Back in the Mountain West

11 04 2010
NRA Whittington Center

NRA Whittington Center

Good morning from Raton, NM. We are camped at a somewhat unlikely, but beautiful location in the National Rifle Association’s Whittington Center just south of Raton. Located on 33,000 acres in northern New Mexico, the center boasts the most complete shooting facility in the nation. And, they offer their primitive campsites, full-hookup RV sites and rustic cabins to the general public.

We’re in the East campground where all the sites are arranged around a central building with restrooms, showers and laundry facilities. Most of the sites are arranged in rows except for two outer sites, #35 & #36 that offer more privacy and great views off the top of the bluff. We’re in site #35 with beautiful views of the nearby foothills, the valley below and the mesas and volcano mounds to the east. Sunrise over the mesas was beautiful this morning. After experiencing our share of noisy, city RV sites, this location is a complete contrast. The only lighting in the campground was around the central building last night making for a beautiful starry, clear night. The temperature dropped to about 30 degrees last night, so the furnace ran occasionally. This morning, the only sounds we heard were birds in the trees.

We’ll have some breakfast, pack up and head north on I-25 today for the short drive home. It’s been a great trip – things have worked very well with the camper and truck. We are still working out the kinks in our arrive/depart check-list. Yesterday when leaving Lubbock we needed to move the truck slightly to reach the gray-water dump. This one additional task seemed to throw off all the others – we forgot to lock the refrigerator, an overhead light was left on, and the propane wasn’t turned off. So, it seems even with a lot of practice in the last 2 weeks, we still don’t have everything down “just right”. But, hopefully with lots more practice this summer, we’ll become experts.

Thanks for reading about the Texas Road Trip 2010 – it’s been fun sharing and documenting our adventures.

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…

On the Road Again!

9 04 2010

1st Leg of the Return Trip

We’re back on the road! We’ve departed Harlingen and the Rio Grande valley headed north. It’s been a great time with friends and family, a fun trip across the border, a day at the beach on South Padre Island, a relaxing afternoon at Pepe’s on the River and other activities. As usual, there wasn’t time to do it all, but we’ve been away from home and work for over 2 weeks now and it’s time to get back to reality.

This morning in Harlingen dawns bright, clear and relatively low in humidity. We’re on the road by 10am, headed toward San Antonio and beyond to Kerrville for our first night. Our return will be more direct than the route down, instead of cutting across southern New Mexico, we’ll head directly to the Texas panhandle. We’re planning to overnight in Kerrville, Colorado City (near Abilene), and Raton, NM. On this first leg of the trip we’ll returning North to I-37 into San Antonio, then West on I-10 for about 100 miles before leaving the Interstates in favor of a more rural and direct route. In general, we’re headed for I-25 at Raton, NM. We’ll leave I-10 at Junction, TX; headed north toward Abilene, Lubbock and Amarillo. This is about the maximum distance that can be traveled across Texas, from the south eastern tip to the north western panhandle will be over 1000 miles before we leave Texas and enter New Mexico near Clayton. From there it will be a relatively short distance of only about 250 miles home.

This will be our second overnight near Kerrville. On the way down, our 2nd to last night was at Johnson Creek RV Resort. This time we’ll be stopping at By the River RV Park. Both are located to the west outside of Kerrville and both advertise either river view or riverside locations. More about By the River in a later review.

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.

South of the border

7 04 2010

Across the bridge at Nuevo Progreso, MX

Monday we headed south of the border to the small town of Nuevo Progreso, Mexico.  This tourist town is right across the international bridge about halfway between Harlingen and McAllen, Texas.  As a testament to the expensive health care in the US, the majority of the shops along the main street are pharmacies and dental offices.  Mixed in are large department-style stores stocking everything from tequila to Mexican pottery and small street corner vendors selling roasted almonds, strings of garlic, jewelry, DVD’s (I’m sure they are legal copies) and blankets.  And, at the “medical spa”, I saw this ad: Landfill will plump up those lips for a sensual look.  Umm..maybe a bit of a language translation issue?

A few backyard cantinas are also nearby, allowing for a quick stop for a beer in between shopping.  Our favorite of these outside cantinas is the Rose Garden, a simple backyard location with plastic tables, chairs and cheap $1 beers.  Take a seat at one of these tables, order up a cerveza and wait for the kids to arrive.  Selling everything from shoe shines to jewelry, some of these kids have a real entrepreneur spirit.  If you have an appetite for Mexican food, many of the larger stores have nice restaurants providing good local fare at affordable prices.  At the height of the tourist season, many of these places offer dance bands to entertain the winter texans.  

Our typical Mexican shopping list includes cookies and tequila.  We also make a stop at our favorite pharmacy for an annual supply of allergy medicines.  (in Mexico, a year’s supply of Claritin, a typically over-the-counter allergy medication, costs about $30 – compared to over $300 in the US).  The bridge toll into and out of Mexico is about $4 per vehicle, or $.50 if you choose to park your car on the US side and walk across.  Re-entering the US, passports are required and the state of Texas charges about  $1 tax (depending on size) for each bottle of imported liquor.

The Canada Store & Garcia's restaurant

Main Street, Nuevo Progreso

Welcome to Pepe’s On The River

4 04 2010

Welcome to Pepe’s On The River

Yesterday (Saturday) we joined several friends at one of our favorite restaurants in South Texas, Pepe’s on the River in Mission, TX. The open air building with a large thatched roof offers a great location for relaxing next to the Rio Grande, enjoying burgers, Mexican food, beers and margaritas.

In the afternoons the stage often has country western bands and singers that get the winter-texan crowd dancing and toe-tapping.

Good Morning from Corpus Christi

31 03 2010

Texas Bluebonnets

We made it to the east coast – well, the east coast of Texas.  We’ve now traveled almost 700 miles across Texas – and almost 1400 in total since leaving Colorado.  And, we finally found some of the wildflowers that Texas roadways are so famous for.  Dating back to 1965, the National Highway Beautification Act, known as the “Lady Bird Act” called for planting of wildflowers along federal highways.  With a home in the Texas Hill Country until her death in 2007, Lady Bird Johnson continued to lobby Texas to beautify highways.  Today, depending on the spring rains, you’ll see Bluebonnet, Texas Paintbrush, the pink Winecup, and the Yellow Primrose.  The colors were starting in the Hill Country, but here along the Coastal plain, they are in full bloom.  

Padre Palms RV Park

We arrived in Corpus about 4pm yesterday after doing a bit of shopping at the Kerrville Wal-Mart, passing through San Antonio and continuing all the way to the Texas Gulf Coast.  We initially had planned to stay at Padre Palms park, right on the beach SE of downtown Corpus.  But upon arrival we didn’t like the look of the park and opted to move to Hatch RV Park. 

Hatch RV Park

Hatch RV is just south of downtown.  If the other parks we’ve stayed in were “retirement” parks, this is a “working man’s” park.  For at least an hour starting at 5pm we had a ‘rush hour’ of people entering and leaving the park.  The rush started again about 6am this morning.  And, being parked right next to a speed bump, we got to enjoy many squealing breaks, squeaky shocks and then the acceleration away from the bump.  Needless to say, there wasn’t much sleeping after about 6am this morning! 

Hatch RV Pool & Hot Tub

But, overall this park is very nice.  We’re right next to the bathhouse, an older, but clean shower/restroom facility.  There are full hookups including 20+ channels of cable TV.  And, the clubhouse area including pool and hot tub is very nice.  The Wi-Fi works well and there is plenty of space between sites and lots of mature trees.  And they offer a few supplies – ice, TV connectors, maps, etc in a General Store.  

We’ll complete the final leg of the trip today when we turn south from Corpus Christi and drive along the coast to the lower Rio Grande valley.  We’re headed to Harlingen, a medium-sized city about halfway between Brownsville and McAllen where we’ll spend the next week.  We’re planning to be back on the road on April 8th with the first night around Kerrville again.  I’m not sure how much I’ll get posted in the next week – but I’ll make sure to post when we’ve made the first stop on the way home. 

From the warm, humid Texas Gulf Coast…more later!