Friday, February 23, 2018

Shunpiking Through Texas--El Paso to the Gulf

I was really sick when I left on this trip.  I'd been sick with a virus that started out with just a few sniffles and then turned into something that made me wonder, three times, whether I might die.  But, as you will see from this story, I sometimes freak out, and things aren't always as bad as I think.  Anyhow, my big smile was a ruse.  Look at my glassy eyes.  I still felt like crapola.

But I left, anyway.  For one thing, I'd gotten stuck staying behind my gallery for a few days when I was too sick to go anywhere else, and I was really tired of being there.  I'd holed up and slept.  Steve brought me soup and took me to soak in the hot springs.  I packed when I could.  Packing meant storing winter clothes in the studio space behind my gallery, and retrieving the shorts, sandals, tank tops, etc., that I'd stored there earlier.  

For another thing, mid-February felt like time to go.  It was almost seven years to the day since I'd become a full-time RVer, leaving Oregon for who-knows-where.  And this time, I planned to travel some portions of my 2011 trip, but spend a lot less time on I-10 and do more sight-seeing along the way. I have never purchased any of the ShunPiker's Guides, but I embrace the idea of eschewing interstate freeways and living the slow life.

As so often happens, nothing went as planned.  I left Truth or Consequences on Tuesday, February 13, intending to spend the night at Leasburg Dam State Park in Radium Springs.  I figured a short drive of an hour or so was about right for a day when I left late and felt ill.  But the campground was full!  (Why?  It is just a wide spot in the desert, and I've never understood the attraction.)  

Well, I had always been curious about Sunland Racetrack and Casino, near El Paso, so I headed there.  I was surprised to find out that they have about eight RV water and electric hookup sites, and that's the only place RVs are allowed on their lot.  So, I paid my $15 to stay on a parking lot using utilities I didn't need.  I was happy to be off the freeway, after an extra hour's drive.

 Approaching the Guadalupe Mountains on U.S. Highway 180 east of El Paso, Texas

The next morning, I used my phone's maps app to find my way through El Paso and get on U.S. Highway 180, which took me east to the Guadalupe Mountains.  It was a much more beautiful drive than I-10, with mountains and other pretty things to see all the way to Guadalupe Mountains National Park.  Although I enjoyed a couple of paved trails intended for mobility impaired folks like myself, I did not stay at the National Park.  I had read online that their campground had a nice tent loop, but that the RV portion was just a parking lot.  I drove through to confirm this.  It was worse than any Walmart parking lot that I have ever seen.  I can't help wondering, WHAT were they thinking?  The National Park comprises millions of acres of wilderness.  Certainly they could've used a few of 'em to make a decent campground.  

Fortunately, Texas has wonderful rest stops and picnic areas, and state law allows you to stay up to 24 hours in any of them.  I found a rest area just beyond the National Park that was a very nice place to stay overnight.  

Photos I took in Carlsbad Caverns

The next day, I was quite excited about going to Carlsbad Caverns National Park.  (Highway 180 goes from Texas to New Mexico to Texas again.)  I was so sure I would have a good time.  And I was so surprised to find out...well, let me put it this way.  If I ever mention "cavern" and "self-guided tour" in one sentence again, just shoot me.  I did not like being underground by myself!  I was not entirely alone, but it was a weekday and there weren't a lot of folks down there with me.  I had intended to take the shortest route through the caverns, but I missed the shortcut and took the longest.  I sometimes went 10 or 15 minutes without seeing anyone, and I spent most of that time walking, walking, walking and crying.  It was too much for me.  I couldn't wait to get the H-E-double hockey sticks out of there!

I told a young ranger about losing my bearings and feeling confused and scared, and he said I had a genuine cavern experience.  I guess so.  Thank God I have the gimp pass and didn't have to pay for it!

So, then I left Carlsbad Caverns, and went through the towns of Carlsbad and Hobbs.  Did the Devil himself come up from the underworld and design these oilfield towns?  I was so glad I had enough energy left, even after getting stuck in a cavern for too long, to make my way back into Texas on Highway 180.  Things got prettier again, and I stayed overnight at a picnic area just over the state line.

The next day, I continued along Highway 180 as far as Anson, which is north of Abilene, and then started heading in a southeasterly diagonal through the state, mostly traveling on Texas Highway 36.  I had picked Cross Plains as a destination for the night, mostly because it worked with my phone map app for getting me around the outskirts of Abilene.  I was so surprised as I drove into Cross Plains to find that there was a free city park, Treadwell Park, on the outskirts of town.  I stayed there overnight.  It was shady and green and on a dry river.  

Treadwell Park in Cross Plains, Texas, where I nearly lost my mind, again

The next morning, I had another anxiety attack, this time over The Lost Wallet Incident.  The last time I remembered seeing my billfold was in Snyder, Texas, where I had bought gas and a cup of coffee.  They didn't have real half-and-half, so I doctored up the coffee myself inside my RV before leaving.  I remember setting down my wallet to open the door to take my coffee inside.  I could not find the wallet the next morning, and I thought it was back in Snyder, at the gas station.

I called Steve and started to make arrangements for him to wire me some money so I could give up this trip and go back home.  I was in a really sad state.  Still not really well from the virus, and still a bit shaken up from getting scared in a cavern, and now this.  

I decided to look in all of the places it couldn't possibly be, and that's when I found my billfold, under the passenger seat.  I must have placed it carelessly on top of my purse rather than in  my purse, and somehow it wound up under the seat, which must have taken a bit of doing.  But there it was.  

I called Steve and told him, "Never mind."  And I went on my way.

It was more driving diagonally through Texas on Highway 36 most of this fifth day of my trip, and I stayed at another free picnic area, this one near Milano.  This time, it rained, and rain came through my rooftop air conditioner, which needs to be cleaned out so it will send water off the sides and back.  It is probably full of years of leaves and muck.  It's one of those things I never remember until it's raining inside my RV.  I've gotta get someone up there!  Fortunately, I had bowls and towels and was able to deal with the situation.  

Seen near Comanche, Texas

The sixth day, I was so ready to be all the way down to the Gulf Coast.  So I programmed my maps app to get me through Houston, and I left early.  I was down on the Bolivar Peninsula by lunch time.  I had intended to spend the night or possibly several nights down there, on one of the free or low-cost beaches, but the entire peninsula was socked in.  So it didn't attract me like I'd thought it would.  After spending the afternoon driving the length of the peninsula and back again, I headed to Louisiana, where I will pick up the story next time.

 Gulf Coast at Crystal Beach on Bolivar Peninsula--see the fog?




  1. I felt the same way about Guadalupe but if the Dogg canyon section is open its not bad. There is only 4 spots but its so nice there.

    1. That campground wasn't open, I don't know why...rangers recommend the BLM road that's just outside the National Park.

    2. I heard the road was closed since a fire went thru there last fall hope it opens up soon really a pretty spot...very isolated tho. The thing with BLM is the Yahoo's who show up to shoot off their mouth and their, even the ranger at Dog Canyon told me he would not recommend going there for that reason.