We meet some very unique and interesting people in our travels but Doro and Jupp are truly in a class by themselves. We first met them in Junction, TX at Palmetto State Park when Jupp came over to see the Airstream. We thought his vehicle was MUCH more interesting! Turns out Jupp and his wife Doro have been living and traveling in their truck for almost 10 years. They've traveled the world since 2004 from Europe to South America, Australia, Asia and beyond and shipped the Monster to every new place they go. Their travel stories are fascinating and we could have listened for hours. We hope to see them again in Tucson as they make their way toward Mexico. Their blog, www.monster-worldtour.de, is in German but is translatable. Enjoy!
Let me introduce you to the newest member of our traveling cadre - a Ford F250 Super Duty. We have named him Billy the GoAT (Go Anywhere Truck).
We had to part ways with the Ford F150 Eco Boost as it just didn’t have enough go and stopping power for the likes of RVilla. RVilla comes in at over 6,000 lbs and was stressing the 150 beyond safety limits.
So we traded the 150 in for the 250 and couldn’t be happier. It is a 6.7L diesel with all the off road packages you can get (tires, skid plates, suspension, etc.). In addition, we got it with vinyl flooring as we were going into dirty areas and the carpeting in the 150 was already a hassle to try to keep clean. A couple of quick brushes with the whisk broom and viola’.
I was concerned about mileage and Billy is getting more than 50% better than the 150 so we are actually paying less per mile with the dieselthan we were with the gas (even with diesel more expensive than gasoline)… go figure.
The only negative we had with Billy is that we bought him from a dealer on the far west side of Phoenix which happens to be a HUGE dairy producing area. So for the first week or so every time we got in Billy smelled like a barnyard. We’ve all gotten over that now and he doesn’t smell or maybe we became desensitized :-0
I can't emphasize how remote Big Bend is. If something happens to you and/or your vehicle help may be days away. It is a huge area without cell service and the only wi-fi is at a couple of convenience stores 50 miles apart. There were supposed to be two pay phones but one was a 30 mile drive and when we got there it had been ripped out. So let's make it remote with a capital R. It is also VERY dry. There is very little water except for the Rio Grande which you can't drink. As a matter of fact it is so dry there were notices that water should be limited to 5 gallons per person per day, which isn't much, especially since they recommend hikers drink a gallon per person per day in warmer months. Parts of it were beautiful - the Chisos Mountains, the Sierra del Carmen range, the riparian area on either side of the river and Santa Elena Canyon. This is not a nicely manicured place for big RV's but a wild and rugged place for tent campers or small RV's who can navigate the back country which is what we would do if we were to go back.
There is a lot of wildlife and birds in the Park. There are mountain lions, which they call panthers, and black bears in the Chisos Mountains and every trail is boldly signed about their presence. You are very much in THEIR habitat but we didn't see anything, dang. There is one voracious hunter we did see every day... the Vermillion Flycatcher. A very successful perching hunter, he dove to the ground and rarely missed, and good lookin' to boot.
We are often asked about whether or not we feel safe in our travels and, yes, we felt safe on the border even though it was very "porous". We saw several row boats and trails on both sides of the river. One of the other women in our campground said a man on horseback stopped and spoke to her during broad daylight. He wasn't trying to hide at all. The people from the small village of Boquillas make walking sticks or small wire and bead trinkets and leave them in places they will be seen. These items are illegal for them to leave, because they crossed illegally to do so, and illegal for Americans to possess because they were left by people who brought them into the US illegally. When we were at Boquillas Canyon there was a man on the other side of the river singing for donations. All of this was sad to see for several reasons. The folks from Boquillas would do anything for a few dollars for their families, but buying their craft items only encourages them to cross illegally. Unfortunately, there is no easy answer. We actually could have crossed into Boquillas at a border crossing and walked the town. When I asked the Park Service how we would cross the river, he looked at me and said, "There's a rowboat." Um, maybe it was borrowed from the village....
It is a long trip from Arizona to Louisiana. After leaving Tucson we hightailed it across southern New Mexico, then into Texas, and across Texas, then still in Texas, then MORE Texas. You get the point, it's a very large state and I'll do more on Texas on our return trip. It IS a bit disheartening when you enter Texas from New Mexico and the first road sign you see says "Beaumont - 832". Really. We were going to get to see all 832 of those miles, and then some, then see them on our return trip as well. Good thing we like Texas because we were going to get to see all of it from west to east. But I digress...
We hadn't seen Julie and Shane in person for some time so this was a great visit. It was like we had just been over for coffee yesterday, which is how it should be. We love them, they love us. We didn't do much - ran some errands, did laundry, went to lunch, laughed A LOT. It was all good.
The star of the show is their Boston Terrier, Sammy. What a ham! And, while not great photographically, we had to do the obligatory family Christmas photo and carried on in general. It only took two tries to get everyone, including the dog, looking at the camera so we considered that a rousing success.
Sadly, it ended too soon. We are tentatively planning a joint RV trip next summer. They get to pick the place and we'll meet them for a week....or hopefully longer. Till next time!
Two other things of note are: Boondockers Welcome and Tickfaw State Park. Boondockers Welcome is a site where RV'ers can find places to stay for free. It is usually folks who RV and have a piece of property where they allow people in transit to stay for a day or two. We availed ourselves of the hospitality of a couple of people on our way to Albany and it's fascinating to hear about other peoples travels and how they got to be where they are. Secondly, Tickfaw. Don't let the name put you off, this is one of the nicest state parks we've ever been to. Great trails, beautiful scenery and wonderfully empty.
That's about it for now. More on Texas in the near future.
I'm sure that most of us have had an experience where the noise you hear doesn't match the context of where you are. That happened a few days ago at our site near the Salt River in Mesa when Jim heard horses whinnying. What is that? Horses? Across the parking lot from us were two mares having a turf war and territory dispute. At first it was vocal, then it progressed to tail flicks, then kicks, and the ultimate insult and territory declaration - pooping! While the long-term fate of these horses is unknown, they're still there and it was great to see. Here's an article from a couple of years ago on the Salt River Herd.
Also while in the Phoenix area Jim and I met up with a roommate of mine from years ago in Toledo, Barb, and her boyfriend, Ed. It was a terrific blast from the past and a very nice time. Let's not wait the same number of decades to do that again Barb!
The next morning we have to leave for Tucson and it rained all night, then continues most of the day. We hook up the trailer and Jim has to drive in the heaviest rain we've had the entire three months we've been on the road. This is the desert folks! What happened to blue skies and warm temps?!? There were none to be found. But it's fine, they'll take all the rain they can get.
We love Tucson and love Catalina State Park. This 5,500 acre park sits in the foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountains and has trails that criss cross the area. Several enter the Coronado National Forest and you can hike to Mt. Lemmon at 9,159 ft. elevation. The desert was lush following the rain and pools were full and flowing. I have never been a big desert person but it was gorgeous, so I guess I would modify the title of the blog to: rain, rain, bring it on. We will be back.
And last but certainly not least, I have to mention the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson. This is a conservation and research center, zoo, desert garden and museum all in one. You could spend hours here and we did. It's rated one of the top 5 museums in the country on TripAdvisor. We got an up close view of several raptors including a Kestrel, Peregrine Falcon, Barn Owl and Harris Hawk, each one completely adapted for how they hunt and the prey they eat.