After extending our stay in San Antonio far longer than we anticipated, we resolved to push west hard, all the way to Balmorhea State Park. This would be a 375 mile jaunt; at least six hours of drive time given our 68 mph comfortable interstate speed. This is significantly longer than our preferred 250 mile, four hour drive.
It’s worth a separate post to talk about why we don’t travel like young people in cars doing 10 or 12 hours or even pushing through the night. The short answer is that driving a big RV is far more tiring. Our’s weighs more than ten tons, is two feet wider than a car, with Loki in tow is about 50 feet long, takes a lot longer than a car to stop, wallows sickly, and has such a massive sail area that gusts of wind really shove us around. And the cat gets sick.
Anyway, having put ourselves in the mindset to make an extended drive, we left mid to late morning, took a half hour break at a rest stop to make lunch, and arrived at the park in the early evening. But all that was preceded by a couple of odd phone calls with the park staff and reservation desk. I had made reservations for a two night stay starting Monday. Once we realized that the weekend markets in San Antonio would be all day affairs, we decided to slide the reservation back a day to arrive on Tuesday.
So I called and the park office, who asked if I wanted to slide both my reservations? What? They indicated I had two spots secured. Confused I told them I only needed one and to please cancel the second, assuming it had been a case of internet lag causing me to hit the enter key on the final acceptance page of the online reservation system more than once.
We arrived at the park after the office was closed, but found our name on the check in list with a site assignment, maneuvered through the park counting down the numbers, only to see a women in an electric green shirt waving us around and directing us to pull wide to the right and come at the spot form the other side. Park host no doubt. Energetic woman, grey hair in a short bob. Looked familiar. Looked like this:
Yep, stepmom Marcia was waving us in, Dad a few steps behind looking on. This was totally unplanned by either of us. We had both selected the same Texas state park for a brief stopover during our westward trips, and had even initially reserved the exact same days. Since I am a “junior” with the same first middle and last name as Dad, when I called to slide mine back, they assumed the two reservations were both mine, and I ended up cancelling one of them.
When they arrived (a day before us since I had pushed ours back a day) they sorta figured it out, but weren’t a hundred percent sure it was me rather than someone else with the same first and rare last name. In any case, it worked out great: having resolved to try a bit harder to RV together this year, we managed to spend a day in a campground together without even trying.
Balmorhea State Park was on our intended visit list in 2015 before our first significant roadside breakdown in Big Bend National Park altered our plans. This was a great make up opportunity, positioned close enough to I-10 to be convenient for our westward sprint. The park itself is fantastic: Built by the Civil Conservation Corps in the 1930s, it is a smallish, 44 acre park centered on a major natural freshwater spring that they converted into a huge free flowing pool before the water continues on to irrigation fields.
In addition to the fantastically clear, chlorine free swimming and diving, the grounds are teaming with interesting and in some cases rare animal life. Roadrunners all over the place in the morning, some small quail like species everywhere, more rabbits than you thought possible in such a small area, pupfish and headwater catfish in the pool and streams, large soft shell mud turtles, coot, etc etc. You could spend all day wandering the grounds, especially near the cienegas, or desert wetlands, and not get bored.
Pad Kee Meow was particularly taken with this park since the rabbits seemed to have so little self preservation instinct; like with the ground squirrels in New Hampshire’s White Mountains, had it not been for her harness and leash there would have been a rabbit bloodbath at our campsite. Between the rabbits, the only slightly more careful road runners, and the slew of small wrens nesting in the eaves of our shade structure, kitty was in alert mode and begging to be outside as much as we would let her.
We enjoyed our second day so much we extended for another, which is sort of an unofficial rule we have developed for travel this year: if it’s a destination, stay at least three days, preferably even longer. In 2015 we did a lot of two day stops, and it is really difficult to enjoy even a limited geographic area at that pace. This year we are doing a lot more “sprint and stop” stuff, i.e., running hard with single day stops until we get to a nice place, then stopping for a week or so. Once we get to the West Coast, we will have to reassess the travel pattern since there are a LOT of places we want to visit.
After a relaxing third day at Balmorhea, we got back on the road and continued our sprint west, aiming for Tucson. And thanks to Marcia for the first four pictures in this post, as well as this one: