly once Alex is down for the night. It is a game filled with shifting alliances, business deals gone bad, and a mega-merger. The conglomerate is successful in driving the smaller mom and pop shop out of business and the conversations are a bit testy by the end of the night. Best quote of the night is aimed at Guy by his daughter. ‘It is awful convenient that you decide to become a Democrat in order to win at Horse Monopoly.’

Alex hiking in a Canyon near Socorro, NM.
Alex hiking in a Canyon near Socorro, NM.

Monday we take the dogs and Alex for a hike on some BLM land with Guy and Sharon. The dogs are thrilled to run around and Penny even got to roll in snow that remained in the shady portions of the canyon. Alex is so tired, he falls asleep after 5 minutes in the car.

Later that day we go to the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge. The sandhill cranes aren’t cooperating, but we see a blue heron, ducks (so many ducks), and a mule deer. On the bright side, Alex can clearly identify a horse and even clucked at the chickens.

We have a fabulous time, but need to hit the road again January 12 so Guy and Sharon can return to their regular schedule and to make sure we arrive on time in Davis.

Quotes from Stairway to Heaven

‘. . . There’s a feeling I get when I look to the west and my spirit is crying for leaving . . . . Yes, there are two paths you can go by but in the long run there’s still time to change the road you’re on . . .’

Stairway to Heaven, Led Zeppelin

Day 14: 01/09/2016 – Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Destination: Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Route: US-180W, US-62W

Mileage: 40

Today is a day trip to Carlsbad Caverns! Well, with a side trip to the Carlsbad, NM proper for some fun with house sale closing documents. Our house went under contract in December 2015 and since we are clearly no longer in Delaware, we are doing something called ‘signing outside of closing’. In other words we sign all the documents prior to closing, scan the signed documents, email the pdf files back to our closing coordinator, and get the originals in the mail to return to the coordinator post haste. If all is timed just right the originals will be in the attorney’s hands the day of closing. If all does not go well, the electronic documents suffice while the originals documents enjoy the hospitality of the USPS.

The closing documents arrived via email Friday and we printed all the documents in the Carlsbad public library. What we need on a lovely Saturday morning is a notary to witness and notarize several of the documents. As luck would have it, the Wells Fargo in Carlsbad has a public notary. We spend approximately an hour waiting for the notary, one of the bank managers. Papers signed and notarized, we continue south to the caverns.

Abby parked at the Carlsbad Caverns visitors center.
Abby parked at the Carlsbad Caverns visitors center.

We arrive at the caverns and get Abby and the dogs tucked away. It is a cool and partly cloudy day so the dogs will be find hanging out in the RV with plenty of water and the ceiling vents cracked. We initially forget our National Parks Annual Pass, and Dave returns to the RV to get the pass. This will save us the admission fee and paid for itself on our 2015 RV trip.

Going into a hole in the ground.
Going into a hole in the ground.

The elevator to the caverns is broken with an unknown repair date (weeks, months, years?). We are going to have to hike in and out of the caverns. Alex is snug in his Osprey and we head towards the natural entrance. Just before we enter, a ranger goes through the rules of the caverns – no food, no throwing coins in pools, don’t touch the rock formations, and no loud voices are among some of the don’ts. We have some misgivings about being able to comply with the no loud voices with Alex, who has just entered a shrieking stage. This could be interesting.

The natural entrance after our initial descent.
The natural entrance after our initial descent.

As we start our descent, Alex lets out a couple good shrieks and discovers – ECHOES! And continues making a wide variety of noises and giggling hysterically at the echoes. Fortunately, Alex settles in and stops the loudest noises before we get too far into the cavern. The walk down is rather steep in some places and deceiving. We reach a point where the descent seems to stop and think we have reached the bottom. It is just a brief breather before the second, steeper descent begins. It is going to be an interesting climb out.

On the descent to the Big Room, with some pretty intense switch backs.
On the descent to the Big Room

Due to our late start, we follow the advice of the rangers and push through the descent quickly in the hopes of seeing the Big Room in its entirety. Walking in is off-putting. The lighting was done by a stage lighting expert the majority of the path is in shadow and you often discover the angle of the slope only after you have started to walk down it. We make good time and start our journey through the Big Room.

Lion's tail.
Lion’s tail.

It is fascinating how many different forms the rock takes. The caverns were formed by hydrogen sulfide rich water migrating through the fractures and faults of the Capitan limestone. When the water mixed with oxygen, sulfuric acid was formed and dissolved the limestone, creating the caverns. Gypsum (calcium sulfate), silt and clay deposits were left behind. As the water levels dropped, speleotherms (cave formations) started to develop, but this action ceased approximately 4 million years ago.

Speleotherm
Speleotherm
Cavern pool.
Cavern pool.

We also learn that it takes approximately 8 months for surface water to make it into the caverns. The National Parks Service has inadvertently altered the flow of water into the caverns with the construction of roadways the visitors center. These structures increase water run off and divert water from percolating into the caverns. Years of drought have also been detrimental to the amount of water entering the caverns. The water in the cavern pools is high susceptible to contamination when people throw in coins. Minerals leach out of the coins and foul the pools; the water is stagnant and the contaminants are not washed away.

Miniature speleotherm formation.
Speleotherm formation.
Hiking in the caverns. Alex is fixing our hair.
Hiking in the caverns. Alex is fixing our hair.

We encounter a ranger at an intersection of two trails. We can go the longer route, which will take about an hour, or we can take the cutoff and be out of the Big Room in about 20 minutes. We choose the longer route. We are glad we did. We look into the lower caverns and the ‘bottomless pit’. It is hard to imaging exploring these caverns without the modern conveniences of high intensity lamps or the walkways. The early explorers of the caverns were very brave people. The Big Room complete, we take a 15 minute break in the cafeteria to prepare to the walk out of the caverns. Dave takes Alex and packs him out into the daylight.

Dave carrying Alex out of the caverns.
Dave carrying Alex out of the caverns.

Overall, we have a great experience at Carlsbad Caverns. There were very few people in the caverns, perhaps due to the main elevators being out or the fact that it is early January. Whatever the reason, it made the experience very enjoyable.

Day 13: 01/08/2016 – Guadalupe Mountains National Park

Day13RouteDestination: Guadalupe Mountains National Park

Route: TX-118N, US-90W, TX-54N

Mileage: 245

New State: New Mexico

In terms of days, we have reached the halfway point of our travels! We have also continued making good progress in a westerly direction. We leave Big Bend and head north towards Alpine, TX. It is a very long, very desolate drive. We notice ranches all along our route and see a half dozen cows at best. The low number of cow sightings might be due to the complete lack of forage. Just south of Alpine we get to interact with other humans! Specifically, at a US border patrol station where they are conducting a citizenship check. A simple answer of ‘yes’ to the question are you citizens, and we are allowed to continue on our journey.

As we get closer to Alpine, we start to climb and the town seems more appropriately named. In Alpine, we are hoping to stop at the Big Bend Brewing Company for lunch, but a quick perusal of their website indicates no food, so we push on. As we continue on 90, we start to get pushed around by some big winds. It is a fight to keep Abby steady on the road, so we bleed off speed to make her easier to control. We decide to stop in Marfa for lunch. This little town is odd in the fact that there are some very nice ($$$) restaurants. We opt for the Dairy Queen. While Jess is inside ordering, Dave enjoys the return of data coverage and is reviewing the weather for Guadalupe Mountain National Park, our targeted camping location. It is supposed to get rather cold tonight.

Dave takes the wheel after lunch and gets to enjoy rain/snow showers in addition to the gusting wind. We continue on and driving conditions improve when we reach TX-54N. The sun comes out and the winds die down. The landscape appears rather inhospitable, and then the Guadalupe Mountains rise up out of the desert, appearing lush in comparison to their desert surroundings. These mountains were used by the Nde (Mescalero Apache) as hunting grounds; elk mule deer, wild turkeys, mountain lions, black bears, golden eagles, and peregrine falcons can be found at higher elevations. These animals live in a dense forest of ponderosa pine, southwestern white pine, Douglas fir, and aspen that is reminiscent of the cooler and moisture climate of 15,000 years ago. For explorers and pioneers, the mountains served as a landmark with valuable water and shelter.

When we arrive at the Guadalupe Mountain National Park visitors center, there is snow on the ground. At the visitors center, we learn that the Guadalupe Mountains are an exposed fossil reef that formed 260 – 270 million years ago. A tropical ocean covered portions of Texas and New Mexico. The reef was composed of calcareous sponges, algae, and other lime-secreting marine organisms. They, along with the lime, form the horseshoe-shaped Capitan reef. Over time, the sea evaporated and the reef was buried in layers of sediments and mineral salts and remained entombed for millions of years. During a mountain-building uplift, part of the reef was exposed in the Guadalupe, Apache, and Glass Mountains. Carlsbad Caverns are also part of this exposed reef.

We recheck the weather forecast and the lows for the night are forecast in the 20s, winds steady at 30 – 40 mph, with gusts up to 60 mph. We decide to check out the RV camping area and get some fresh water. While the water tank is slowly filling (extremely low pressure), Penny and Chewie romp in the snow. Penny is absolutely thrilled to roll in the snow and enjoys herself thoroughly.

GuadalupeSnow
Guadalupe Mountain National Park Pine Springs RV Campground.

The RV camping is a bit disappointing, just extra large spots in a parking lot at a trail head. There is very little shelter and the wind is really beginning to whip. After a brief discussion, we decide that we cannot spend the night here. We have no arctic package, the cold will tax our batteries, and the furnace will likely run all night (further taxing our batteries and reducing our propane). We look at the map and decide to push on to Brantley Lake State Park in New Mexico.

Day13Route2Destination: Brantley Lake State Park, NM

Route: US-180E, US-62E

Mileage: 75

New States: New Mexico

Brantley Lake is our scheduled overnight stop for Day 14. We know we will have an electric hook-up so we can run the space heater. This will save wear and tear on our batteries and our propane supply. We arrive after the welcome center has closed, so we fill out the self pay form and ensconce ourselves into site 24.

Prison style toilet and Brantley Lake State Park
Prison style toilet and Brantley Lake State Park

The campground is very nice. The sites are spacious and level with a very nice picnic pavilion. There is a playground for Alex to enjoy during daylight hours and the bath house is clean. We have one complaint about the toilets . . . according to Dave, a wee bit cold in the poorly heated bathrooms. This confirms the choice Jess made to use the RV bathroom.

We are sad that Guadalupe Mountain National Park did not work out for us due to the weather conditions. The hiking trails are extensive and we are putting this on the list to return to. Next trip we will check out Dog Canyon, which is at the northern boundary of the park and accessible from New Mexico.

Day 11 & 12: 01/06 & 01/07/2016 – Big Bend National Park, Chisos Basin

Destination: Big Bend National Park

Route: I-10W, US-385S

Mileage: 350

Day11Route

LongStraightRoad
Flat and straight road to the horizon

Day 11 is truly a westward ho day! On the way to Big Bend National Park we end up over 250 miles west of our starting location. We have beautiful weather for traveling and lots of long, straight, Texas road. The road is good, except for a few unmarked ‘dips’ on US-385S that are reminiscent of a roller coaster.

On the way, we stop at the Wal-Mart in Fort Stockton for a resupply. Normally, this is not our first choice in shopping, but there are certain brands we know that we can get at a national chain. The Fort Stockton store has to be on of the saddest stores we have seen. A woman tried to sell us a puppy on the way into the store. Selections are limited and the beer is primarily two types, Bud and Bud Lite. We are thrilled to find Shiner Bock tucked away at the end of the refrigerated case. RV restocked, we turn south.

RoadBends
A bend in US-285S gives us a preview of the mountains we are heading towards.

We are camping in the Chisos Basin campground at Big Bend National Park. The basin is in the Chisos Mountains, the only mountain range in the United States entirely within the confines of a national park. The mountains are significantly cooler and receive, on average, over twice the annual rainfall than surrounding Chihuahuan Desert. The flora and fauna found in the mountains were stranded when the great ice age ended and reflect a cooler, moister climate. An example of an animal unique to the Chisos is the Carmen Mountain white-tailed deer, which are not well adapted to deserts. The mountain lion (local name: panther) is also present in the mountains. The Chisos are the only nesting area for the Colima warbler, which winters in Mexico. The Arizona pine, Douglas fir, Arizona cypress, quaking aspen, and big-tooth maple are trees that are ice-age remnants.

AbbyBigBend43
Abby squeezed into spot 43.

Abby acquits herself well on the climb from the desert into the Chisos Mountains. As we descend into the basin to camp, we get to experience the switchbacks and the hills we will have to climb in a couple of days. It has been a long trip, and experience has caused us to have some paranoia regarding taxing Abby’s transmission. We arrive to find a full campground and are glad we have reservations. It is winter break for colleges and this is a popular destination for the young whippersnappers. We are a tight fit in site 43, but manage to snug our rig in.

With Alex tucked away into bed, we enjoy the night sky. Big Bend was named an international dark-sky park by the International Dark-Sky Association in 2012. The park is also recognized as having the darkest measured skies in the lower 48 states. What does this mean? Simply put, we have never seen so many stars. It was difficult to pick out Orion because it was easy to lose the constellation among the thousands of stars. We see the Milky Way, not as a band, but of light and dark blotches. It is truly breath-taking. We do not get any pictures that do the sky justice.

Our rig attracts the attention of a park ranger on our first night, but after hearing we are staying only two nights, he decides to move on. We feel relief that we don’t have to pack up and move at that very instant (10 pm).

AbbyBigBend35
Abby in our new site.

The next morning Dave chats with the campground host and finds out that site 35, the old host site is not occupied that night. To avoid attracting the attention of a less tolerant ranger, we pull the slide in and quickly hop campsites. This site much more spacious (we are able to use the our awning), but is first come, first serve site.

View of the 'Window' from the Chisos Basin loop trail.
View of the ‘Window’ from the Chisos Basin loop trail.

Chisos Basin continues to impress and we are very sorry to have only a full day here. There are great hiking trails and the park brochure provides excellent details regarding the difficulty of each trail. Due to time constraints, we only able to hike the Chisos Basin loop, with a slight detour on the Laguna Meadows trail. We will be more careful to read trail signs and consult with our trail map in the future.

Family photo with the 'Window' as our background.
Family photo with the ‘Window’ as our background.
AlexOsprey
Alex in his Osprey carrier.

This is also our first hike with Alex in the Osprey Poco Plus carrier and he loved it. The carrier positions Alex so he is able to see over his human pack mule’s head and he is more engaged with us and our surroundings. The pack mules found the pack to be comfortable, easy to adjust, and is easy to load and secure Alex.

BigBendAlexRockAlex had fun in the campground climbing on rocks and following a road runner as it made its way through the campground. The roadrunner wasn’t sure what to think of his human shadow. Alex also made friends with a group of young men. Friends from a Houston high school, they had all gone to different colleges and were spending the weekend camping together. They let Alex join them in there game of Frisbee and Alex proved adept at taking a the football hand-off and running with the ball.

We plan on coming back. Our future trip will be scheduled with a date range of late January to early March in mind. This time frame will bring warmer weather and the spring wildflowers. We are also planning to come back in Abby sans the cargo trailer. Shortened to 24 feet,we will have our pick of spots.

The sun sets on our second day at Big Bend
The sun sets on our second day at Big Bend

 

Day 9 & 10: 01/04 & 01/05/2016 – Kerrville, TX

Destination: Kerrville, TX

Route: I-30W, US-67S, TX-220, US-281S, US-84W, US-183S, TX-16S

Mileage: 296

Day9Route

What happened to Day 8? It was a rest day where we spent more time catching up with family.

The past few days have not detailed any huge amount of westward progress. We are further west than when were on Day 7, we have been putting on some extra miles ping ponging north and south of the ideal route.

What takes us to Kerrville? Family! Dave’s family is not just limited to the Dallas area, they are spread through the southwest.

The drive to Kerrville was uneventful. Upon arriving Dave’s cousins Jim and Donna graciously put us up in their casita. The dogs are thrilled to have a yard to run around in. We tuck the RV next to Jim and Donna’s garage and enjoy a delicious steak dinner and Alex eats his weight in asparagus.

The next day (Day 8) we tour the area with Jim and Donna. Texas hill country is beautiful and would be wonderful to visit in the February/March time frame in order to avoid the heat of summer. More laundry is done – sheets, towels and other bulkier items that is was too much of a hassle to take care of in Addison.

Alex got to see his very first horse and pony up close and personal. Jim and Donna’s granddaughter was kind enough to let Alex visit her equine friends. Alex seems to enjoy the horses, despite consistently mooing at them. We need to work on the many types of animal other than cow. Alex also delighted in seeing blackbuck antelope. There was a herd near the horse barn and as they bounded away, Alex laughed and laughed. If he hadn’t been strapped into his wagon, he would have tried to run after them.

Dinner is at Rails Cafe in Kerrville; and their Italian style food is done very well. We enjoy creamy penne with chicken and artichoke chicken alfredo. Alex works the room, charming the next table over with waves and blown kisses. Dinner has to end sooner than anyone would like because of a certain toddler’s bedtime, combined with a long day at the wheel of the RV.

 

Day 7: 01/02/2016 -Addison, TX

Destination: Addison, TX

Route: US-190E, FM-356N, TX-19N, US-287N, US-175W, I-635N

Mileage: 213

Day7Route

We are off to see more family! Dave has many cousins in the area of Addison, TX so this trip is the perfect opportunity to stop by and say hi. We haven’t seen them since Alex was 6 months old, and he is almost 19 months now.

We opt to take the scenic route on this leg on the advice of Dave’s cousin Jodi. She warned us the drivers on I-35 can be very aggressive and since we cannot travel near the speed limit, it is best to take the roads less traveled. During this leg, the rigidity of our schedule is exposed. We passed an interesting looking petting zoo and thought about stopping for Alex. Since we have make time and have a fixed deadline for arriving in California, we can’t take the fun diversions.

AbbyCourtyardMarriottWe stop at the Courtyard Marriott on Proton Drive. We have stayed here before as hotel guests due to the great location – a few blocks away from family, next to a green space park, and a large, empty parking lot (this was less important when we flew into Dallas). We debate on just parking the RV and waiting for someone to say something, or asking. We opt to ask. Dave goes in and a few minutes later comes out – we are okay to stay! Perhaps it really isn’t guerrilla camping if you ask, but better than a knock on the door after Alex is asleep.

We fill up our water tank, do some laundry, and enjoy some pizza with family before settling in for the night. Even the dogs had some fun at the fenced, off-leash dog park that is part of the green space next to the hotel. All creatures are happy!