OK, this is another nostalgia blog…We got our first camper in 2003, a 28’ Keystone 5th wheel..our very first camper ever,( unless you count a pop up camper I won back in 1971, which only left our yard once.) We were clueless about RVing..so we decided we would go out West and back for a month…Yep, one month to pull that fiver from Sandwich , IL to Blythe AZ (we crossed the Nevada, California border to have breakfast and back across)..What the Heck were WE thinking??? Here are a
few lot of pictures of the trip..Keep in mind, this was before we had a digital camera, so the pictures are a tad sketchy..
We stayed at a park in W. Memphis, Arkansas on the way down..and then Texarkana, TX.. We went through Texas and stopped at Round Rock, Huntsville, Pedernales Falls, Luckenback, and Van Horne Texas on the way through..Round Rock was pretty much like a parking lot, but we soon learned that it was sometimes the case…
Above is our parking lot spot in Round Rock TX.
Left is Huntsville SP, middle and right were at Pedernales Falls SP..both in Texas..We rarely stayed more than 1 or 2 nights anywhere. We quickly learned how to set up and break down a fifth wheel camper!
Above were all taken in Luckenback..We had a hard time finding it..the roadside signs keep getting stolen since Willy made it famous in his song!
After a quick overnight (they ALL were) at Llano SP Texas, we headed West on I-10…The pedal was down and were on our first trip out West in our brand new Cougar..Nothing could stop us now!!
Our next stop was Van Horne, TX. We stayed at a park called The Eagle’s Nest right in town..(At that time, town was only one loooooong road, in on the East and out on the West.) The Eagle’s Nest was a very busy park..Seems it was the usual last stop before the harrowing drive through El Paso, and everyone started pulling into the park about 4PM..It filled up fast for $15 a night cash full hookup, a laundry and walking distance to Chuy’s Mexican Restaurant. Chuy’s was a favorite of ex football player John Madden and they even had a special chair in that place with his name where he always sat..
After the white knuckle drive through the traffic of El Paso, we got as far as Benson, AZ and decided to call it a night…We were becoming wizards at this RV stuff..or so we thought. I don’t think we stayed more than one night in over 5 places on the whole trip!! Here is our spot in Benson…
…Heck, my head was buzzing from all of this fast travel! This was before I began keeping a journal, so I am going from my photos…On our way to Ajo, AZ, we took a back road, Rt 86, which is not very well traveled. It was on this road we spotted what looked like an observatory high up on top a mountain…Eventually we came to a sign that said Kitt Peak with an arrow to the left..Hey, what the Heck, let’s drive up there. This was not the wisest choice we have every made when pulling a camper behind us…However, we were fearless and took the 12 mile drive to the summit. This road ascends 3250 ft, starting at 3500 ft and ending at 7000 ft at the top…
The Kitt Peak National Observatory is home to 24 telescopes, the "most diverse collection of astronomical observatories on Earth," the facility's website boasts. Sitting on a mountaintop in Arizona's Sonoran Desert, the site appeals to astronomers because of its clear weather, steady atmosphere and low humidity. The observatory sites are under lease from the Tohono O'odham Indian Nation at the amount of a quarter dollar per acre yearly, which was overwhelmingly approved by the Council in the 1950s. In 2005, the Tohono O'odham Nation brought suit against the National Science Foundation to stop further construction of gamma ray detectors in the Gardens of the Sacred Tohono O'odham Spirit I'itoi, which are just below the summit” They have a nice gift shop and very interesting free tour..When we got to the top, we were the only RV/Camper there.. That should have been our first clue that we probably should have parked the camper and just drove up…Ahhhh, live and learn when a new RV’er!!
This was our very first trip Ajo AZ. We didn’t stay in Hickiwan Trails, having no idea it was even out there. So we opted for The Ajo RV Park in town. It take a while to become savvy at booking spots..Not so sure I’m even there yet!!
Nope, do not remember the name of this campground, but we saw a great lightening display over the mountains that night..and visited the old Ajo Copper mine pit..
Our next stop was somewhere in Parker AZ…I don’t have any photos, but do remember we had a flat tire on the Cougar, and had to have it repaired in Parker. And while we were there, we got a call from our daughter, Chris..She was flying to Las Vegas with a girlfriend and asked us to meet her in Vegas…Sure, no problem…(yeah, right!) I got out my book and saw Sam’s Town campground and booked it..On the way we drove over Hoover Dam and everyone was getting pulled over and searched by the Border Patrol. Since then, they have closed that drive over the dam and detoured around it due to the possibility of terrorism on the dam. They searched inside our Cougar too!
We continued on and drove all around Vegas until we found Samstown…(Note to self…driving an RV through the traffic in Vegas is NOT for the faint of heart)….And when we got ourselves parked there,we discovered that they had razor wire on the cement wall around the RV park. Was this to keep the bad guys out, or the good guys in???? The guy we parked next to informed us we should have brought our “flack jackets” with us , as they had a shooting just on the other side of the wall the night before…I KID YOU NOT!! One night was as long as we were staying, for sure..We found Chris at the MGM Grand, had dinner and a cocktail, went back to our camper and were GONE by first light…!!!
Look closely, and you will see the razor wire on the top of that block wall on each side of that camper…YIKES!
Keep in mind, this was 2004…16 years ago…On our fast exit out of Vegas, we went across the state line into California for breakfast in Blythe, Arizona..just to say we made it to California…
We lost a mirror on our way out of Vegas. But that’s a whole other story…(We had the kind of RV mirrors that fit over our regular truck mirrors..)We have since replaced our truck mirrors with the kind of mirrors that extend on their own! By the time we left Vegas, we were ready for some peace and quiet..and found it at Alamo State Park..40 miles from nowhere…I loved this place and would go back anytime!
We decided to stop at Patagonia State Park in South AZ on our way back..I wanted to walk into Mexico…Little did I know, but this wasn’t the best or safest place to do it…but Patagonia State Park was very nice..
We stayed 2 nights here, and yes, we DID walk into Nogales, MX…It was a real eye opener for us, having never been in Mexico..Talk about Gringos!!! As it turns out, there are better places to cross…like Progresso, TX..We have crossed there a few times, but this day in age, I really don’t feel very safe in any border town…sad.
We basically went back East the same way we came West..across I-10.…Except this time when we stopped at Eagle’s Nest, we stayed 2 nights and drove up to Carlsbad Caverns…This was a really great trip..about 100 miles or so…Not being a big fan of bats, it was a bit unnerving knowing that while we were down in those caverns, the bats were watching every move we made..but , oh, those caverns were just beautiful!!!
When we finally got back into central Texas, we decided to try out a campground on Canyon Lake, called Potter’s Creek…and boy, that was a great spot. We go back there whenever we go to Texas..
We had an abundance of deer at Potter’s Creek, begging for corn! Canyon Lake is still one of our favorite spots to stay..Also, from this campground you can easily go into San Antonio (we didn’t do that this trip), or the wonderful little town of Gruene, Texas...We DID go into Gruene and I highly recommend that side trip!
“The town of Gruene began when German immigrant Ernst Gruene settled in the area in the 1840’s. ..His son, Henry D. Gruene built his home (now Gruene Mansion Inn) and planted his surrounding land with cotton. Having become the number one cash crop, the cotton business soon brought 20 to 30 families to Henry D.'s lands. The first mercantile store (now Gruene General Store) was built in 1878 and a cotton gin (now Gristmill River Restaurant and Bar) powered by the Guadalupe River was added soon after. Further construction during this profitable time included a dance hall and saloon (Gruene Hall), which became the center of the community's social life.” Above left and middle, the Gristmill Restaurant.
Left is the inside of the Gruene Dancehall..and right is the same from the outside…This dancehall is where John Travolta did his famous dance scene as the archangel in the 1996 movie Michael…One of my very favorite movies of all time…I own the DVD!!
Dennis and I went into the bar in the Gruene Hall and it was really fun to see…If only those walls could talk. George Strait got his start performing in this dancehall too!!
What a neat place to visit!!!!Dennis had to “belly up to the bar” and I was touching everything in site, channeling history through my fingertips…
We went back to Illlinois the same way we came down, through Texarkana, W. Memphis and then home..Yep, we did this all in 30 days…How dumb was that?? It was a whirlwind trip, but a memorable one…The next November we toured Texas again, but this time we took 4 months..much better…And I kept a journal of that trip..I called it Waltz Across Texas and is 228 pages long. I printed it and bound it. Here is the cover…
I’m going to have to re-read this journal…It was our first long trip of 4 months, and a lot has changed since then..especially our RV..We had some tire issues with the Cougar and also realized we needed a bedroom slide..(Dennis’s feet hung off the bed in the Cougar!) We got our HitchHiker in 2006 and have been traveling in it every chance we get..Thanks for reading this tooooo long blog, and I still cannot believe we did this trip…I wouldn’t do it again, but boy oh boy, I am soooo glad we did it!!!
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the things you did do. So Throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.