Back Home!

11 05 2020

After departing Van Horn we were back at Boot Hill RV in Alamogordo for 4 nights.  It was just about 8 weeks since we were last at Boot Hill – how the world has changed in those 8 weeks!  From Alamogordo we’re headed home, after 1 quick overnight in Santa Fe.

It’s been over 4 years since we were last at Santa Fe Skies.  Continued upgrades along with the growth of shrubs and trees is turning this into a very nice park.  We’re in site “Daylilly 7”, one of the back-in sites that provides views to the west and north across the city of Santa Fe.  Santa Fe Skies has done one of the best job of pandemic changes.  From their website we first placed a reservation request.  The response from this request was a confirmation along with an optional “Cancel my Reservation” link.  On the morning of our arrival, an Online Payment email with a “Pay Now” link was received.  Once paid, we received an Online Check-in email complete with site assignment, directions to the park, a park map and the “handy handout” with pertinent information such as WiFi password, park rules and local restaurants.

Santa Fe Skies RV Park, Santa Fe, NM

Speaking of WiFi – back in 2010 this park provided stream-able WiFi – a huge accomplishment 10 years ago!  Then, just 4 years ago the same WiFi system barely provided browsing connections.  Their website notes major upgrades since our last visit. While the signal is a bit weak along this side of the park, once connected we noted stream-able speeds again.  And, there’s now an option to have a hardwired connection in Daylilly sites 1-10 and Yucca 5-14.

Santa Fe Skies, Santa Fe, NM

 

After the quick overnight in Santa Fe, we’re on the final leg of this 100 night trip.  We’ve traveled nearly 4000 miles and stayed in 27 campgrounds, RV parks and even a beautiful driveway.  We’ve had great times at spring baseball games in Phoenix,  explored over the border in Mexico, spent wonderful time with friends & family, and then, on the second half of the trip, learned how to fold no-sew masks, create a bleach sanitizing solution and have been virtually locked-down in near total isolation on South Padre Island.  Truly a trip of contrasts!  Our “home county”, Huerfano, is still tightly locked down – so no travel plans at this point until things ease up a bit.  Stay safe, wash your hands and be healthy!

Spring Road Trip, 2020





Into West Texas

5 05 2020

Canyons RV Park, Sanderson, TX

Departing Uvalde, we’re headed to Sanderson, TX and Canyon RV Park. We’ve traveled through Sanderson several times on our way in or out of Big Bend National Park. In the past we’re always decided that Canyon RV wasn’t for us. Located between the highway and railroad tracks, the park looked old and rundown and received fairly bad reviews. But, hoping for the best, we decide we’ll try it, or – if things don’t look good, continue to Ft. Stockton.

On a weather note, somewhere between Uvalde and Sanderson we cross through the “dry line”. Humidity this morning in Uvalde was 100%, this afternoon in Sanderson it’s 20%!

The Texas Dry Line

Pulling into Canyon RV, we’re surprised by the bad reviews and what we remember as a “do not stop” park. Sites are wide, level and graveled. Several of these sites have large pine trees on opposite sides providing some welcome shade from the late afternoon sun. Concrete utilities islands are designed for 50A usage on one side and 30A usage on the other side in “back to back” configurations. However, the park isn’t nearly full enough to require any back to back parking and in fact, we’re the only overnight guest. There are another half-dozen or so longer term residents including a FEMA team working onsite. Rates are $30, cash or check only, and deposited in the “Piggy” mailbox. We didn’t try it, but reports are that the new fiber install in town has boosted WiFi to stream-able speeds. New owners are making tremendous headway in changing this to a great stopover park for Big Bend visitors or those escaping the heat of the Texas Hill country or the Lower Rio Grande Valley. Thanks Kevin, we’ll be back!

Departing Sanderson, the original plan was to head north on 285 to join I-10 at Ft. Stockton for an overnight in Van Horn. However, we decide on the much more scenic drive across highway 90 through Marathon, Alpine and Marfa. RVTripWizard.com notes a low tunnel on the west side of Marfa at 13’11”. Arriving at the railroad bridge, the signs note only a 13’7” clearance, making it way too close to what we believe is a 13’6” trailer. After a bit of careful backup work, and directing blocked traffic around us, we head back into Marfa determined to find an alternate route. As it turns out, there is an easy route to avoid this low bridge. Approaching from the east, turn south on 11th street to Murphy Ave west. Follow Murphy to the West Mosley Loop and rejoin the highway just beyond the low bridge. Voila, problem solved!

Alpine, TX

In Van Horn, we’re parked at the familiar Van Horn (former KOA) park in site E8. From here we’re headed to Alamogordo, more from there…

Van Horn RV Park





Departing South Texas

2 05 2020

With temperatures (and humidity) beginning to get way too far into the uncomfortable range, it’s time to head north!  As is normal, we’ll plan to stay as close to the Rio Grande as possible to avoid those nasty spring storms that can bring tornadoes and hail to northern parts of Texas.  In verifying availability at parks on our route home, we find that about 50% are still closed or not accepting overnight guests due to county or state regulations related to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Our first night will be at Mustang Hollow Campground on Lake Corpus Christi.  This former KOA has an “upper” and a “lower” lakeside section.  We’re initially assigned site D7 in the lower section.  Set among mesquite trees, the parks internal roads need both grading and widening.  Especially the lower roads!  After being escorted to our site through rough and low-clearance roads, we attempt for nearly 30 minutes to get into the site.  To start, or escort climbs up on the trailer roof and proceeds to cut down a half dozen fairly large limbs.  This site has a steep downhill grade to it, and a large drainage gully on the right site.  Even after many attempts, we can’t get anywhere close to being able to level the trailer.  And, as we move around in the site, more of the low hanging limbs are poking at the front cap, roof and awnings.  Eventually the escort gives up, calls the office and arranges for us to move to site A18 in the upper section.  After another harrowing trip back up through the ruts and trees, we are shown into a level, well trimmed site right next to the swimming pool.  Whew…what an experience.  Never again will we accept a “lower” site!

Mustang Hollow Campground, Mathis, TX

Mustang Hollow Campground, Mathis, TX

Mustang Hollow Campground, site A18

After Lake Corpus Christi we’re headed to Uvalde and Quail Springs RV Park.  Quail Springs is on Main Street in central Uvalde occupying an oasis of huge old oak trees.  The 80+ site park appears to be mostly long term Winter Texans or even longer term residents. We’re parked in a pull-through site #153 which provides full hookups with 50A service, cable TV, a small cement pad and picnic table.  Back-in sites #148-#164 would offer the most privacy and most are shaded.  We liked Quail Springs and would probably stay here again.

Quail Springs RV Park, site #153

Quail Springs RV Park, Uvalde, TX





Back to Harlingen

28 04 2020

We’ve moved back into Tropic Winds RV Resort our stop-over for at least a few days when departing South Padre and before continuing the trip north.  Arriving on Saturday, we know the office won’t be open on the weekend.  However, first thing on Monday we call to pay our bill for 7 nights.  The response is surprising… “you can’t stay here”! For some unknown reason, after allowing us to stay 25 days earlier, and as Texas and Cameron County begin to relax stay-at-home and isolation guidelines, Encore Resorts has shut down all of their parks to new reservations and arrivals.

Encore owns the RV Resort market in much of the Rio Grande Valley, however we had no problem finding several smaller, private parks that were open and welcoming new guests.  By late on Monday we’ve moved across town to Sundance RV Village, a small park of 80 sites, a spotlessly clean (and open) laundry room and free & fast WiFi.  We’re parked in site #44, a mid-park site with a large shade tree directly overhead.  The rate at Sundance is $20/night for weekly visits ($46/night at Encore Resorts), there are no resort fees and the WiFi which runs along at about 20Mb is free (compared to daily Tango Internet fees at Encore Resorts)  We like it here – and may be back next year!

Sundance RV Village, Site #44

Sundance RV Village, Harlingen, TX





A Quiet South Padre Island

1 04 2020

We’ve just spent 5 nights at Tropic Winds RV Resort in Harlingen.  This is always a resupply stop before moving out to the Island, and our visit this year is no different, just a bit more constrained with only essential businesses available.  Encore Resorts (owners of Tropic Winds) has made what appears to be an easy versus practical decision to close all indoor facilities including their laundry rooms along with all pools and hot tubs.  However, they won’t budge on charging the daily resort fee – even with no resort facilities available!

Arriving at Isla Blanca park on South Padre Island on April 1st, the first impression is that things are pretty “normal”. Social distancing and masks are required at the check-in office.  But, in the park, with about 150 rigs, it’s pretty typical of this winter to summer cross-over period.  After years of visits to Isla Blanca, we’ve finally managed to snag one of the coveted “S” sites.  These 20 sites next to the El Cristo de los Pescadore, “Christ of the Fishermen” statue provide full hookups including 50A service and some of the best ship channel views in the park.  Some of these sites have extended patios and end-site #23 even has a beautiful cactus garden!

Brownsville Ship Channel & “Cristo” statue

Isla Blanca Site S23

The brand new beach pavilions that were completed since we stayed last year are shuttered, as are all other park facilities except the shower houses.  With no day use access, the beaches and boardwalks are eerily quiet – it’s rare that you see more than 2 or 3 others on the entire Isla Blanca beach.  These closures are even more obvious as we enter Holy Week leading up to Easter on April 12th.  Usually a very busy time everywhere on South Padre Island, the beaches are empty as is the main town.

Isla Blanca Boardwalk

Isla Blanca Amphitheater

In early April, Cameron County is observing state mandates for closure of most except non-essential businesses.  About 50% of the Padre restaurants are providing some type of curb-side food service.  We’re able to take advantage of a few favorites including South Padre Island Brewing and Painted Marlin.  And, we took advantage of the very clean and quiet laundry facilities at Bluewater Laundromat.

Bluewater Laundromat, South Padre Island

With our prime location, we’re hopeful of watching a SpaceX test rocket fire across the ship channel at Boca Chica.  However, on April 3rd, Starship SN3 is completely destroyed during cryogenic proof testing. Beach and road closures for April 6th-8th which were expected for the 150 meter “hop” test were cancelled pending the delivery of SN4.  Darn…maybe next year!

By late April, we’ve decided that we’re ready for a change of scenery and want to spend time with family back in Harlingen before returning home.  We set April 25th as our departure date. Coincidentally, Cameron County announces they are going to start relaxing beach and park access on that same date.  So, with restrictions being lifted, this seems like an excellent time to depart the quiet, seemingly safe haven of our small island community. The plan is to spend about a week back in Harlingen…more from there…

 





By the River Campground, Kerrville, TX

25 03 2020

By the River Campground, Kerrville, TX

We’re parked in site #44 at By the River Campground in Kerrville, TX.  We’ve explored several RV park options around Kerrville and always end up back here. Site #42 is the last site along the non-riverside row and is probably the best in the park.  We’re just 2 sites over from there and enjoy some of the same good river views.  However,  #44 is a Water/Electric crossover site meaning the water and electric must be threaded under the rig and connected on the “wrong” side.  Nearly every other site along this row is a cross-over which would be perfect if you had friends in the next site and wanted to share a common area by parking 1 rig backward and 1 rig forward.

Arriving on March 19th, this is the first place we’ve seen Corona Virus precautions.  The office is locked, payment is taken by phone the day before arrival and the map and campground navigation is left in an envelope at the gate.  None of the last 3 places (Alamogordo on March 14th, Van Horn on March 17th or Ft. Stockton on March 18th) have any front-desk precautions in place.  Employees are requiring guests at the front desks and freely sharing conversation, credit cards and signature pens.  Only at Ft. Stockton did we see a glimmer of precaution used when the on-site restaurant dining room was closed on the day we left.

However, Kerrville is a much different place.  Store shelves are barren of even some of the basics, eggs, milk, many meats and of course the ever-empty paper and cleaner/hand sanitizer aisles.  On Friday we enjoy the patio at the Wild Ass Hey Barn (a favorite located next to the RV park) on their last day of operation. On Saturday March 19th we joined friends at Mamacita’s  on their last day before going “Take Out Only”.  Needless to say, precautions continued to ramp-up in this fairly isolated Hill Country town.  By the time we left on March 26th, all restaurants that were still open had moved to deliver or take away only, non-essential businesses had been shut, store inventories were becoming a bit better and traffic around town was quiet.

As lock-down orders went into place across Texas county by county, we weighed the options of curtailing or continuing our trip.  But, the ultimate goal was to meet family in Harlingen and then move out to South Padre Island for the month of April. Our hope was that the small island community would be a more pleasant and ultimately safer environment to ride out this storm.  We were in nearly daily contact with Cameron County park officials who continued to assure us that our reservation would be honored and their outdoor beach and boardwalk facilities were open to campground residents.

After a week in Kerrville with great friends, it was sad to depart, knowing that they were headed home to the north and that we had made the commitment to continue south toward South Padre island.  After a quick one-night stop at Lake Corpus Christi State Park we’ll arrive in Harlingen.  More from there…





Across Southern New Mexico & West Texas

15 03 2020

Our View at the KOA, Las Cruces, NM

From Bisbee the original plan was to make a stop in Deming, NM.  We enjoyed staying at Rock Hound State Park outside of Deming in 2016. However, after a fairly early departure from Bisbee, we’re in Deming by around 2PM, and make the decision to continue another hour to Las Cruces, home of one of our favorite KOA’s.  We end up in interior site #55 which works just fine for an overnight stay.

From Las Cruces, it’s a short trip over to Alamogordo, where we’ll spend 3 nights at Boot Hill RV Resort.  From Alamogordo we make an overnight stop at Van Horn RV Park and another overnight at Ft. Stockton RV Park.

Boot Hill RV Resort, Alamogordo, NM

Van Horn RV Park, Van Horn, TX

After this quick transit of New Mexico and West Texas, we’re planning a week long stay in the Texas Hill country, at one of our favorite RV parks, By The River.  More from Kerrville…





Queen Mine RV Park, Bisbee, AZ

11 03 2020

The Quarry Bisbee

Bisbee is THE small city to see in Arizona, so says Trip Advisor and Frommers.  So, instead of heading directly east as normal, we’ve detoured south from Tucson, through Tombstone and are parked in site #5 at the Queen Mine RV Park in Bisbee, just a little over 7 miles north of the Mexican border.

The 25 sites of Queen Mine RV are laid out in a circle, 1 through about 8 are up against a hillside, the next 8 or so overlook the huge Lavender Pit and the remaining sites overlook Old Bisbee.  The driveway to the campground is steep, but didn’t require any special maneuvering for jacks or truck clearance.  An approach from the west on highway 80 is best for taller rigs.  Coming in from the east will require a transit of a the 13’5” Main Street underpass, or a U-turn past the Main Street exit allowing an approach from the west.  Departures to either direction avoid the underpass.

Queen Mine RV Park, Bisbee, AZ

Our $35/night rate included 30Amp electric, water, sewer, WiFi and cable TV.  All sites are capable of satellite reception so we didn’t try the cable TV.  We did use the park WiFi – sometime with good success, sometimes with poor.  The T-Mobile signal was weak, but provided enough hotspot service to satisfy light browsing and email.

Queen Mine RV Park, Bisbee, AZ

Bisbee itself is very reminiscent of one of the old Colorado mining cities such as Cripple Creek.  Built along the hills & gulches above the open pit copper mines, early stories tell of frequent flooding, inadequate sewage facilities, garbage in the streets and over 50 saloons, gambling halls and of course houses of prostitution.  In addition, the huge smelting operations completely de-forested the nearby hillsides which were soon covered in iron-colored tailings from the many mines in the areas.  It must have been a horrific sight!

Lavender Pit next to Old Bisbee, AZ – Google Earth

Today, Old Bisbee boasts hundreds of carefully renovated buildings, a thriving art/music/hospitality scene, wonderful summertime festivals and a cool, mountain location. With an amazing number of dining options, we opted for The Quarry Bisbee on Brewery Ave.  Within a 5 or 10 minute walk of the RV park, the Quarry provides great comfort plates such as meatloaf, chicken pot pie, patty melts and of course big juicy burgers.  We enjoyed our night out and will probably return for another visit to explore more of Bisbee.  From here we’re headed into New Mexico – more from along I-10.

 





Tucson, Cactus Country RV Park

9 03 2020

While last in Tucson in 2017 we enjoyed an afternoon at the Pima Air and Space Museum, but missed the boneyard tour conducted at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. This year we reserved early and are looking forward to “completing” the tour we started 3 years ago.  The AMARG as it’s properly called is the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group.  Unlike it’s informal name, the facility is more storage than scrapping.  While there are some planes in various states of tear-down, most of the planes and helicopters are sealed and preserved for later use.

309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group, Tucson

The AMARG at Davis-Monthan is the largest storage facility in the world, currently with about 4400 aircraft.  Of unique interest are the many B-52 Stratofortress that have been cut into pieces.  Under the 2010 START treaty, AMARG was tasked with the destruction of some of the 365 B-52’s to be eliminated.  Initially wings and tails were separated from fuselage.  Later, to provide a quicker and safer method, a huge saw blade was used to sever the tail section from the fuselage.  The remains of these planes still lay at Davis-Monthan in strategic positioning making it easy for Russian spy satellites to unmistakably determine that the planes have been destroyed.

B-52’s ready for Russian spy satellite viewing

We’re parked at the Cactus Country RV park in site #198. As is normal for Arizona parks, this one is a mixture of park models, single wide mobile homes and RV’s.  Located about 15 miles east of downtown Tucson, this park is a close enough to be convenient to most shopping and far enough out to be quiet and dark.  Site #198 is a nice end site, and provides a bit more space than some of the other sites.  The shower rooms are showing their age, but spotless, and the laundry gets good reviews.  We’d stay here again.  From here we’re headed to Bisbee, AZ – noted by Travel Advisor as a “Great American Small City to Visit”.  More from there…

Cactus Country RV site #198

Cactus Country RV





Puerto Peñasco (Rocky Point)

7 03 2020

Our trip to Organ Pipe is twofold, to get out of the Phoenix noise and lights and to check out RV parks in Puerto Penasco, also known as Rocky Point.  Puerto Penasco, MX is located about 65 miles south of Organ Pipe, and a favorite destination of RV’ers and Spring Breakers.  With our Mexican Car Insurance policy (purchased online) in hand, on Friday we cross the border and make the trek down to the Sea of Cortez.  Puerto Penasco appears to be a fun destination, with great seafood restaurants and Cobo-like party environment.

Grilled Red Snapper at Pedro’s – Rocky Point

After a delicious seafood lunch at Pedro’s on the Malecon, we begin our park tours at Playa de Oro RV Resort, rated 8.9 on CampgroundReviews.com.  Playa is located just east of the central area of Puerto Penasco, but is probably too far to walk to town.  And, it might not be in the best neighborhood either.  RV’s are arranged in fairly tight quarters in this graveled lot.  There appears to be full hookups and towers for WiFi access points.  The “premium” beach side sites have a bit more room, but still lack any outside amenities such as a cement slab or tables or grills.  There are also spaces across the street in the “North Forty” that appear even tighter and of course don’t have the advantage of ocean views.

Playa de Oro Rv Resort

Leaving the eastern beach area, we checked out 3 resorts along the western area, starting with Concha del Mar rated 9.0!  This is a dry campground, providing a beautiful location along the ocean, fenced & gated, with onsite laundry facilities and showers.  Fresh water fill and waste tank disposal is available by truck at unknown costs.  Nightly space rates are $12/night.  Stays beyond 1 week accrue free nights, 1 for every 7 you stay.

Concha del Mar Campground & RV Park

Right next door to Concha del Mar is Playa Bonita Resort & RV Park providing full hookups right on the edge of the beach. Spaces were well laid out, a bit tight and again, the best were those along the beach.  WiFi towers were visible, but we didn’t try to connect.  Pretty much the same as all others, gravel and hard packed sand sites, no outside amenities and fairly tight quarters.

Playa Bonita RV Resort

Much further to the west and directly next door to Wrecked at the Reef is the relatively new Reef RV Resort.  Providing full hookups, this beach side RV park is probably our favorite at Puerto Penasco.  The downside is the long trip into town, the upside is that the park is the largest and newest in the area.  Sites are laid out on gravel and hard packed sand, most fairly tight, but those along the beach providing great ocean views.  And, it might be expensive to be living next to Wrecked on the Reef Restaurant and Night Club!

The Reef RV Resort

The Reef RV Resort

Billboard just across the Mexico border at Sonoyta, MX

So, the question is – will we come back with the RV next year?  At this point it’s doubtful.  The beach resorts and RV parks are no nicer than those that are available along the Texas Gulf Coast – and there’s a certain comfort of remaining “in-country” along with no insurance hassles.  Will we visit Rocky Point again – probably.  It appears to be a fun town, provides great value and it very close to where we travel in the spring.