Surprise 1: We’re showering every day.
Before setting out, we were mentally preparing for going two or three days at a time without showering. (Not a joke!) In reality, we’ve only gone one day without a shower. We wanted to get the hell out of a creepy RV park, so we literally just woke up and drove off.
Showers have been free and hot everywhere except two campgrounds. Quarters were required at Salton Sea State Park and solar showers hadn’t heated up yet at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. The showers are generally clean and well-maintained, so no complaints!
Surprise 2: We really like Texas.
We didn’t think we wouldn’t like Texas, but we didn’t think we’d like it as much as we do. (Actually, after living outside Fort Worth for a year during middle school, I felt pretty confident I wouldn’t like Texas.)
Sunset in Van Horn, TX
It’s very beautiful here in Texas and — aside from RV parks, see Surprise 3 — folks are friendly. Also, the speed limit is crazy high in some places: 80 on the interstate and 75 on two-lane highways. Set the cruise control, enjoy the views, and navigate toward the next barbecue stop.
We spent a few days in a small town in west Texas called Marfa. We wanted to head to Big Bend National Park from there, but the weather really wasn’t cooperating. (See Surprise 6.) The forecast said it would dip below freezing at night and showed several days of rain. So we’ll just have to wait until our trip back west in the spring.
Marfa has an artsy undercurrent: a hip yet historic piece of old west. There’s an area nine miles out of town where people see mysterious, unexplained lights at night, which legend says are the ghosts of Spanish conquistadors looking for gold. (We saw them — the lights, I mean.)
From the west on the way to Marfa, you come across this roadside Prada boutique. Everything inside is real, but you can’t go in — it’s art.
Red Delicious taking a quick rest on the way to Marfa
Ballroom Marfa, an art gallery
Another art gallery in Marfa; this rodeo photo exhibit was amazing
Unassuming from the outside, Mando’s has the best chile relleno we’ve ever tasted
In the winter, a lot of things are only open on weekends, which is sad because we wanted to know what the magic was
We did tune in, in case you’re wondering
A quiet night at the saloon
The sixth hole at Marfa’s golf course; Chris has to put those golf clubs to use!
Shaded picnic tables next to the train tracks
The courthouse is the center of the town
Inside the courthouse
Surprise 3: Some RV parks are OK.
While in Marfa, we stayed at a little RV park called the Tumble In. For a tent-camping spot, it was $15/night. It had modern, clean bathrooms with showers, strong and fast wifi, a little lounge area to sit, and a mellow vibe. We loved it.
Can’t miss it
A sunset view from our campsite
But the Tumble In is rare.
In the search for internet access (see Surprise 4), we’ve stayed at private campgrounds and RV parks. What we’ve found: it costs between $30-40 for a space on the lawn next to the office, wifi so slow you can’t even send a two-line email, and the company of cranky old folks.
The worst one we stayed at had only one redeeming quality: $1.50 pancake breakfast. With a side dish of stares like we were from Mars, even when we smiled and said, “Good morning!”
We’re staying at state parks for the most part, because they’re more scenic, cheaper, and the old people aren’t scared of us.
Rainy walk around the lake at Palmetto State Park in Texas
Chris examining one of the many air plants we found around the park
A misty morning
We met a cool guy from Wisconsin here. He’s a carpenter that just finished a big job and decided to take a mini-sabbatical. He’ll be heading west over the next few weeks, ultimately to Yosemite. He stopped by our campsite to chat with Chris after finishing up his run. And then there was the friendly older couple working as camp hosts who we made small talk with. These are the people in state/public parks.
But staying at state parks, especially nice ones off the beaten path, creates a problem. Which brings us to…
Surprise 4: Internet is hard to come by.
Maybe it’s because we’ve been traveling through sparsely populated areas of the southwest, but we would actually go days without seeing a Starbucks. And we were counting on those for workspace.
All I’ve been hearing about for the past decade is how there’s a Starbucks everywhere and why are there so many Starbucks in every town in America. Well, so far, there aren’t. And if we’re in a state park, chances are we don’t have LTE service (although we can almost always make phone calls).
This poses a challenge for getting work done. I think the key is to find a state park that’s not too far from a town/highway/Starbucks, so we can drive a little ways out and have internet or at least LTE. I think some other fast food chains offer free wifi, but we don’t want to buy anything there. Or maybe it’s time to experiment with Walmart parking lots? We’re working on this one.
Surprise 5: Gas is cheaper than in our wildest dreams.
When we left the Bay Area, gas was $2.65. Today, we got gas for $1.79. Whaaaaaaaaat?
That’s what gas prices were when I got my driver’s license back in high school. And my economics teacher was like, “They’re predicting the cost of gas will rise to $2.00 a gallon soon,” and we all laughed because that was the craziest nonsense we’d ever heard.
Surprise 6: We can’t outrun bad weather.
Chris and I didn’t realize just how weather-dependent we’d be. If you think about it, we pretty much live outdoors. Sure, we have shelter in the form of Red Delicious, and she’s pretty darn comfortable. Even Holly’s comfy!
Holly loves snuggling with Chris
The sunshade easily turned into a rain shelter to protect against light drizzles; we drank hot cider and played cards quite comfortably outside!
But Red Delicious has limits. She’s not very comfortable (and is, well, boring) to sit in all day if the weather’s bad. And if it gets too hot, Holly can’t stay inside if we want to jump out and grab lunch somewhere — even if we’re parked in the shade.
Conversely, we’ve had to skip places like Big Bend because the temperature drops too low. Our sleeping bags, Holly’s jacket, and our big wool blanket would keep us all mostly warm. But we have to leave bed sometime. Who wants to be that cold? Not us.
So we move along to find warmer weather. Except what do you do when everywhere in a 100-mile radius has lows in the 30s tonight?
Grab a motel room. Which is exactly where we are as I type this. It feels like cheating, but it’s better than catching a cold. And last night was freezing.
Anyhow, we’re spending the next week or so in Austin before continuing east to Louisiana. See y’all there — hopefully it’s warmer. 🙂
Oh! And before we forget…