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Back when we were younger, we transitioned from tents to sleeping in trucks and, especially, vans. This was nothing fancier than a mattress in the back of the vehicle. Cooking was outside on camp stoves, a bathroom nearby was required (or at least preferred), and showers were often heated (or not) by the sun. It saved us the trouble of setting up and taking down a tent and rain was less of an issue. (I don’t like setting up and taking down tents in the rain.) We usually travelled without reservations even in the summer, could sleep nearly anywhere (parking lot, rest area, National Forest Campground with small sites), and could (and did) stop pretty much anywhere we wanted along the way.
As much as we loved that life, adding a cat and large dog made a van way too small. Trips are much longer since we’re no longer limited to a week or three of vacation. And having an inside bathroom is just much nicer for most of us as we get older. We purchased a small, inexpensive fifth-wheel five years before I retired and enjoyed the comforts of a bathroom and kitchen on our vacation trips and learned what we would want in a retirement fifth-wheel.
Until now, we had been dealing with cool days and freezing temperatures at night, which was using a lot of propane to heat our trailer. We had not encountered this much cold weather in the past two years except for the ride down from the frozen tundra that we call home. This year was mostly cold, however, until we made it to Arizona.
We arrived at my cousin’s house in Tucson and were enveloped in the warmth and beauty at the foothills of the Catalina Mountains. He and his wife have generously allowed us to stay in their backyard. They’ve even hooked us up to water and electric. They have the most beautifully landscaped backyard with fantastic views of the mountains. I feel like this could be heaven.
We spent some time in Deming two years ago after we had a rather disturbing accident with our 5th wheel at City of Rocks SP, which is just north of Deming. So we spent the remainder of our time there at the Ford dealer, an rv repair shop and with an insurance agent. Not so much fun. But we did spend some days at City of Rocks which would have been very enjoyable had we not had the incident, and then a couple more days at the Dreamcatcher Escapee RV park to recombobulate.
So this year as we left Fort Davis, and decided to cancel our trip to White Sands NP for now, we decided to explore the Deming area a little more before heading to Tucson.
From Big Bend, we moved on to the Davis Mountains. Davis Mountains State Park is located only a few hours from Big Bend and offered us full hookups, so we could do laundry and luxuriate in (relatively) long showers. It was also in the mountains (big surprise, given the name), which meant nice views and no cell signal again at our campsite.
Although not as remote as Big Bend, the park is not near any large cities. The town of Fort Davis (pop. 1,201 in 2010) is the big nearby “urban” center. Fortunately, they did have a nice (small) grocery store and a gas station. The local hardware store sold propane, which we needed (see below). But besides mountain scenery, the area also offered two attractions that we wanted to check out: Fort Davis National Historic Site and the McDonald Observatory.
Our original plan (and reservation) was for only three nights, enough to get laundry done and check out a little of the surrounding area, and from there move to the area around White Sands National Monument. However, cold weather, the chance of snow or freezing rain and a probable government shutdown caused us to extend our stay a couple of days.
I’ve wanted to visit Big Bend for a very long time and finally we are going. Of course it seems like driving there takes forever and ever! The road goes on endlessly through plain desert surrounded by mountains. And on, and on. And after driving a very long time through the park, we finally got to our campground, the Rio Grande Village campground.
After we left San Antonio, we headed to Seminole Canyon State Park which is midway to Big Bend. A great stopping point pretty much in the middle of nowhere. I was surprised to see how nice the campsites were, half of them with electric and water hookups.
For some reason, San Antonio was the place to meet people the last two years. We have friends that live here that we always visit, but our first year we also met my cousins from Ohio here, and last year we met my cousins again and some full-time friends of ours. This year, other than our San Antonio friends, no one else was here yet.
The majority of our family lives up north, with just our daughter’s family in a warmer climate. Consequently, the Texans end up heading “home” for either Thanksgiving or Christmas every year. While it means the rest of the family doesn’t have to make a long trip for a holiday, it does put the travel burden entirely on our Texans.
We’ve talked about a Texas Christmas for a while and tried to persuade our other kids to come down to Houston for Christmas this year. And finally, everyone agreed and it happened! Woohoo, we’re going to have a warm Christmas! Well, in reality, it was simply much warmer than home. It’s not beach weather this year!
After leaving our friends in Florida, we continued our journey west. Another place we had considered staying in last year was Gulf State Park. Since it was on our way west, we decided to make a quick stop to check it out.
Gulf State Park is huge, both the park itself and the campground. With over 500 campsites, 496 of them full-hookups, it feels more like a RV park in some ways than a state park. We stayed in an area off the main road with campsites that were a little more spread out, so it wasn’t quite as bad as the central area that seemed almost indistinguishable from a commercial RV park.
After our day in The Villages, we needed to start putting miles on heading west. We were expected at our daughter’s on Dec. 23, which gave us less than a week to get from central Florida to Texas.
Friends from our local Excel owner’s chapter were also south and happened to be staying at Rocky Bayou State Park, which was basically eight miles due north of Henderson Beach State Park. So we decided to reverse our last drive and stay there two nights so that we could visit. It turned into an Excel mini-rally.