December 15-31,2021 Texas and New Mexico and Arizona

Loma Paloma RV Park is our kind of place. Lots of room, friendly people, cheap, great weather, and nearby to a great town and great hiking. We can’t believe there aren’t more snowbirds here. At $250 a month rent, you can’t beat the price. We were planning to stay two nights, but Vanlife travelers plans are written in jello and we wound up staying here 6 nights. At ten dollars a night it was worth every penny.

This RV Park is in a border town with Mexico. We are half a mile from the border. The scenery with the mountains behind us is spectacular. We decided to head into the Big Bend Ranch State Park for some lunch and a hike.

We had lunch at a deserted campground.

There were only 6 sites each with a picnic table and fire pit. No water, no electric. But the Rio Grande was just a few steps away.

Rio Grande

After lunch we headed to the hoodoo trail which was very nice especially if you like hoodoos. And I LOVE Hoodoos!

Oh My Goodness, I almost forgot to tell you that when we went to pick up our park pass, I came so close to stepping on a scorpion. I saw him just in the nick of time and was able to hop over him. That’s the first scorpion we have seen in the desert.

We rode our bikes to the main town of Presidio and found a most amazing Mexican bakery where Greg loaded up on 7 bakery items for the low price of $4.

Giant cake

We also had lunch at a roadside taco stand which was pretty fabulous as well.

We also had to pick up some mineral oil tomorrow up our kitchen counter and also some wood to make an adjustment to our refrigerator. It had been scraping a little bit on the bottom because of the humidity so we wanted to raise it up a bit. Pretty funny though with the language barrier as I’m trying to explain and ask if they have mineral oil. And she is looking at me kind of weird and asking me if I’m sure that’s what it’s for. She takes me over the cow section and takes the mineral oil off the shelf for cow constipation. In broken English she is telling me that it is used for cow constipation and in broken Spanish I’m telling her not to worry cause I won’t be drinking it.

We biked home and Greg worked on the refrigerator shelf and I oiled up the counter tops. We had to remove the fridge from its space.

The people at this RV park gather each day at 4:00 for Happy Hour. Most everyone brings a snack and gets together at this long covered area with tables and chairs. People share traveling stories and traveling tips. We talked a bit about heading over to Mexico on the bikes. The people here go over to Mexico every Thursday for dinner. It’s not really a touristy part of Mexico so they did encourage us to head over which we did the next day. They told us about the supermarket over there where the prices are half price so we thought we would check it out and maybe even have lunch as well in Mexico. Be prepared now for a super long story.

Because it’s the holidays the line of cars to get into Mexico was very very long. With the bikes, we were able to get right over. There’s absolutely no English of any kind in signage or in speaking. So it was very tricky to find the way towards the Mexican customs area. We went the wrong way a few different times. It was so chaotic. It was like going in through the out building and out through the in building. But we did finally make it through. No body on the Mexican side spoke English or asked for our identification. Once we found the way in, it was a breeze to get in.

Streets were pretty crowded but thankfully there was a bike path. Made our way another mile or so to the supermarket, locked up the bikes and headed in. We were immediately stopped at the door! We forgot our masks and they wouldn’t let us inside without a mask. There was a lady outside selling cute homemade masks for 250 pesos but we had no cash or pesos cause we were gonna use our credit card like the rv campers suggested. So we were unable to purchase a mask. It was meant to be because I was uncomfortable leaving the bikes outside of this store. So we headed back to the USA. Very difficult again trying to figure out which building to go through to get back in. We finally found the right area and there was a 25 cent fee to get out of Mexico. We had no money and I had to ask some Mexican lady if she would pay for us. She agreed and we followed her to the extremely long line of Mexican people looking to get into Texas. Like a hundred people in line. Thankfully the lady at the end of the line explained to us in Spanish that the line we were in was to get a permit. I’m not even sure if that’s the right word, again big language barrier. Anyway, I think she was telling us to cut the line. So we walked all the way to the front of the line with our bikes. I left the bike with Greg and went into the building to ask the customs guy and she was right, we were able to cut the whole line. I handed the guy my enhanced license which he had never seen before. He had heard about them but never saw one so he tried it in the scanner and it worked. Greg had to use his passport and off we went . Back into the USA. It was quite an adventure for sure. We have not one photo of this adventure as I was terrified the entire time!! Hahahah. Here’s a photo from our bike ride the day before when we were smart enough to stay in Texas.

While we are on the topic of the Mexican border, I may as well tell you what happened when I went on my morning walk this morning. Again, I blame this on the Happy Hour people. Behind the campground and up in the hill is a border patrol security camera that can zoom in on something 2 miles awAy and has been very successful at handling border situations in the area. The town has put up like 5 or 6 of these cameras. Anyway, the guys at happy hour said it would be ok to hike up there even though there clearly was a no trespassing sign. They said to just go around to the right and it would be fine. So I took their advice and had an amazing hike with great views. As I’m heading back toward the campground. I see like 6 to 7 border control cars like 20 yards from the van, and I’m like, “Oh Shit.” I immediately text Greg to see if they are all there waiting for me to come back so they can interrogate me for being where I don’t belong. Turns out they weren’t there for me at all. Apparently they had pulled over a car of Mexicans, I guess that didn’t have the proper paperwork. The Happy Hour people that afternoon said it happens all the time and not to worry.

The border patrol activity right by our campsite

There’s a cold front coming in. The wind was picking up and it was about to hit the thirties so we figured we’ll do a 4 hour drive and head to El Paso where we can do some indoor activities and enjoy some city living for a few days. Our first stop was Sunland Park Casino where we made a deposit. The slots were not as loose as we would like.

Sunland Park Casino

On the way out though. Maybe like 20 miles outside of Marfa we saw this really cool roadside attraction. It was made out of flat pieces of wood but boy did it ever look so real and so 3 dimensional.

Roadside attraction

After the casino, we headed to the Cracker Barrel for some dinner and an overnighter in the rv section of their lot. Next morning, went inside for some breakfast. Same hostess and same waiter from the night before. Almost like we weren’t the only ones sleeping in the parking lot. Haha.

It was a thirty degree morning. So was glad to sit and warm up in the Cracker Barrel. Afterwards we decided to go see a movie. That’s another two hours of warmer temperatures. There was an 11 am showing of West Side Story in nice cozy lounge chairs.

We had another little job to do in the van. So we drove over to Home Depot to buy the supplies and then we figured the Home Depot parking lot is as good of a place of any to get some work done.

We had a nice dinner at a Greek Restaurant across from the Home Depot. Tomorrow we head back to where there’s less people.

We decided to head over to New Mexico to check out one of the newest National Parks. On the way we stopped at Cabelas outdoor store cause we just love that store and also stopped at The outlets cause we needed a few things. I needed a new sweatshirt and Greg needed new sweatpants.

From there we headed another hour to one of the newest National Parks. White Dunes in New Mexico. It was really nice. So white. The sand is gypsum and extremely fine and white. The dunes went in forever.

After our visit at the dunes, we headed another hour to a town called Las Cruces. We decided to do another night at another Cracker Barrel just because it’s east and it’s still not exactly outdoors type camping weather. I think once we get to Tucson, it will be a lot warmer and we’ll be back to actually camping again. Greg has a great system for getting the van ready for stealth mode. The below picture is the van in stealth mode. As you can see Greg figured out a way to put his bicycle behind my bed. Totally out of the way. A little extra work to get everything to fit without taking the bikes outside. My bike is under the bed. This all works out perfectly.

Stealth mode at Cracker Barrel

OK, so three nights on pavement in the big cities is pretty much all we can handle so we headed back to the wilderness area to a spot 30 miles off the interstate to a place called Smugglers Roost. It’s a great place for us. Not a lot of people, great view of the mountains. Small town and peace and quiet. Lots of stars too. We got a nice spot right by the bath house but could have parked anywhere in this vast acreage. This place used to be a work camp with over 400 trailers. The current owners are now turning it it an RV park.

They have a fancy professional telescope which the owner sets up at night. We were able to see Saturn and Jupiter and Orions sword. The skies here are ridiculously dark.

Next day we woke up to 30 mph winds and rain so we decdied to stay put because the destination we were heading to is all sand. And the warnings about dust storms on I10 are everywhere.

With the storms, come the rainbows

So basically we were trapped in the van for the entire day. We watched some Netflix and just relaxed. Today is Christmas Day and we head out of here today to spend some time at some Natural Hot Springs which Greg loves.

We have been saving all of our Christmas Tree photos for this moment. I can’t believe how many beautiful Christmas trees we have come across this year.

We had a wonderful Christmas at Hot Wells Dunes. I made spaghetti and meatballs for dinner and Greg had a chance to soak in the Hot Tubs. There are two hot tubs here that are filled with water that’s 106°. However the water pump that brings the water into the tubs from the spring works only on solar. The problem is that if it’s a cloudy day, then the tubs don’t fill and at dusk, the tubs drain. This may seem a little dumb but you have to take into consideration that it’s only three dollars a night to camp here. This area is also all sand dunes so where there are public sand dunes, there are aTV’s an other off road vehicles. We decided to stay three nights. Greg was back and forth to the tubs throughout the day as long as people weren’t being hot tub hogs, then all was well. The night skies here were pretty intense as well.

By the third day, the cold front starting coming through. It looks like we are in store for some chilly weather the next couple of weeks. We have been talking about going back to Texas where it’s still warm but we aren’t sure if we want to commit to such a long distance.

Ok, so we decided to suck it up and continue west. I needed a shower desperately and the Mountain View RV park shower did not disappoint! I’d give this shower a full 9 out of 10. And the price was right. Only $7 for overnight dry camping plus they have 59 types of Beef Jerky, numerous assorted types of peanut brittle, fudge and really good pecan roll and pecan pie. The only issue is that you are in the middle of I10 and the railroad tracks so if quiet is what your looking for, you might want to go elsewhere. The good news is that Greg and I lived on Sunrise Highway for 15 years so the noise doesn’t bother us. We actually get our best sleep in situations like this.

Today we are heading to Tombstone Arizona. One of our favorite towns. Tombstone has a dry camping RV parking lot for 10 bucks overnight and it’s in walking distance to the historic town. We were here in Tombstone last year. This year was much much different. People everywhere. Lines at restaurants. Plenty of gunfights (fake re-enacted ones) all the shops were open. I guess this place is a hot spot for the Christmas break tourists. We love it here no matter what so it was great to be back again. We had lunch at a barbecue joint, the best in Arizona according to some guy dressed as Wyatt Earp. Our overnight stay was uneventful but still this cold front is kicking our butt every morning.

We thought for sure that the time we reached Tucson, that the weather would have been more in our favor and that certainly is not the case. It’s still in the low 40’s in the morning and in the high 50’s in the day time. Plus on top of that, it’s been raining off and on. We spent over an hour walking around Hobby Lobby in Tucson to warm up the bones plus Greg is putting up a new shelf in the van. After that we drive over to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Greg had spotted this area on one of his many apps that we use to find free camping. I didn’t want to commit to this spot right away because I have a GIANT fear of flash floods and this land is in the desert and it’s gonna rain all night and all day so we went to “look” at it. We found a spot very close to the road for a quick getaway just incase it floods out. Im sure we’ll be fine. Tomorrow, if we survive, we will head to the casino for New Years Eve and then maybe back to this spot for New Years Day.

The sign for the free BLM land

The diesel and camping totals for the month of December are below.

Diesel $388. Camping $212

Happy New Year Everyone. See ya next year.

22 comments

  1. I just love following along on your journey! I love road trips and love hearing about places I have never visited. Tombstone looked like great fun. Reading about your trip to Mexico made me remember when my husband and I visited a resort in Jamaica and hired a couple of locals to give us a tour of the town of Montego Bay. We were fish out of water and overwhelmed with the people trying to sell us their wares and all. Glad we got out of the resort and saw a bit of the real Jamaica but it was nerve wracking. Great photos, great times. Happy New Year and Happy Trails! HUGS!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. 3:19 am..trouble sleeping so I started reading! …Happy New Year to all who see my comment and wish us some gambling luck, we are planning on ringing in the New Year at a casino.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great adventure for sure, Happy New Year’s

    Sent via the Samsung Galaxy S8 Active, an AT&T 5G Evolution capable smartphone Get Outlook for Android ________________________________

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Sounds like you had a wonderful Christmas and hope your New Year is amazing. Safe travels! Ruby

    Ruby Groves Senior Secretary Student Services 132 Main Hall

    [Text Description automatically generated with low confidence]

    6000 Frank Avenue NW | North Canton, OH 44720 direct: 330-244-3279 | campus: 53279 main: 330-499-9600 | fax: 330-499-0301 rbgroves@kent.edu http://www.kent.edu/stark

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Forgot to say that my nephew and his girlfriend went to White Dunes. They went sledding and she broke both her tibia and fibula. Still recuperating since the accident happened at the end of September.

    Liked by 1 person

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