Good Morning from Lubbock

10 04 2010
Wind Generators in Texas Panhandle

Wind Generators in Texas Panhandle

Plans changed…we originally were planning to be on the lake in Colorado City, TX last night. But, looking at the mileage, we opted to be a few miles closer to home and reduce the drive-time today. Instead of 7 hours today, we’ll only have about 5 hours up to Raton, NM. Yesterday’s drive took us from the lush Hill Country of Texas to the western panhandle area. We’ve left behind the rolling hills, stark limestone cuts, trees and rivers for flat plains, tumbleweeds, oil rigs and wind generators. Texas leads the nation in the amount of wind power produced. (they have lots of flat, windy country here)

We’re at the Lubbock RV Park, on the north side of Lubbock just off of I-27, across from the Lubbock International Airport. The location is the only down-side to this park. It’s fairly noisy with freeway traffic, and an occasional aircraft departing or arriving at the airport. The park has about 90 sites, a group of about 30 near the office & clubhouse with mature trees. The remaining 60 sites are further from the road but without mature trees. The outdoor pool is right behind the office, but isn’t open yet. The clubhouse has a small library, a TV room, a fitness center and 4 private bathrooms with large, full size showers. There is no cable TV hookup, but 10 channels are available over-the-air. The paved streets and cement pads are level and wide. Each site has a small picnic table available. Overnight rates range from $34 to $28. Our site with electric, sewer and water is $28 less the 10% Good Sam discount.

This is the first park we’ve stayed at that offered Wi-Fi for a fee. Access is available free for the first 4 hours, after that there is a $5/day fee. You can also set up a pre-paid account for use at other Wi-Fi locations at Verizon Broadband coverage was very good in this location and we didn’t try the Wi-Fi.

We probably wouldn’t stay here again – the noise is a factor when you’re in a pop-up.  But, with a tailer, 5th wheel or coach, and parked a bit further away from the road – this is a great park.

We’ll *finally* leave Texas today, after covering almost 1000 miles since our departure from Harlingen. We’ll cross over into New Mexico near Clayton, just south of the Oklahoma panhandle and only about 50 miles from Kansas. We plan to stay near Raton tonight, then will turn north along I-25 for the final leg of the trip home. More from New Mexico…

Review of By the River RV Park

9 04 2010
By the River RV Park

By the River RV Park

We’re on the way back home, and our first night is at By the River RV Park near Kerrville, TX. This park is only a few miles from where we stayed 2 weeks ago, Johnson Creek RV Resort.

By the River is about ½ mile off of the secondary highway that runs parallel to I-10, through Kerrville, Ingram and Mountain Home, Texas. This off-highway location offers a quieter environment than at Johnson Creek which was closer to the highway. Another difference is that the river is visible here at from nearly all of the sites. The sites are laid out in a long double row, one side backed in overlooking the river, the other across a paved roadway. Most of the sites here are back-in sites, with a few pull-throughs at the far end of the park. All sites have full hookups, water, sewer, 30 or 50 amp electrical and cable TV. There is a picnic table at most sites.

When we checked in around 4pm, they were preparing a “pot luck” dinner of Texas Fajitas and made sure to invite us to join them. While we didn’t join in for dinner, it appeared that they had a good crowd, so I assume they have a fairly large group of permanent, or at least long-term residents.

The large clubhouse building contained the registration office, a kitchen facility, a small library/setting area the restrooms and the showers. The restrooms and showers were very clean, well maintained and easy to access through an outside door with combo lock. There was also a very nice pool area next to the clubhouse.

Overall we enjoyed our stay at By the River more than at Johnson Creek. This park feels a bit more welcoming, has slightly larger sites, and has more of an “in-the-woods” feel because of less cement and pavement. The pool and outdoor BBQ/entertainment areas at Johnson Creek are certainly the better of the two, but we didn’t use those facilities in either location. By the River RV Park gets a thumbs up, we’d definitely stay here again.

Rates start at $30/night for a standard back-in site, we opted for the back-in premium water-front site at $36, or $32 after the 10% Good Sam discount.

Review of Johnson Creek RV Resort

30 03 2010

We’re at Johnson Creek RV Resort, a medium size park with about 50 spaces. It’s unique because all of the spaces are set among an active Pecan Orchard. Unfortunately the Pecan trees in this area haven’t spouted their summer leaves, so the forest of trees is a bit sparse right now. But, the RV sites and amenities are very nice. All sites are pull-through, attracting the really big rigs – lots of 5th wheels and coaches. We’re definitely the smallest rig in the park tonight! All driveways and parking spaces are cement, and all include water, sewer, electric, cable TV and an outdoor picnic table. Probably the most impressive feature of this park is the Club House which is a large, newer building set on the cliff above the meandering Johnson Creek below. Complete with a bar/social area, a card room, a billiard room, an outdoor pool surrounded by patios, and a very clean bathroom/shower room. There’s also an office building with a Country Store stocking many of the necessities and selling Pecans (of course). Wi-Fi is readily available with 2 pro-grade access points providing well over 2Mb download speeds.

This is the first park that we’ve found along the way with full time “Winter Texans” – northerners that spend 3 or more months in Texas during the winter time. Some that I met are full-timers – those who have sold their homes, packed away the possessions and taken to the road. Many of the Johnson Creek residents have been here all winter. Others are just stopping by for a couple of days or weeks on their way back north. Most of those “in-transit” have been in the lower Rio Grande valley.

Everyone I talked to love this location and the park. It’s much more like a mobile home park than a “camping” experience. We’d prefer to have more of a camping experience, maybe not quite as rustic as Balmorhea, but a location with a bit more space and privacy between sites would be great. However, for those wanting a “neighborhood” feel, great amenities, very friendly staff – Johnson Creek RV Resort is perfect.

Good Morning from West Texas

29 03 2010

We applied the Texas sticker to our “been there” map last night when we arrived at the Balmorhea State Park. Balmorhea is located just off of I-10, about 200 miles east of the Texas/New Mexico state line. Balmorhea is an oasis in this otherwise arid west Texas landscape. Water pours from natural springs, providing a crystal clear dive location, swimming pool and natural wetlands in this unlikely location. The camping area has about 30 spaces, all with a fire pit, grill, covered picnic table and water (it’s in great abundance here) and most with electric hookups and a few with cable TV access. The facilities are old, and the bathroom/shower house badly in need of an update. Plugged toilets, slow draining sinks and cracked shower floors earn this Texas state park our “thumbs down” rating. We’d probably not stop here again. An additional strike against this park is the unavailability of wireless internet access. Texas is in the process of providing Wi-Fi in all of their state parks, but obviously haven’t come to Balmorhea yet. And, even the Verizon Broadband service is very limited, only capable of a very show connection.

However, on the upside… We’re now far enough south that the trees are beginning to have leaves. The grass has greened up a bit around Balmorhea, there are a few wildflowers and it’s much warmer. For the first time we grilled outdoors and even enjoyed dinner outside at the picnic table. We seem to be following the last cold-front that delivered snow and rain throughout the mountain west. But it’s warming up – Balmorhea is forecast to 80 today and 93 tomorrow.

It’s about 10AM (in the Central time zone now) and we’re about 50 miles east of Balmorhea. With the facility situation and the lack of broadband, we decided to pack-up and head east to the Texas Hill Country. We’ll be leaving dry arid west Texas and hopefully seeing some of the beautiful wildflowers that the Hill Country is famous for. More from Kerrville, TX when we arrive!

Good Morning from Truth or Consequences, NM

28 03 2010

The "elephant" in Elephant Butte

Truth or Consequences? Yep, that’s the actual name of this little town. Originally named Hot Springs, the town grew out of the New Mexico desert around a series of hot water springs . In the 1950’s, Ralph Edwards announced that he would air his radio program from the first town in the nation that renamed itself “Truth or Consequences” after his popular quiz show. Well, you can tell that Ralph spent some time here. In fact, he spent time in T or C for the next 50 years! Today, while there are still several hot spring spas operating in town, the most popular attraction is Elephant Butte Reservoir – an impound on the Rio Grande river – one of the biggest bodies of water in the southwestern US. Later this year, T or C becomes home to the world’s first spaceport, Spaceport America, where Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic will begin sub-orbital spaceflights available to the public.

Lakeside RV Park, T or C

We’re parked at Lakeside RV park, which as the name implies is close (but not beside) Elephant Butte Reservoir. In fact, you couldn’t even say lakeview. While we’re only about a half mile from the lake, the RV park is in a slight depression that limits the view to the neighboring RV’s, a storage facility and a large Cobalt boat dealer. I won’t write a separate park review because there just isn’t that much to say about this place. It’s functional, the bathrooms are clean, and the people are friendly. Like all of the other RV parks we’ve seen in the area, the park is gravel and sand, a few trees have been placed around between the sites and plenty of cactus fill in the other spaces. We’re right behind the main office, restroom/shower, laundry building so the traffic to this building would be bothersome on a busy weekend. There were even a few boats that pulled out before dawn – brrr…it’s got to be cold out on that lake at 34 degrees in the dark!

Our home for the night, Site #51

We’ll be having breakfast with my Uncle this morning and then headed to Balmorhea State Park – about 200 miles into Texas after we cross the state line near El Paso. Along the way, we’ll hit the southern end of I-25 – the highway that all of us “front-range” Coloradoans have learned to love and hate. I-25 stops about 80 miles south of here at Las Cruces where it joins I-10. We’ve traveled just over 600 miles and have about 900 left to go over the next 4 days. Texas, here we come!

Review of Santa Fe Skies RV Park

27 03 2010

The Good Sam website lists the Santa Fe Skies RV Park as one of the best parks in the area and we would agree.  Their website says “beautiful panoramic view of the total Santa Fe area with unobstructed sunrise and sunset views from the Turquoise Trail!”  Maybe a bit over-the-top, but it is a good hilltop location – with views to the north of Santa Fe (especially nice at night with city lights) and to the south of Sandia Peak.  The main office building, built-in traditional New Mexico adobe has a registration office, very clean restroom and shower facilities and a large laundry room.  Behind is an enclosed courtyard connected to the small on-site restaurant and gift shop.   

The 98 sites are almost evenly split between pull-through and back-in accommodations.  All have water and power, most have sewer hookup and about 25% have patio or brick patios.  Many of the patio sites are in premium locations around the outside of the park. Sites are gravel and mostly flat.   

Almost all parks are advertising free Wi-Fi.  We don’t have much experience with RV parks (yet), but we have experienced the free Wi-Fi offerings in hotels and motels.  In many cases their system consists of a single, residential-type wireless access point.  With a fairly limited range, these systems offer good access in the hotel lobby and some number of rooms within the vicinity of the office.  Get too far from the lobby – and the Wi-Fi signal can become completely unusable.  My expectation is the same for RV parks – get too far from the main office and things fall apart.  But, here at Santa Fe Skies, they have obviously invested a great deal of time and money in making their system work across the park by utilizing several access points mounted on towers and buildings.  And, their investment works – we were able to stream video via Hulu last night with only a few short bandwidth pauses.  Quite impressive.  

We were also very impressed by the shower facilities.  Unlike some of the state park shower houses that we’ve used in the past – there were no coin slots, the area was 100% clean, and the shower curtains actually blocked your cloths and towel from getting wet.  A hot shower felt great after a day in the wind and dust!  

Here are a few pictures. There are lots and lots more on the Santa Fe Skies website.  This park rates a good “thumbs-up”. We would stop here again.  

Our site: Yucca-F


Our neighbors - nearly all big coaches


A patio back-in site

Review of Lake Trinidad State Park

26 03 2010

Lake Trinidad State Park is about 3 miles west of Trinidad or about 4 miles off of I-25.  Except for the road construction in Trinidad it’s easy access from the highway.

Lake Trinidad State Park

The park is beside Lake Trinidad which is very, very low – certainly not a boat lake.  But, the campgrounds are nice.  Three loops of camping spots, each with a picnic table and fire pit surround a camper services building and a visitor center.  The camper services building appears to have been built in the last year or two and provides laundry services, showers and restrooms.  Unfortunately, when we visited, the building was closed due to frozen water pipes. 

We reserved site #3 with full hookups.  Trinidad only has about 6 full hookup sites and 3 were out of service because of frozen water pipes.  The site was a level, gravel back-in site right across from the visitor center.  It was long enough for a 5th wheel or camper trailer and possibly an additional vehicle.  There was also a large tent pad behind the RV parking area.  We didn’t use the picnic table or fire pit due to our late arrival and the cold weather temperatures.  Because the camper services building was unavailable, we used the restrooms near the amphitheatre or those in the visitor center (from 8am to 5pm). 

Overall I’d rate the experience about as expected.  While it would have been nice to have the new camper services building available – there wasn’t a problem using the restroom facilities in other areas of the park.  Each of the sites are separated by plenty of space and have short pinon pine, oak and other scrubs.  The views from campsites at the top of the loops are best and closest to the service buildings – however the lower sites are closest to the lake and offer a bit more privacy and less traffic.

Site #3 Full Hookups

Site #4, Electric only

Camper Services Building