The friendly folks at Lance Campers did a great job replacing our bathroom sink and countertop, sealing a leaky window over the bed, and adding an extra latch to a kitchen cabinet so it doesn’t pop open when we travel.
Lancaster, CA has the last Costco and Trader Joe’s stores that we see for awhile, so we stocked up on provisions before heading to Lake Havasu, AZ and the Xscapers RV Club Annual Bash.
The Xscapers Bash has grown a lot since we stumbled across the group outside of Quartzsite, AZ back in 2016. That year we crashed the last few days of the event which was about 50 RV’s in the desert. This year the Bash has grown to 312 rigs with more than 500 people.
The Xscapers Bash is a mix of fun events (guacamole throwdown, mac & cheese fest, music, margarita contest) and educational presentations (solar power, astronomy, RV tax issues, and more).
Yesterday we went sight seeing in Lake Havasu City, which means going to the London Bridge. Back in 1968 the London Bridge was sold and then moved from the River Thames to the Arizona desert where part of the Colorado River was rerouted under the newly reconstructed bridge. People do seem to be attracted to the bridge — the population of Lake Havasu City has grown from around 4,000 people in 1970 to 54,000 today.
So, how do we rate our RV life to date? We give it a 6 out of 10 so far on the adventure scale. The weather has been somewhat cold, rainy, or overcast most days ever since we left California, and that accounts for the lower score. We did have a few sunny days, near 70 degrees, in the McKinney Falls state park and in the Goliad state park. Still, when that wind blows across the flat open land, we shiver in the bright sunshine. That is why we are headed even further south, to the Gulf coast. We want to explore the islands before working our way back to family in Austin sometime in February, just in time to finish those taxes!
Our daily routine hasn’t changed too much from our time in the Idyllwild cabin. We lounge around in our comfortable bed until one of us (usually Lon) jumps up to turn on one of the heaters. We have been using the gas heater only in the early mornings since it warms the RV up quickly. We also have a small electric heater that sits on the floor which we use the rest of the day when necessary, if we are hooked up to electricity. In the evenings when we are watching over-the-air TV or a show on our iPad we are comfortable with blankets and pillows arranged on the dinette seats and turn on that small heater periodically. If it’s an extra chilly night, the floor heater may run all night on a low setting, but that is not the norm. Our down comforter is amazing even if Deb struggles to hang onto her share of the bedding every night.
Meals are the same too. Lon uses a Coleman gas grill outside to cook our meats and veggies. Deb finally learned how to use the convection microwave a few weeks ago by making pita pizzas one night and baked chicken the second time (when it was too wet outside to grill.) But we tend to stick with minimal-cooking techniques which the microwave handles easily. And after all the holiday pies we’ve eaten lately we really don’t need to try to bake more treats for a while. We brought a lot of packaged food that was left over from last summer’s Colorado Trail backpacking trip. It’s still mostly left over. Dining out or buying fresh is much more appetizing to us.
We boon docked (without hookups) some of the days during December, but none so far in January. Lon’s sister Holly gifted us a Texas state parks pass, a wonderful gift to have in Texas where the state parks charge daily per person entrance fees in addition to the RV site camping fee. Using it, we stayed in McKinney Falls state park in Austin for 2 weeks over the holidays. The upper falls portion of the park and some bike and walking paths are still closed and under reconstruction until February, but it was nice to get back into our exercise routines while staying there. Lots of walking, jogging (Lon), and bike rides. So far in January, we’ve stayed at two private RV parks along the San Marcos river: Pecan Riverside RV park in San Marcos, and Riverbend RV park in Luling. Both nice enough parks but lacking good walking or biking trails along the actual river (towns missing the point !) So we have resumed staying at state parks: three nights at Goliad state park where we enjoyed trails again and touring some historic sites and biking into town in time for the monthly farmer’s market and some tasty award-winning jalapeño soup at the local deli. Yesterday, we traveled to the Texas gulf coast and found the lovely Goose Island state park, which promptly welcomed us with another chilly afternoon and now a downpour. Winter time in Texas……
The RV is running great for us, surprising us with 10 mpg when we expected less than that. We have noticed that the mpg seems to go down slightly when we travel with an empty fresh water tank, which seems illogical. Of course we use Gas Buddy to find the lowest gas prices and are paying mostly under $2 gas. We like that. When we left Austin, we took the RV in for normal maintenance service in nearby Buda and came out of there much lighter, wallet-wise. We are learning from our experience and from other RV blogs that normal RV maintenance is a major budget item. Luckily we are not experiencing any significant problems with our RV. We had the fluids and filters changed and the “slop” in the steering wheel adjusted and the brakes serviced and inspected. We have recently noticed damp carpets under the floor mats but think that is from condensation forming inside the RV at night (sounds just like a tent problem….) Lon is doing most of the driving, but we are not doing big miles and we make a lot of stops on the way to wherever we are going. Deb has driven the RV exactly twice and has not yet backed it up nor tried to level it over blocks when parking it at a camping site. Lon took to leveling like a pro. But we needed some lessons before our communications skills were working for the backing up parts. Deb remembers all the proper hand signals from long ago from helping her dad back the boat into the garage every week….maybe Lon never had a boat?
We are mostly traveling back roads, at 55 mph, and avoiding the bigger cities for now. We both think we made a good choice in our RV selection. We made really good selections when choosing our traveling partners too.
Inside the clock tower of the DeWitt County Courthouse.
The gears that drive the DeWitt County Courthouse clock.
DeWitt County Courthouse in Cuero, TX
On the road to Goliad, we stopped for a break in Cuero, TX. The RV was parked next to the DeWitt County Courthouse and we were eating lunch on the RV steps when the Courthouse maintenance man walks by and lets us know the Courthouse is open if we want to go inside. They even give tours of the bell tower. Who could pass that up?
The 1896 Courthouse was restored in 2007. It is beautiful inside and DeWitt County doesn’t mind showing it off. We stopped by the County Court office and signed a liability release form and then up up up to the very top of the building we went. Elevators and stairs and a circular stairway and through a trap door and then we were at the very top of the building checking out the clock and the bell tower. A very interesting and unexpected day.
We took a short six mile detour off the highway for an interesting visit to Fort McKavett. It turns out everyone was preparing for the Christmas program later that day. Decorations were being made in the traditional way they might have been back in the 1860’s when the fort was a remote military post during the Texas Indian Wars.
It was fun to watch Cody Mobley shooting wet plate ambrotype photographs of reenactors dressed as a dragoon and a citizen inside the restored barracks decorated for Christmas.
Cody Mobley shooting wet plate ambrotype photographs in the barracks of Fort McKavett.
We have been wandering eastward toward Texas and stopped for two days at the City of Rocks State Park north of Deming, NM. It’s a pretty unique place. As the name suggests the park really is a city of very large rocks with several short hiking trails through them.
The weather turned chilly and the wind picked up. When we weren’t hiking we stayed snug in the RV. I was able to spend some time woking on minor updates for Halfmile’s Pacific Crest Trail maps for next year’s hikers.
Salvation Mountain at the entrance to Slab City, CA.
Slab City is a pretty interesting place and since we are meandering east on our way to Austin for Christmas we decided to stop for a few days.
It’s am unregulated encampment on the site of an abandoned Marine barracks where 150 or so permanent residents and 1,000 or so folks in all manner of RV’s camp in the Sonoran Desert about 150 miles east of San Diego. The “Last Free Place in America” say the signs.
Slab City has fancy new RV’s, old abandoned RV’s that haven’t run in years, art, religion, live music, a 24 hour library, piles of trash, and many interesting characters. We have been here three nights and have barely scratched the surface of the place.
At the entrance to Slab City is Salvation Mountain where Leonard Knight spend about 35 years building an elaborate adobe, straw, and paint religious monument. Leonard passed away in 2014, but a foundation carries on his work. I had the pleasure of meeting him on a previous trip here in 2007.
The East Jesus art installation was an interesting stop too. It’s not religions but refers to East Jesus as in the middle of nowhere, which pretty well describes Slab City.