I grew up in Texas, Austin to be precise. We’ve driven through the state many times over the years. But yet, it always amazes me just how big Texas is.
Charting any trip through the state is a daunting task. So many miles, so many routes you can take, and even after all our years on the road – we’ve still not seen large portions.
Every trip through, we try to explore new spots. Our last pass through in late 2013, we just followed I-10 in from the west. *Yawn* Boring. We knew we didn’t want to do that again, although it is the most direct route.
We also really want to explore the Big Bend area, including Marfa and Davis Mountain Observatory. But with only two weeks left to make it into Austin, there just wouldn’t be enough time to not feel rushed.
So we looked north of I-10 for possibilities and targeted a few interesting sounding stops on our way east. Overall, the route would only add about 40 miles over just taking I-10.
Here’s where the adventure took us over the past couple weeks:
Guadalupe Mountains National Park – Salt Flat, TX
Situated in the western corner of Texas just under New Mexico, we headed due east out of Las Cruces towards Guadalupe Mountains National Park. This is the highest point in Texas, and many million years ago was a living coral reef when Texas was covered by water.
Years of mountain building and erosion have revealed these towering giants and the unique ecosystem around them.
There’s no entry fee to the National Park itself, but there is a permit required for hiking at $5 per person for 7-days (or free with a national park pass).
The campground within the park is called Pine Springs (our review), and has a section for tent camping and another for RVs. At $8 a night ($4 for seniors), it’s dry camping in basically a parking lot. All sites are on a first-come first-serve basis and we scored a nice end site with a little bit of a yard and picnic table. And with gorgeous views of the mountains.
With enough usable cellular signal using our Wilson Mobile 4G booster, we decided to stay two nights and enjoy the park.
Monahans Sandhills State Park – Monahans, TX
Next stop was a state park we eyed just a bit west of Odessa, TX – so we continued east out of Guadalupe Mountains.
Once we turned onto Highway 285 heading south to Pecos – we were astonished to see how much oil company activity there was. We knew it had picked up since our last jaunt through this neck of the woods.. but WOW!. The roads are busy with big trucks speeding up and down them, and there’s nearly 40 miles of littered highway on the way into Pecos.
It made for a very unpleasant drive in what once used to be nice back country roads. Hey, we understand oil business is going to happen.. but at least keep the roadsides clean.
Don’t Mess with Texas, Y’all!
Monahans Sandhill State Park (our review) is right off I-20, and located in the middle of an active sand dune. We’ve visited other sand dunes before, and love sleeping amongst them.
This was a very fun visit. Our site was a pull-thru next to a small pile of sand.. and the dune field is accessible right from the campground. We enjoyed a day of frolicking amongst them in our bare feet (amazing feeling!). Kiki even enjoyed romping amongst them, and tired herself out.
We stayed two nights, which was plenty to experience this park. There’s only so much sand one can take.
San Angelo State Park – and the Big KABANG!
We had contemplated another Harvest Hosts stay in either Midland or Odessa at museums, but we really were not thrilled with staying longer in the area with all the oil trucks whizzing by.
So we set sights to the next state park on our way in San Angelo.
We turned down Highway 158 out of Midland, anxious for the traffic madness to stop. But it kept on. We were approaching the little town of Garden City, and the highway was all under construction with lots of big trucks passing us by.
And then KABANG!
At first we though we had been shot, or a tire popped. It strikingly loud. Turns out one of the trucks kicked up a rock (or boulder??) into our windshield.
With the road under construction, there was no where to safely pull off for 40 miles. Thankfully the cracks where below site line, and weren’t spreading. I posted a photo to Instagram and Facebook, and asked for advice.
Where we safe to keep driving? What should we do?
Several folks gave us reassurance that safety glass used in windshields is designed to not implode (double layers of glass with a layer of plastic in-between) – and we didn’t need to worry right away. This helped us feel safe to get into our next stop and assess the situation. We’re ever so thankful for our online community for helping out, sharing their wisdom and their sympathy with the situation.
We arrived to San Angelo State Park still a bit shaken, and the staff there was absolutely awesome.
They got us into a lovely huge site with a gorgeous panoramic prairie view (which used to be a lake front view long long ago). We got in touch with our insurance company and started the ball rolling (all will be well.. we’ll document the process once it’s done).
San Angelo State Park (our review) is a lovely park, and we decided to extend to 3-nights total there. We needed the down time, and this was a perfect chill location. Very close to town, where we could do chores like laundry and groceries, and enjoy some dining out.
Pedernales Falls State Park – Johnson City, TX
For our last stop before approaching Austin, we selected Pedernales Falls State Park just outside Johnson City, TX.
They were completely booked over the weekend, so we timed our arrival for Sunday so we could snag a site for a couple days to get in some final re-charge time. We know Austin will keep us busy once we arrive.
We’d been in communication with Becky of Interstellar Orchard as we knew she was volunteering at nearby Enchanted Rock State Park (which doesn’t have an RV campground). When we told her we were headed to Pedernales, she proposed meeting us there as she and her temporary traveling companion Julie wanted to hike anyway before they leave the area.
So we got an early start to the day to make the 4hr drive in, and still have plenty of time to hang out with them. And it was lovely to catch up since our last in person time a couple years ago in South Dakota.
(By the way, Becky has been solo RVing for 2.5 years now and we’ve interviewed her before in our Ramblings: Tales from Nomads series.. and she just released a guide to Solo Full-Time RVing on a Budget. Check it out if you’re looking for such information, it’s a great guide from a great gal!)
On Wednesday we’ll move on over to our reserved spot at McKinney Falls State Park in south Austin – one of our all time favorite state parks.
My mom has already arrived to town to meet us, and we have some other friends joining us too. We’re super excited to see everyone, have some quality family time and enjoy my old stomping grounds. There will of course be much indulgence of yummy Austin food and experiences.
We’re also be coordinating a windshield replacement.
We’re still formulating plans for after Austin.. tales to come 🙂
Recent Video Posts:
We’re getting more and more active on YouTube, publishing archives of our live video chats, and now producing a monthly travelogue wrap up. It’s been super fun, and reaching a whole new audience. Here’s some of our content just uploaded:
March 2015 Travelogue – A summary of our repositioning from Tucson to Texas (if you’ve been following our blog posts, nothing new here, just another format of sharing.) In addition to catching these on YouTube, they also auto post to the side bar of the blog over there —->.
RV Clubs – Which to Join – An archive of our video chat from last week has been posted, as well as a companion chat notes page with links to the clubs we talked about. This chat has gotten some great feedback as being helpful and informative.. and we had a lot of fun sharing it. (You can catch archives of all of our live video chats on our Video Chat Center).