After a change in previous plans, we had to figure out where to spend the month of January, and ended up flocking to all the popular spots for full-time RVers ("snowbirds") that spend their winter in these warm southern areas. CALIFORNIA: Joshua Tree Joshua Tree National Park and the BLM land at its south entrance is a mecca for RVers this time of year because it...
This October we did something completely different for us. We drove from Colorado all the way to Austin, Texas. The goal of going this far south was to capture some content of our friends who live in Austin, Texas, on their wake surf boat using our camera rigged jetboat. This was a bit of R&D for us for rigging the boat, plus getting content to market this new tool for our business. We spent a few days on both Lake Austin and Lake Travis, and got out into a stretch of the Texas Colorado River. Lake Austin is fun because you boat directly past the docks of all the mega-mansions in Austin, including Michael Dell’s mansion, and can boat directly under the Pennybacker bridge. The lake is a channelized section of the Texas Colorado river dammed on both ends, but can still get pretty choppy with so many boats out. Lake Travis is also surrounded by mega-mansions, but mostly higher up on the cliffs, and also has several coves you can go explore.
We spent the rest of our time seeking out the best brisket and eating BBQ. The best places we tried were Terry’s Black Barbecue for brisket and Loro for Asian infusion barbecue. We also tried Rudy’s, a bbq chain that is located at the gas station, one night when it was late and we were hungry, and was still pretty impressed. I guess we just don’t get good brisket in Colorado, and even the gas station location had good standards.
We had to get creative with parking in Austin Texas because Austin is not very big rig friendly, and of course we didn’t want to pay for RV Parks. The street parking system in the city would end up costing $40 a day to park with a ten hour maximum. There’s not really any free street parking. Our friends lived right on the edge of town, so we looked for parking in some of the parks outside of the city and had to walk a mile or they picked us up. The first spot we tried was by a baseball diamond that wasn’t really being used at all, probably closed for the pandemic. It seemed like it was going to be the perfect spot until we heard the train come by at 11 pm pretty much directly above our heads. The train tracks had been concealed by all the trees so we didn’t even think about parking right next to it, and we must have been parked right by an intersection because it laid on its horn right when it passed us. Too lazy to go get up and find somewhere else to park, and unaware that the trains ran every couple hours , we decided to deal with it, and got woken up at least 4 more times with blaring train horns above our heads. This wasn’t going to work. We ended up finding the best spot to sleep though the next day by Zilker Park, a couple miles out of town, overlooking downtown and along the Town Lake. This was pretty much the only free parking public parking lot in Austin, and there was a giant grass lot in between two paved parking lots. The parking lots were packed on the weekends but pretty empty on the weekdays, especially at night. We just parked right in the grass for at least 7 nights and nobody bothered us.
The other problem was that the trees in all the neighborhoods and side streets in Austin were completely overgrown with low hanging tree branches. A couple times when we routed between the lakes back into town Google took us through neighborhoods with tree branches so low that they were definitely hitting our roof and Thule box. A couple of the branches actually broke off both our Weboost Antenna and Satellite Antenna, which we found broken sitting on the roof when we went up to investigate the damage. So be warned if you ever bring a big rig to Austin!
Our friends told us that the water in the Town Lake isn’t the most sanitary because water from some sort of waste water plant gets dumped in the lake, and there’s so much trash floating around town, when it rains it all gets dumped in the lake, but we decided to take our packrafts out into the Town Lake anyway because the water didn’t look that bad to us, and it’s really unique because you can paddle right past all the big skyscrapers. On summer weekends, apparently there will be thousands of SUPers and paddlers out on the lake during the day, but on a colder October day it wasn’t too busy. We took the rafts up Barton Springs, a crystal clear spring that flows into Town Lake, and you can see through the turquoise water down to the plants below.
We had to head to southern California for several projects after leaving Texas, so we made the drive over a week long period so that we could stop and see a few new things since we’ve never done this drive before. We had planned to drive a couple hours out of our way to go to Big Bend National Park, but a cold front blew through and it actually ended up snowing in Fort Stockton, where we had parked to wait out the storm. We ended up skipping Big Bend and heading towards New Mexico. Our first stop in New Mexico was the White Sands National Park, which is America’s newest National Park, recently changed from a national monument. The scenic drive through the park is about 8 miles long each way, with a few stops for view points or short interpretive trails and a boardwalk with information about the animals and plants. At the end of the scenic drive you can pretty much just park and walk out into the dunes in any direction. There’s no RV camping in the park, but there are two backcountry loops for tent camping, which were currently closed for the pandemic. We walked out into the dunes at sunset, which was absolutely amazing with mountain ranges in both directions and the sky turned completely pink and orange above the dunes.
We visited after the recent snow storm, so the sand was very compact, instead of its normal fine fluffy texture. People had brought sleds to sled down the dunes, and some groups had set up volleyball nets. It seemed like a really fun place to come with a family. The park closed at 8 that time of year, and there’s not much around. Most people probably stay in Las Cruces or Truth or Consequence. We just camped at a trailhead about half hour away for an easy place to park, and hiked part of the trail there in the morning, called Baylor Pass. It was a longer hike than we had time for, so we just hiked up the start of it to get a good view down the Organ Mountains.
We took a scenic route through New Mexico towards Phoenix, driving through Gila National Forest. We did a short hike in Arenas Valley to see a dragonfly pictograph, which was rather uneventful, but we did a really neat short hike by Pleasanton to a couple secluded hot springs right in the San Francisco river. This hike was just a mile and a half each direction, starting in a dry desert cactus landscape, but dropped down into the river canyon lush with green trees. Once in the canyon, you walk down river a couple bends and find these small secluded hot spring pools. There’s several to choose from, and nobody was there when we went so we didn’t have to share with anyone, and actually I think not a lot of people know how to find the pools down river. One of the pools had been built up around the roots of a fallen tree, which made for a really unique backdrop. The fall colors were also starting to peak in the river canyon. One of our favorite natural hot spring hikes yet!
Next we camped in a free forest service campground right on the border of New Mexico and Arizona in the Gila National Forest, with these cliffs as the backdrop.
After the Gila National Forest we dropped into the Queen Valley, just east of Phoenix, and decided to get the bikes off the rail for a day ride through the Superstition Mountains. We did a 40 mile loop up to Montana Mountain, full of red rock cliffs and Saguaro Cactus, mostly on really easy jeep roads. We ended up getting back to camp in the dark though because the BLM maps hadn’t been updated, and a portion of the road had been made private. We ended up running into a gate, and the owner was not friendly at all to let us pass, even though we were running out of gas and it was almost dark, and had to find a different route back. At least I got to use my headlight on my bike which I never normally have to use. And there was a rattle snake hanging out under our truck when we got back!
After a quick stop in Phoenix to see some friends and also pick up a few packages that we ordered to their house, we made the rest of our drive to Los Angeles.