Originally published 4 March 2014
We're home now...and we've got things unloaded and have had a few days to catch up. After Four thousand miles in the motorhome and another thousand in the truck, it's straight back into the grind with a show next weekend. As with our other blogs, I'll close out with random thoughts about our trip....what we saw, and who we met.
The desert southwest- The desert is so different from where we live. Most of the places we stayed were quite temperate and I can understand why someone would winter there. There are also drawbacks. One of the big ones is dust, which gets on everything. It's a dusty place so be prepared to dust often. The other issue is the low humidity. It has it's positives, with few allergens, mold spores and such. It's biggest negative is that it is hard on my skin and Laurie's eyes. If we were there longer, perhaps we would acclimate. If not, we would find it difficult to live there. But we really enjoyed visiting it.
Texas- It's huge. It's the size of Spain and a handful of other small European countries to boot. We drove all day...and were still in Texas. The people who live there seem very nice....and the Rio Grande area that we traveled through is mentioned as "the most beautiful road in Texas". I haven't driven that many...but it was a gorgeous drive. Cliffs, river canyons, and mountains....all things one doesn't normally think of when they think of Texas. It's a state that doesn't lend it self to convention......and is often different from it's stereotypes. I liked Texas.....and think I'd like to explore it more.
Walmart- People vilify Walmart....but we used it a lot. We stayed in their parking lots on overnights, and shopped there a few times. It may not be politically correct, but neither am I. We're able to get in and out of the parking lot with our large rig, it's open when we need it, and usually has what we need. They're welcoming of people parking and staying for the night, and we never saw a Walmart that didn't have a few RV's in the parking lot......and saw a few that had as many as 30 plus. Say what you want....they were welcoming and didn't charge a thing for overnight stays.
RV parks- I'm kinda picky and won't just stay at any RV park. The ones we stayed at on this trip ranged from quirky (Marfa, TX/Tumble In) to the equivalent of a gated community (Benson, AZ/Butterfield RV resort). All had their high points and none were bad places to stay, by any stretch of the imagination.
The Tumble In was unattended, with an honor system box that you paid site rent to in a vintage trailer office. It had everything we needed, was well taken care of, and near what we needed to be near. Silver City was very serviceable and right in the middle of town....well run and clean. Butterfield was incredibly nice, with a hot tub, heated pool, community center, and an observatory that had nightly shows for guests. American RV in Albuquerque was well maintained, very nice, and very convenient.
The Apache nation campground (Distant Drums RV resort) in Camp Verde, AZ was our favorite. We swam in the pool and hot tubbed every night. They had a shuttle to the casino across the road, beautiful views, it was centrally located, and meticulously maintained. Kuddos to the the Apache's for running such a top notch place. It's the kind of place that you could really consider wintering for a month or so.
Tunica had a nice RV park, and was the cheapest place we stayed. Cable TV, full hook ups, casino shuttle, lodge, laundry, and in the summer a great pool. It's well maintained, and at 15 dollars a night, a steal. I hope to stay there again.
Fellow travelers- We talked to other people in the RV parks. Most were from the pacific northwest, Montana, the Dakotas, and a surprisingly high number from Canada. All these places were very cold this winter and I can see how 68 and sunny of the desert southwest would be quite appealing. We saw people from all over, and most were there for the winter. We weren't "snowbirds", but true travelers. We would stay somewhere a few nights and move on. Many if not most of the other RV park dwellers were staying long term, riding out the winter until things up north improved. It's a very eclectic mix of people traveling that area of the country.
WIFI- I chose campgrounds because they had WIFI. We found that every place had cell phone service as well. The wifi in the campgrounds, with the exception of Marfa and the Tumble In, sucked. It had rates of .48/.24 megs. And yes, that's a decimal in front of the rates. We would use the hotspot on my phone and get rates of 20/10. Using the phone wifi isn't cheap as you're paying for the data....but we used it almost everywhere. If we didn't, we could never get things to upload or download. Tunica may or may not have had good internet, but at 11.95 a day...we knew it was cheaper to use our hotspot. I kept jacking up my data amounts as we traveled..........next time we travel I'll just plan on using our hotspot and not worry about whether a campground has it or not.
Fuel- When we traveled Europe, airfare was a main expense. We spent a pretty penny on fuel in the motorhome. We got 6 MPG pulling my truck. I wish it was better but it wasn't. It was the reason we planned on staying one place and working with the motorhome as a hub. This was a good plan and I know it saved us a lot of fuel. As for prices, we ran into fuel around $3.00 a gallon one place in Texas. As for all the other places we visited, fuel at home in central Tennessee was cheaper. Lodging was cheaper than Europe averaging around 35 bucks a night.......so I guess the fuel thing balances out.
Vistas and views- The American west is visually striking. Mountains, canyons, mesas, rocks......and with little bad weather and low humidity, you can see forever. The sky isn't interrupted out west, like it is where we live. The sun/moon rises from behind a mountain and the mountains are close together. Out west, it's horizon to horizon and the mountains are a long way apart. The sky is huge...and goes on forever. It's so difficult to convey how far/large things are out west.
Mexico- Mexico stuck with us....and affected us the most. After watching TV news and reading horror story after horror story about Mexican border towns, we were justifiably skeptical about crossing. Looking across the border in El Paso made Juarez in Mexico look very inhospitable. But Juarez is an exception with it's astronomical murder rate and drug trafficking. My research said Nogalas was reasonably safe, a fact confirmed by local friends. They told us to be out by dark, don't go out of the tourist areas, and don't go dicey places. It's good advice for large parts of most American cities, much less Mexico. Just pay attention, don't be stupid, and you'll be fine.
The people we met in Mexico were some of the friendliest on our trip. We talked to construction workers building a plaza who were very open and nice. The people on the streets were helpful with directions or recommendations. Everyone was courteous. People there seemed genuinely happy. They were normal people living their lives in the shadow of a big border fence. We realize that the problem at the borders isn't caused by these friendly locals living there......but by narco traffickers and lots of other bad people. It's a shame that the people that live there have their lives affected by the situation.
Route 66- It was kinda disappointing. Lots of it wasn't accessible...and lots of it was gone. Lots of it had nothing on it. Arizona and New Mexico route 66 is a road of bits and pieces. The bits and pieces were interesting.......and much easier traveled by car than my motorhome. Yes there were some cool things...but with careful planning you can hit the "high spots" and get just as much out of it as someone who drives all of it available. It's worth doing and seeing, but don't have grand expectations.
Food- One of the high points of our travels any time we have traveled has been the local cuisine. When you travel, you simply MUST partake of the local food. It gives insight into the culture, and into the people that you are surrounded by. It was the southwest so Mexican/TexMex/southwestern cooking was the norm....with flat enchiladas, stuffed sopapillas, fresh tacos, served in local diners among local people. Deceptive little hole in the wall places, like Mando's in Marfa, TX yielded amazing food and friendly people sharing the birthday cake of a worker at the restaurant. Food is one thing that ties us all together as humans....so jump right into the local cuisine...and roll around in it! See what the people that live there eat.....take their suggestions as to what's good.....be adventurous!
Collecting- Many people are collectors. Some collect coins or antiques because they like the history behind them. Some collect art. Some collect things that are valuable. I collect bits and pieces of places I've been. Pins of sights we've been to, chips from poker rooms I've played in, photos, memories. Laurie collects rocks. Unlike many other collections...mine aren't worth much to anyone but me. But they're mine. I think Laurie's rocks are the same way.
Travel in general- Travel opens us up to the different...the new. We see and do things that are foreign to us, different from how we live our everyday life. From this, we find things we like...new experiences, new foods, and new people. We learn about how others live their lives and go through their day. Learning about others and where they live is a good thing.
Every time we travel, people seem less distant, less DIFFERENT than us. Still interesting, but we find we have more in common than not. They have families, lives, jobs, just like us. Travel has a way of making the world smaller...not larger. It's normal to fear the unknown....and the more we know about others, the less we fear them. Travel. Go. Do. See. Expose yourself to things and people that are different....and eventually, you'll find out that they're not.
I got laid off 3 years ago....and wound up doing art shows. We started traveling and it's just consumed me......making the last 3 years some of the most interesting of my life. Each trip we take, I find myself further from a "normal" life.....but closer to a place I feel more comfortable. Time marches on and I've grown to embrace the different. I am encouraged and accompanied in these journeys by a woman I am fascinated with....after all these years. She is the one that started all this. I hope to make many more journeys with her in this life.........and see so much more than I already have.
Until next time..............
Quote of the day- "Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving." -Terry Pratchett
Song of the day- Breakaway- Kelly Clarkson
I'm Bill. My wife Laurie and I love to travel and share our stories. We especially love it when we have been able to motivate our readers to start traveling on their own, and making their own stories.
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