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Dad Diaries: On the Road Again (Arizona, New Mexico & Texas)

By July 22, 20205 Comments

Dad is traveling again, and this time, it’s by RV! Here’s his account of a 3-month trip through the American South in a class-A RV earlier this year. I give you, Dad Diaries: On the Road Again! Click here to read more Dad Diaries in the series.

Galveston, Texas:

Voted the best location of the trip so far: it was awesome.

The only problem was our approach to Galveston.  We were traveling west on Interstate 10 which had 50+ miles of “road work.”  Lanes switching, lanes not well defined, pot holes and gouged asphalt. VERY BUMPY. Then, there were the 9 foot lanes. The width of the RV is 8 feet. With the mirrors, it is 8 foot 6 inches wide.  Do the math. And then add the trucks that were going over the speed limit passing you…not fun.

Off we went onto I45 and after 30 minutes or so, Patti (my wife) says “I think this road ends at the water’s edge?”  We pulled over trying to figure it out and in the end got out to talk to a guy in a trash truck to ask if this was the way to Galveston.  He said “Sure it is, you just have to take the ferry at the end of the road!”  I called the ferry and asked if they could hold 53 feet of RV and tow car.  The ferry man said “Sure, you just drive on and drive off!”  We drove on to the end of the road, and sure enough, we drove onto the ferry!  We checked off “RV on a ferry” from the non-existent RV bucket list entry. After an 18-minute trip across the busy channel with giant tankers and barges moving all over the bay, when we drove off the ferry, we were actually 10 miles from the RV Resort.

The next day we could see Galveston was a huge port. Cargo, oil and supporting oil rigs moored from the Gulf. As a measurement of recovery from hurricane IKE in 2008, there was still plenty of evidence of the storm.  The most interesting part was the marks on the buildings all over the town identifying the high water level from the storm which they still talk about a lot. Then there were very few trees left anywhere, which they have replaced.

We visited “the Bishop’s Palace” in Galveston, an ornate Victorian style house constructed all in stone that was sturdy enough to withstand the great hurricane of 1900. It was built between 1887 and 1893 by a lawyer and politician, Walter Gresham. The mansion’s interior was done in mostly black walnut. It is three stories, and took 6 years to build because of all the woodwork. For example, the circular stairway took five years and 10 carpenters to carve. It’s unbelievable when you see the homes two blocks from it. The current name came from the Archdiocese of Galveston purchasing it for their Bishop in 1923. Enough said…

The history in Galveston, Texas, was extensive.  We were down at the port a lot where the action is.  There were seafood wholesale places again where we loaded up with even more fish.  You simply pointed at the fish(es) you wanted on ice and they filleted them right in front of you.  We visited a museum that was a retired oil rig which was great as long as you like heights. I don’t! The harbor was loaded with shrimp boats, unique vessels that support the oil drilling industry, etc. The last night, we had dinner with a view of three oil rigs, a tall ship, a $40m yacht and a myriad of other vessels.

San Antonio, Texas:

We pretty much are hustling through Texas and New Mexico to get to Arizona. Mainly because the weather can get tough in the end of January, and it did not disappoint.  San Antonio is always fun and we got some great Mexican food on the Riverwalk. The weather was pretty good, but we knew once we left here and headed west (northwest), it was going to change. And not for the better. Not unexpectedly, we hit snow AND black ice. We encountered the snow in Ozona & Ft. Stockton, Texas to be exact. Totally snow covered ground at the RV park with temps in the low 30s. Not a lot, but the next morning I had to drive in it from the RV site a half mile to the ramp to I10.  The black ice was on I10, but I could straddle it until the sun melted it.  Crazy 48 hour weather pattern and then beautiful sunny skies in the 50s!

When we travelled through West Central Texas heading west, it was cold, but one has to pass through 3 or 4 mountain ranges.  I got driving with changes in altitude and downshifting on the other side down pat, but I’ll never get over the winds. 60+ miles an hour is not unusual, even in the plains between the passes.  The hard part is that the roads are not straight. They are constantly winding in all directions, so once I get use to compensating for the wind from one direction, in minutes it has shifted.

New Mexico:

On prior trips, we’ve stopped at White Sands National Park & White Sands Missile Test Range, but after that, not much.  New Mexico, where we were, is just flat with many tumbleweeds and very dirty dirt.  The RV was spotless until we hit Las Cruces and it just got worse as we traveled through NM.  Completely covered with dusty dirt.

New Mexico also has zero visibility Dust Storm Warning Signs all over the place.  300 miles of them straight on I10, thousands of telephone poles right beside I10 and then very busy train tracks.

More than 10 times there were a set of warning signs for dust storms.  Each of the following were on a series of signs as you drive:

  • Warning: Dust Storms
  • Zero visibility
  • Pull completely off the road
  • Shut off your engine
  • Take your foot of your brake
  • Shut off your headlights

If you look at the signs, the third one was so you don’t die. Folks always try to drive through it.

Last Stop? Arizona:

On February 8th, we landed in Willcox, AZ, for a short stay, so we went 30 minutes south to Chiricahua National Monument on a tip from a fellow RV-er.  If you are ever driving around Arizona, this is a must do hiking experience.  It has absolutely stupendous geological formations. I am not sure the hike we took was for a couple of 60-somethings in hiking boots, but we did it.  The trails were about 5.2 miles cut out of basically three mountain sides and with a change in elevation of about 1000 feet multiple times during the hike.  The trails were a foot or two wide, many times with a several thousand foot drop off if you trip on the loose rock trail.

Then, we made it to the land of greens and browns, beautiful mountains, and Saguaro cacti – the deserts of Tucson.

Got right out and went to one of our favorite hiking spots: Saguaro National Park.  We actually made it through our planned hike without getting lost!  Because the weather was pretty warm, there was more animal life like lizards, butterflies, road runners and something that was scampering in and out of the cacti, but we never saw; possibly chipmunks. There was also a lot of evidence of floods on and next to the washes.  We heard there had been heavy rain just before we arrived.

Tucson Rodeo? Huge.  You could smell the boot polish and leather in the air prepping for the big day.  The first hint was the townspeople lined the main road and there were row after row of bleachers for the “Rodeo Day Parade”.  The parade is as big as the rodeo and is competitive.  Many awards are given out.  NO motorized vehicles (accent on the “hic”).  All floats pulled by horse teams. Dignitaries have to apply to be in the parade.  Covered wagons can be rented so you can be in the parade.

Up next was a Sabino Canyon revisit. Last time we went, we hiked the top of the mountain, this time, we hiked at the foothills of the canyon…Still lots of altitude hiking, which was a surprise since we chose the “canyon trails.” The pictures just don’t do justice to the beauty of the desert.  What’s amazing is, if you walk a quarter mile you can be in a completely different environment. From a waterfall and mountain stream to a mountain side with thousands of saguaro cacti, to checking out an old mine and vistas that take your breath away. It’s just an incredible experience that never gets boring.

Reality hit us mid February, and told us to change plans.  Our options with the virus outbreak were to stay in Arizona in the warmer climate or get home before we couldn’t do it safely.  The RV is beautiful and fun to play in, but it is still only 600 square feet of living space in a metal box.  The prudent thing was to get home.  By March 5th, we cancelled the last part of our trip north to Phoenix and Prescott, put the RV in storage and flew home.

Fun Fact Wrap-up:

  • 2394 miles starting in Florida to Arizona
  • 20 stops,
  • 289 gallons of fuel
  • 8.28 miles per gallon
  • RV and Jeep stored in Marana (about 20 mi W of Tucson)


Thanks for reading about Rick’s RV adventures! Be sure to check out more from our Dad Diaries series!

Rick Cotter

Author Rick Cotter

Rick Cotter is a Massachusetts native and new world traveler. After scuba diving throughout the Caribbean and road tripping across the USA, he's moved onto Europe as a new baby boomer playground. Follow Rick's adventures in his 'Dad Diaries' series on Pure Wander.

More posts by Rick Cotter

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