My folks have been campers & RV’rs for as long as they’ve been married. They have stories of traveling with my Grandparents in a 50’s era station wagon outfitted with a custom chuckbox in the rear and with the whole gang sleeping in canvas tents that had to be setup and taken down with each move.
From there it was a clamshell car-top camper (along these lines but, I suspect, smaller) perched on top of a Volkswagon Bug, then onto a string of travel trailers, motorhomes, truck campers, and back finally to Class A motorhomes.
So our hope with this trip was that they would be able to join us for part of it, forming a “Boyink Caravan” similar to trips I remember taking with them and my grandparents when I was young, maybe for some of Texas and points immediately east or west of that.
Then earlier this year my mom was diagnosed with Stage 1 breast cancer and slotted in for a series of chemo and radiation treatments.
We immediately knew this was going to kill any chance of them joining us in a mobile fashion so changed our plans to include a visit to their winter home in Mission, Texas.
It’s a hike down. When they leave in the spring to come back to Michigan and hit the Texas border they are halfway home. From our spot in Beaumont, TX it was 438 miles, or 7.5 hours estimated drive time according to Google. For us that meant a 2-day drive with our slower speeds and more frequent stops.
RV on a Ferry?
Our first obstacle was getting through Houston, made worse by the fact that our schedule would put us there at rush hour on a Monday morning.
Dad suggested dropping further south to a route through Galveston, TX which would include a (free) ferry ride. From there we could cut back into interstates. A ferry ride sounded more fun than sitting in traffic so we took that route.
The ferry was definitely an experience. It was bigger than what we had the truck in on the Outer Banks, so getting on was easier than expected.
The weather was brisk, but the kids and I still got out to look off the front of the ferry, and then went up on the bridge. We saw lots of pelicans and some dolphins in the water, and I was able to inspect the trailer roof.
The new travel factor this day brought us was wind. Heavy wind! We normally travel at 55-60 MPH and the truck runs in 5th gear at about 1700 RPM.
With the winds on this day the truck was downshifting to 4th gear on flat ground just to maintain 50 MPH. It was tiring to drive, and our fuel mileage suffered as well.
We finally got off the road for couple hours and found a Walmart to park in. We took naps, had snacks, and played some cards. This was a loud Wal-Mart being just off the highway and right by a stoplight so you’d hear semis using their jake-brake to slow down and then become loud again while accelerating away.
It was consistent with our other Wal-Mart experiences for boondocking in, being nice that they allow it but so busy/loud that you can’t really get a great night’s sleep there. In the late afternoon we got back on the road again.
Supper was McDonalds (don’t judge, it was dark, the pickings were slim, we were tired and starving) and then on for another hour or so of after-dark driving.
The Texas Trick
The trick with traveling through south Texas is to get the timing right. There is a long stretch of “no-mans” land where there is basically nothing for gas, supplies, or campgrounds before you reach the “The Valley” in McAllen.
Since it was 8-9 PM and we just wanted to get up and drive for a few hours again we reluctantly chose to boondock in a Wal-Mart parking lot in Kingsville, TX - one of the few towns left before the empty stretch.
The Picky Security Guard
When we drove in the lot we noticed a parking lot security car driving around with flashing lights on.
Data asked if I felt better or worse because of that and I honestly didn’t know.Better because they were there, but worse because something had happened to need them there? There were a couple other RV’s in place however so we at least had a bit of a security factor that way.
The security guard followed us into our spot, then parked behind the truck by the side of the trailer. I waited to see if she was going to come talk to me but she just remained there, looking busy inside her car.
After a few minutes of this I finally lost patience and got out to ask if there was a problem. No problem, she was just noting our license plate number (and taking forever to do it).
She did want me to “park correctly” as I had stopped in a lane vs. being in the parking spaces.
I got back in and circled back around to be in the spaces, then she wanted me to pull further forward to the end of the row (even though we were parallel with the other rigs).
The problem was the slope of the parking lot would put us 3” off front to back and not comfortable for sleeping. But, rather than argue I pulled forward. She was happy and left.
Then I backed us up to where we were level.
It was an OK night,. The lot actually quieted down more than other Wal-Marts and we slept OK. In the morning I walked out for some coffee, breakfast tacos, and donuts and then we got back on the road for a couple easy hours into Mission.
Arriving at Parents
We arrived at my parents mid-morning and Dad was ready to jump in and wash the trailer. Who was I to argue? ;) It was filthy, not having been washed since we left last September.
After that, a DQ lunch (first of many “meal deals” down here in snowbird land I’m sure) we setup the shiny clean trailer in a nice unused RV pad two doors over from my parents house.
Now we’re settled in for about a week. I need to catch up on some work and we have a few truck & trailer repairs to make.
Bringing the Cold
And, of course, we brought cold weather with us. When we arrived it was sunny and 70, now it’s mid 50’s, the wind is blowing, and it’s raining lightly.
I’m considering putting up a shingle for a new business: “Global Warming Prevention Agent”.