Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The First Six Weeks On The Road

The first six weeks of living on the road has been a learning experience for everyone.  The original plan was to leave Colorado sometime around November 1, 2014 and leisurely head south into New Mexico.  The thought was that if we kept heading south, we could essentially follow autumn, and would then spend most of the winter at Big Bend National Park in Texas.

For a variety of reasons (a delay with the solar power installation, trouble having the tow system set up, and an unexpected surgery, etc.), we ended up not leaving until New Years Day.  While the concept of starting the new year with a new beginning certainly has some symmetry and romance to it, the reality of going RVing in Colorado on January 1st fell somewhere shy of romantic.  A couple of days before we left, the temperature was -24F, but as we were actually leaving, it had warmed up to 10F above.

The day before departure

Our RV (since named Daisy), ran like a champ, and really the only problem that the cold caused, was that we weren't able to fill our water tank so we weren't able to use the sink, toilet, or shower.

When we left my parent's house in Greeley, CO at about noon, it was sunny, with a clear forecast, but by the time we got to South Denver the skies were grey and thick with snow.  I-25 was icy and snow-packed from Centennial over Monument Pass to Colorado Springs.  Towing a car for the first time while driving in the snow made for a white knuckle experience, but we took it slow and didn't have any problems.  We got to Pueblo, CO well after dark, and crunched through the ice to a small RV park.

The next morning was shockingly cold but clear, and after a quick bowl of oatmeal we were on the road as soon as possible.  (Lack of any running water really tends to speed up the morning routine).

From Pueblo we headed east, a general trend that we would keep up for weeks.  We zig-zaged down through the plains of South Eastern Colorado, cut across the few miles of the Oklahoma panhandle, and into Texas.  We spent two nights in Dalhart, TX in order to let a snow/ice storm blow through.  Dalhart was cold, but not Colorado cold.

Sunset Dalhart, TX
The next day it was off to Amarillo and beyond.  For anyone familiar with Amarillo, you know that to the north of town are miles and miles of hills and badlands.  Well, remember the snow/ice storm that I just mentioned?  Towards Amarillo it was more on the ice storm end of the spectrum.  I'm still not sure how we managed to get up that tilted, ice skating rink that was the road, while towing a car.  We watched the semi-truck in front of us get part way up the hill in front of us three times, only to slide back down sideways each time before he finally made it to the top.  I'd just like to officially thank the wonderful people at Goodyear Tires for their good work and dedication!

After a quick lunch at the Big Texan Steak Ranch in Amarillo, it was on mercifully dry roads that we drove to Abilene where we spent the night at our first Wal-Mart.  Up early again (really early this time, as that's when all of the truckers leave), and on to Austin.  Hooray for sunshine!   For the first time we could go outside without our coats (at least for the first couple of days).

From this point on we were able to slow down to allow Brooke to get some work done.  We spent the first night in Austin at a private RV park where we were able to take showers and get the RV cleaned up.  After that we drove 10 minutes down the road to McKinney Falls State Park, the first of many beautiful Texas State Parks.  This one was especially nice as it was half the price of the private RV park, was in a beautiful forest, and was within Austin city limits.

Lower McKinney Falls, Austin, TX

After Austin we spent a week at Pedernales Falls State Park in the Texas hill country.  The Pedernales river flows through the park, and has cut a canyon into the underlying sandstone.  The water has shaped a series of pools, slides, potholes and small waterfalls, which are really spectacular. 

Heron, Pedernales Falls State Park, TX
Pedernales Falls State Park, TX
Following Perdenales, we drove for 4 or 5 hours to Stephen F. Austin State Park which is just west of Houston.  This was near the site of the township of San Felipe, which was the political center of the origins of Texas.  For the first time, we started seeing lots of Spanish moss in the trees, which made us feel like we were getting to the South.

Dawn on the Brazos River, Stephen F. Austin State Park, TX
From Houston we drove about as far south and east in Texas as it is possible to go.  Our last Texas State Park was Sea Rim State Park near Port Arthur.  This is the heart of Texas petrochemical land.  While Sea Rim park itself was a small piece of preserved shoreline, the horizon in every direction was either full of refineries or offshore oil platforms.  At night it was eerie with the clouds lit up from below by the orange glow of sodium lights and flames at the refineries burning off the gas.  From our camp sight I could count around 30 platforms.  Sea Rim, while isolated and exposed (we had no cell phone service or internet) had a certain stark beauty to it.  It was just unfortunate that the pollution was so bad.

Beach at Sea Rim State Park, TX
Great Egret, Sea Rim State Park, TX (this photo was shot about 200 yards from the other photo).
Next up, out of Texas and into Louisiana.  It was smooth driving across the bayous of southern Louisiana into the Crescent City, New Orleans.  We stayed at a great Louisiana State Park called Bayou Segnette.  This state park was located within the greater New Orleans metro area, but was in a natural setting, which to my way of thinking was the best of both worlds.

Crawfish, gumbo, and shrimp and grits.  Friendly people, and chicory coffee.  Po-boys, oysters on the half shell and bourbon bread pudding.  Did I mention that the food was pretty good in the Big Easy?  New Orleans is definitely on our list of places to go back to when we get the chance.

Louisiana fast food, New Orleans, LA
Then it was out of the Big Easy and into Florida via Mississippi (we had time to stop for a barbeque lunch that ended up feeding us for three meals, and Alabama, where unfortunately it was so foggy that we couldn't see anything of the beautiful city of Mobile.  We rolled into Pensacola in the afternoon, and drove out to Fort Pickens, which is part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore.  Absolutely spectacular.  The sand is so white that it looks like drifts of snow in the moonlight (but because I'm from Colorado, maybe that's just how I see the world;).

Patterns drawn in the sand by sea oats blowing in the wind.  Gulf Islands National Sea Shore, Pensacola, FL.

After a week at Pensacola, we went to Black Water River State Park for one night, and then down to Grayton Beach State Park on the Gulf Coast near Destin for a few nights.  Brooke and I had been to this area before, and were excited to go back.  More delicious food, and more stunning white sand beaches.

Grayton Beach, FL

From Grayton Beach we drove for the better part of a day across North Florida to get to Otter Springs near Gainesville.  I was excited to come here because it is the center of the highest concentration of natural springs in the world.  The geology here is like swiss cheese with underwater rivers and caverns.  Where the water comes to the surface, it is often so clear that it's hard to tell where the air stops and the water begins.  Some of the springs are in state parks, and many others are privately owned.

So that was the short, short version to bring us up to date.  We'll do better about posting from now on as we get things figured out.

February 20, 2015
Otter Springs, FL

In the beginning...

This is the story of a Man and a Woman, and a dog and another, smaller dog, and an RV.  For many reasons, we were in need of a change, a restart, and some different scenery.  We discussed the idea of living in an RV full time with the dogs, Domino and Olive, and they were on board, so we sold most of our stuff, rented out the house, and hit the road.

D-Day (Departure Day) January 1, 2015

These are our continuing adventures...