March 2 – March 7, 2021
The Rio Grande river starts at over 12,000 feet in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado where the snow melts producing pure fresh water, the nectar of life. From there it drops, flowing through Colorado’s San Luis Valley providing water for growing crops in an otherwise dry land. It crosses into New Mexico, flows into Texas where at the border town of El Paso it begins to move east creating the border line with Mexico, running all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. Based on information from the team’s Research and Travel Department, the river is dry by the time it gets to El Paso as so much water is diverted for agriculture and industry in Colorado and New Mexico. Mexican’s Rio Conchos river provides a second dose of water to the Rio Grande after leaving El Paso and prior to Big Bend National Park, which is likely the water Toohey drank.
As we left Big Bend National Park we drove along the banks of the Rio Grande River along highway 170. This highway extending between the two towns of Terlingua and Presidio was simply stunning with desert landscapes consisting of shear cliffs, rugged mountains and desert basins, existing on both sides of the river, two countries split by a narrow body of fresh water running to the Gulf of Mexico. In fact, our general direction of travel north would following the Rio Grande River and its watershed all the way north to the San Luis Valley in Colorado.
Our original plan had us stopping at an RV park in Presidio but as we reached the town by early afternoon, the team made the decision to press on north along Highway 67 to the town of Marfa. A small desert ranch town in the middle of vast open land with an eclectic mysterious desert chic reputation. We arrived there without a reservations and found two RV parks listed on our search. The first had several full time residents and was a bit sketchy. The second, and where we ended up staying the night, was the Tumble In RV Park. The check in process was interesting, a bit peculiar yet cool, fitting the personality we’d find throughout this town. The website referred us to the phone number since we arrived on the day of need, so we called. In short, the message was detailed but basically said to go figure it out on your own and don’t call us because we won’t answer the phone. Fun. With no attendant or camp host to ask questions, Lysette approached then entered the vintage camper slash office to check the white board that listed sites and reservations. If there are any sites with no assigned name then go back outside and check the spot that coincides with the blank white board space. If there is no orange cone in that space then you are likely okay. From there, it is cash or a credit card number on a sheet of paper that you leave in a box.
We found a spot, one of two remaining large pull through sites for $32 a night, and set up camp. The site was a bit bold for our little rig but it worked. We showered then drove into Marfa to see what all the fuss was about.
The town, sitting in the middle of large expansive ranches (aka nowhere) in southwestern Texas has a completely contradictory, inconsistent feel. Where there should be cowboy hats there are man buns. There are skinny jeans instead of boot cut denim with big belt buckles, all in a remote town designed for the rancher but with a reputation for the arts and movies. There are no traffic lights. Restaurants are advertised but not easily found. It is an understated place with a feel of overstated inhabitants of which you see few. In fact, much like the check-in process at the Tumble In RV Park, they make you work to uncover the interesting. When you see the it, it is appreciated for its uniqueness. The Real Estate Department of the TWT team did quick Google search as we circled through the downtown to find property values are as high as Colorado. When you Google things to do (https://localadventurer.com/things-to-do-in-marfa-tx/) you get mystery lights, art galleries, shops, roadside art installations, restaurants and coffee shops. No “meat and two sides” diners, Tractor Supplies, or hanging tree in this place. The place comes with a history of film and art, a place that would be fun to spend a few more nights uncovering what lies beneath, but our travel schedule hasn’t budgeted any time for that.
We continued our route the next morning from Marfa on a bee-line north to Golden, passing the amazing Guadalupe Mountain National Park with summits that are the highest points in the state of Texas. We watched across the hood of the Tacoma as they rose from the desert horizon in the distance. We marveled at their peaks as they jetted high in the sky over the port side of our rig as we rolled past. The landscape north of Guadalupe Mountain was hilly beige land, kind of blah baron landscape that for some odd reason, made me want to wash my hands a lot. We continued through southwest New Mexico staying one night in the oil and gas town of Carlsbad, through UFO central of Roswell NM complete with green martian sightings on almost every business sign, and then into Santa Fe.
Our drive day two was particularly tough for the Tacoma as we had 25 mph headwinds and a mostly uphill grade making our top speed in the low 50’s with the truck humming along in 3rd gear. It was a struggle for the little truck that could, but it did. Gas mileage suffered as you can imagine. The day ended in the Santa Fe KOA Journey Kampground that turned out to be one of the cleanest, nicest facilities we’ve stayed along our journey.
After leaving Santa Fe, we passed into southern Colorado where we enjoyed the snow peaked mountain views as we descended from San Antonia Pass into the San Louis Valley. The Rocky Mountains were striking, reminding us of how amazing this area of the country is and with so many seemingly limitless opportunities to just wander and explore. Gone is the crunch of cities of the east, the bugs of the south, and the fence lines of Texas.
As we rolled into the town Antonito, Colorado, we looked right to see a large metal contraption projecting over all the other buildings sitting east of the railroad tracks in the back of a residential neighborhood. Curious as cats, we used this structure as our guide and what we found was worth the diversion. We slow rolled to a stop on this small street to behold the craftsmanship of the quirky structure built obviously by someone with some interesting ideas. Lysette stepped out to take a few photos and quickly reentered when the owner’s dog approached the truck. We then saw the apparent owner piddling around in the backyard behind the fence so we rolled on so as not appear like annoying paparazzi’s. Still curious about what we just witnessed, we called up the research department to get more details which are provided in the link below.
Our last night before Golden was spent at the Basecamp RV Park just outside of the Sand Dunes in Alamosa. This place had large flat spots and the nicest bathhouse we’ve experienced on our journey. But the main attraction here was to visit with our good friend and Lysette’s college roommate who lives about 7 miles away from camp. She drove out to see us at Basecamp and brought along three bags of White Cheddar Popcorn as appetizers. We hung around camp with Toohey getting lots of love all while the high peaks of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and the Great Sand Dunes National Park loomed over us in the distance. We moved the party to a small Mexican restaurant with a big menu for dinner. COVID precautions were good and our confined little booth provided a nice quiet place to sit and talk, and talk we did.
Sleep was cold but comfy in the A-Liner with our $15 electric heater buzzing on and off all night. We woke to a gorgeous sunny day and our friend returning with several cups of truck stop coffee and some Pup-Peroni treats for Toohey. We hung around all morning, showing her our little rig. With it hitched, goodbyes completed, we headed out of town.
The roads from here were all familiar based on our years spent in Colorado. What had become unfamiliar to us were the beautiful mountains that were once again striking to see, a distraction for the driver. We eventually made it to Golden where we snuck in the first night staying at the Dakota Ridge RV park. If you ever need to find this place then simply follow any loud motorcycle which will lead you to loud music which the same place as the Dirty Dogs Roadhouse Bar on Highway 40. Our camp sits across the street. The image is like watching a beehive, a loud beehive, with bees buzzing in and out all day going for pollen then returning while other worker bees leave. This bee hive of activity occurred until late in the evening.
The next day we made one more move into our best acquaintances’ basement apartment. This is as fine a living arrangement as anywhere we’ve stayed with updated custom features and furnishings. The space is more than we could imagine and ten times the size of our A-Liner. These two fine people have been extremely hospitable to us allow us to plant here for a few weeks of which we are extremely grateful. We hope we can be as good as guests as they are as hosts.
Our time here will include getting every component of the TWT serviced, us, the dog, and the equipment. Everything is in dire need at the moment so this has come at a perfect time. We also have to take care of taxes, and of course, see great friends and family that we stay in touch with along the way. This time out is a crucial component of our journey where we will also plan the next steps, moves, and pace of the expedition.
TWT Update: We had a good three weeks in Golden and will produce a sparsely written blog with few photos of our time there. In short, it was full of family, friends, and getting reacquainted with this wonderful community. Everything is mostly repaired to include the on board heater which mysteriously started working again from the time the RV technician tested it until the typing of the sentence. We are headed west to Grand Junction for a few nights and to get our first dose of the COVID vaccine. The time between first and second doses with be in the desert somewhere in Utah or Arizona with our only secured campsite near the south rim of the Grand Canyon on April 13th. Until then…