May 06, 2005

Deep in the Heart of Texas

Chapter Four.

It has been a long, cold and wonderful winter. Living in the camper in the cold is infinitely more challenging than in the warmer months. We chose to run dry all winter, in other words we had no running water. This complicates everything, especially meal preparation. When faced with the prospect of having to boil what precious little water we had in order to then do our dishes in bus tubs, eating out seemed less of an extravagance. This is a big part of why winter camping proved to be much more expensive for us.

Last night's dinner, Thai Chicken Lettuce Wraps.

The other big reason was heat or lack there of. Our camper has the winter package, extra insulation, a two-paned front window etc, additionally we covered all of the windows with silver bubble wrap-like insulation and big fluffy cushions designed to fit in the sky lights, all helped to keep the chill away. Even with all of this it got cold, sometimes really cold. Our forced air furnace heats the living area well but not the cab-over part where we sleep. We bought a small electric heater which solved this problem but required a campsite with a plug-in. This meant that we had to pay to stay in private campgrounds with hookups, forgoing our preferred BLM or boondocking sites, and increasing our costs substantially.

Not only did we lose all of our “outside space” for the winter but the insulation kept out all natural light, making the camper seem more like living in a shoebox. Everything was just a bit harder.

Even so, I am so glad that we got to travel to and ski all of the places we did, but I won’t live in the camper for a winter again, unless it is in Mexico or somewhere warm. I would easily go on a week-long ski trip in it, but everyday for 4 months of cold is no picnic. So here we are headed south, water tanks filled and thrilled to be able to brush our teeth indoors again.

Thus begins the fourth and potentially final leg of our trip. We will spend the next two and a half months traveling the southern U.S. and then following the eastern coast north until we reach Canada again. This marks a bunch of unexplored territory for us both and we are so excited to be really on the road again that we can hardly contain ourselves.

From Durango our first stopover was Sante Fe and a night with our friends Connie and Albert (incase you are actually able to keep track of all of the supporting roles, Connie is Colin and Bjorn’s mother and Brook’s Mother-in-law, making Albert their step father and father-in-law by association) . If you are ever near this area a detour to Chimayo is a must. Not only is Chimayo home to the sacred and much folklored Sanctuario de Penetantes, but it boasts the best chili anywhere. The hillsides around Chimayo produce some of the sweetest and most flavorful red chilies in the world. They are dried and ground to make chili powder that is worth making a special trip for.

The Sanctaurio is the holy center for the Penatente faith. You may have seen photos of the faithful on their pilgrimages, where they carry huge crucifixes and practice self-flagellation. The shrine is home to the pit of dirt considered holy and said to have miraculous healing powders. Legend has it the hole never empties of the dirt, the faithful come and take vials and film canisters full of it, but every morning it has replenished itself. The church and surrounding buildings look straight out of deep Mexico and Spanish is as readily heard as is English.

The hole of healing dirt.

Crutches of the cured.

Connie and Albert treated us to a movie at their favorite art gallery/ cinema. We saw “Born Into Brothels” which I recommend very highly. If you like our photos wait until you see what a group of red light district children in India can do when a foreigner gives them cameras and sets them loose among the prostitutes and poverty.

After the movie we returned to Connie and Albert’s house which is located right along the river in Sante Fe, we laughed so much my stomach hurts today. Our campsite was right next to the flooding river and we slept the deep sleep that only comes from lying next to the sound of moving water.

Connie and Albert's house.

The guest quarters.

Today we are speeding along I-40 headed for Amarillo and eventually to Dallas for the weekend. It feels so good to be making miles and to be on a road we are blissfully unfamiliar with.


Last night we camped at Greenbelt Lake about an hour east of Amarillo. Texas’ parks all seem to offer water and electric hookups for about $10/ night, which is a deal by our standards. Greenbelt has such a park, right alongside the lake there are about 20 cement back-in sites. Once we parked we met the only other person around who was leaving his camper here overnight while he went back to retrieve his boat. We asked him who we should pay since all of the offices we sealed up tight, her said “you won’t find no’bdy round here, ain’t the season”. So we got a site with water, electricity and a lake view for free.

Campsite at Greenbelt lake.

Prairie Dogs.

Lake Arrowhead.

Behind our campsite.

This evening we are at Arrowhead Lake outside of Wichita Falls. The ranger here informed us that in Texas you do not need a license to fish from the shore, and even better they have a “lend a rod” program. So I gave him my driver’s license number and he gave me a lure chucker and a tackle box full of hooks to go fish for crappie with, for FREE, for up to seven days! Camping costs $16 once you pay the day use fee, but again we have electric and water and this park even has hot showers. Who knew Texas was so camping friendly.

Bobber fishing.

Fish measurer.


Tara from So. Cal. said...

Hi Rachel...have you guys not seen the new small propane space heater called "Mr. Heater" or "Mr. Buddy" which sells for $99 most places? It's great for heating small areas like yours. It uses those small canisters like the little BBQ's use, and the best thing about them is they don't require your RV battery or electricity to run. We use one in our 25' travel trailer. It works great...just leave a vent or window cracked for ventilation.

Judy said...

Glad you guys are back on the road. Your winter experience reminds me of a camping trip to Yellowstone in a tent trailer. It got down to 24 one night, in Sept! brrrr. We bought one of those propane heaters but it always made me a little nervous.
Enjoy the sunsine and warmth. Looking forward to the next installment. Now I'm off to click on some ads.

Judy in Tucson

superclosetnerd said...

Wordpress or Blogger, I just can't decide. I want a blog for my site and see positives and negatives. I like what you have here and blogger's free so maybe I should just go that route. Here's my little site I'm gonna blog about-- unvented fireplaces

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