Storming Arizona describes both our stay in Arizona and how we left Arizona. We have never traveled so far so fast. Now it is warm. I was telling friends that we were going to slow down when it got warm. The last few days were in the 70s, and then it was more than 80. I guess you can say that we were successful. Then we had another cold front, complete with a thunderstorm so we are going further east. Near Houston, we hope to find some consistent warm weather. (Don’t try to find consistency in this chronology, publish date, writing date and moving date make this a mushy sequence.)
We stayed for a total of 28 days in Tucson. Tucson is blazing hot in the summer, but in the winter, it is not as warm as it is in many other places. Phoenix and Yuma in Arizona, southern Texas, and most of Florida are warmer than Tucson. This wasn’t unexpected, Tucson is at a higher elevation than any of those places. Last year I covered our rationale for picking our travel locations in this post. Chasing 70 degrees
We breezed through Califonia last fall and started to cross southern Arizona as the weather cooled down enough for easy travel. We arrived in Tucson just before Christmas. Tucson is a good first step for crossing the high desert of both eastern Arizona, all of New Mexico, and West Texas. For us, it was a good place to get ready for the crossing. Just as the pioneers used Saint Louis as the first step on the Oregon Trail, we were using Tucson as our first step. We stayed in Tucson until it snowed.
Two years ago, we left Tucson just prior to the first winter snowstorm of 2019. It was another winter cold front and discussion of a polar vortex was promising a winter snowstorm for Arizona. This year we didn’t make that same mistake and instead, we rode it out, waited for the clearing, then departed the following day. Our reasoning was sound both two years ago — departing, and good judgment this year — staying.
That sounds so contradictory. The reason both of these statements are correct is that two years ago we didn’t have outside electricity and this year we did. So two years ago, knowing that outside electricity was an important part of keeping warm, we went south to Sierra Vista for the snowstorm. Electrical hook-ups are good to have when you are in a winter storm in Arizona. Here is the post about our first RV snowstorm. Fort Huachuca
Two years ago In Sierra Vista, we really got dumped on, with more than six inches of Alaska sunshine covering the RV, car, and everything. It was a quick three-day event that shut down all operations in Fort Huachuca. We stayed inside, keeping warm. The next day after it snowed, all the snow was gone. One day of cold, one day of snow, and one day of melt, then everything was back to normal. Unlike storming in a Wyoming winter, storming in Arizona is a quick event.
This year we rode out the storm in Tucson. Instead of being all over in three days, the cold part of the storm took most of a week. This time instead of six inches of wet-white, we had less than one inch of already melting wet white slush. I had been working on the solar install and most of the panels were already on the roof for the wetting. The temperatures were right at the freezing point and this time we weren’t concerned about frozen pipes. Perhaps you might say that storming Arizona is very mild compared to most of the country.
Interstate 10 heads south out of Tucson and then all the way across the country. It starts in Santa Monica and ends in Jacksonville Florida. Really we have been following Interstate 10 eastbound for the last two months. We first picked up Interstate 10 in Phoenix after crossing the Mojave Desert. Then we followed it through the Sonoran Desert, and all the way across West Texas. Now we are in Texas Hill country still moving east — still on Interstate 10.
Our plan was to go as fast as comfortable with as few stops as possible and slow down when it became predictably warm.
Between Storms in Arizona
We left Tucson on Thursday with a strong tailwind heading east. It snowed on Tuesday and was all gone on Wednesday. The next storm in Arizona was coming, or at least we thought it was coming. We didn’t look back to see what happened behind us. We don’t like driving in the wind, but this Arizona wind storm was a tailwind, and driving (and flying) is easy with a tailwind.
After leaving early, early for us anyway, we didn’t know where we would end up. We were heading east; the question was how far east? Once on the freeway, driving was easy, as was our first stop, just for fuel, in Willcox. While refueling that morning, it was still hands-in-pockets, full-zip-coat cold, and windy cold.
After getting fuel we knew we could easily make it to Demming-New Mexico and possibly Las Cruces-New Mexico with the remaining daylight. Perhaps we could even make it to El Paso –If we didn’t mind arriving just before dark. We didn’t make the decision to push on, (not all the way to El Paso) as we were passing through Demming.
Same place, different city
I don’t think this ever happened before, at least for us, but our stopping place in both Demming and Las Cruces was a winery – both owned by the same company — D.H. Lescombes Winery. Two years ago we stayed at the Demming location. I really need to add a campsite review about that stop (and many others). Here is a link to the company website. D.H. Lescombes Winery
If we made it to Las Cruces we could have dinner at the bistro and we could knock off more miles. Demming only had the wine sales. If we stopped in Demming, we (Tami) would have to make our own dinner. Harvest Host is a club that, if you make a purchase from the host, you can camp on their property overnight. Here is a link to our description of Harvest Host. Snippet: Harvest Host
Our tailwind, good roads, and trading drivers let us crack off 270-miles without pausing. (I am very overjoyed that Tami loves to drive. She does so at least half the open road time and nearly all the slow speed driving and parking. When parking I stand outside and give directions using very clear hand signals. Unlike many signals I have seen, it does not look like I am swatting flies.)
We had a great dinner at the Bistro in downtown Las Cruces. The scenery across Arizona and New Mexico was all as expected, with a few additional patches of unmelted snow mixed it. We made this leg of the crossing without stopping except for fuel, lunch, and to switch drivers.
Our arrival in Las Cruces was early enough that we had some relaxed time before dinner, really we should have gone directly to the Bistro because by the time we had dinner it was starting to get cold. If you are in Las Cruces make sure to eat at the Bistro. The food was very good. Las Cruces didn’t move the thermometer enough to satisfy the warmer requirement. By morning, our Arizona windstorm and cold front caught up to us and we had some small hail when we did the quick departure checklist. Our car was still hooked up from the night before. We nearly didn’t have to go outside before we left. Overall we had a good tailwind for another two hundred miles.
Texas rest stops
Some RV travelers stay in Walmart parking lots, truck stops, and places like that. We have yet to do that. On this leg, we, for the first time in three years, stayed the night at a rest stop. Really it was two rest stops in a row. Both were on the side of the freeway. Both were quiet because they were not right next to the freeway.
We stopped for fuel again on the eastside of El Paso hoping not to need fuel again until reaching Houston. (The plan is working, today (publishing day Sunday) we are again moving further east and still have plenty of fuel.) The route isn’t hard to describe, head east on Interstate 10 then after 270 miles stop at the rest stop and spend the night.
Our first rest stop was on a hill twenty miles west of Fort Stockton. This is the biggest rest stop we have ever been to. The place was massive. We arrived early enough to sit outside until sunset after visiting with some other RVers who were enjoying the sunset. As soon as the sun went down, we scurried back inside where it was warm.
Two rest stops in a row
The second rest stop was 290 miles further east off Interstate 10. We were staying between Kerrville and Comfort. This one was very different. Trucks were directed to the truck parking area right next to the freeway. RVs made a right turn through the loop to the south and parked with the cars in a picnic area. We parked along the loop road just beyond the sidewalk. The loop road was narrow enough that we kept the slides on the road side of our RV retracted. This was to make sure that other drivers didn’t have anything extra sticking out of the RV to hit in the middle of the night. Since we were spending our first night in this RV with the slides half in, I rolled up the rug that normally sits in the living room up and put it in the car for the night.
North of San Antonio we settled down for a three-night stay. Nights and mornings were still a little cool but warmed up quickly. It was warmer than Tucson and perhaps we were on the edge of our goal of more consistent predictable warmth.
Canyon Lake was very nice but the RV spots seemed to be laid out in a random fashion, some of the sites were in rows with one row having a view of the water. Other sites were scattered.
We still have plenty of distance to travel eastbound and are now off the freeway for a while. This nearly doubled our time-per-mile because of the smaller roads and occasional stops at intersections. The distance between Comfort Texas and Canyon Lake was only 50 miles.
During our stay, we drove over to San Marcos Texas for a look around. San Marcos is a Texas State University town. If you are in San Marcos, the place to eat is the Industry. Given the location and layout, I bet this place was really popular before COVID. For us, it had good food and a nice patio. Here is a link to the restaurant. Industry
Texas State has a very cool building on the grounds called the Main. Getting a good picture was difficult because it is surrounded by trees and to take the picture you are standing very close to the building — and you have to take the picture with a wide-angle lens. The wide-angle really makes for plenty of distortion in the picture.
Lockhart State Park
The next two days we spent camping next to the fairway of a golf course at Lockhart State Park. This time we only moved 45 miles further east. It is a very nice place, perhaps one of the top five locations we have ever stayed. Lockhart State Park was developed as a park by the Civilian Conservation Corps as part of the recovery from the Great Depression. Hundreds of men all gathered here and put in bridges and created a golf course carved into the woods. We are staying between the fairway and the river. The view from our RV is the fairway and when we were parking, I noticed that deer were under a tree on the far side of the green.
This courthouse is built in the “second empire style” and replaced the courthouse built-in 1848. The sandstone and the Mansard style roof complete with clock tower are typical designs in Texas courthouses built around 1900.
We have found that several of the old towns support picturesque turn of the century style old buildings. The Hotel on the left even had underground light shafts leading to speak-easy style pubs. It reminded us of our tour of Pendelton Oregon and the stories associated with the old west that we wrote about during our visit to northeast Oregon. Here is a quick link to that article. Pendleton, Oregon Underground
Good to travel
Even though we are going much faster than we have in the past, it is very good to be on the road again. When we left Tucson, it and places in southern Arizona were experiencing increased COVID virus rates. New Mexico is still mostly locked-up based on attempts to keep healthy. The attitude in Texas is that they are taking precautions but are not shutting down. The smaller the town, the more balance between still open and caution we see. Bigger cities seem to be more closed. Mask policy is about the same, compliance is about the same everywhere we have gone. People still don’t understand that outside is better than inside and distance is the key to staying safe (safer, no guarantees).
As we drove across Arizona, we got a phone call from Davis-Monthan AFB in Tucson. Did we want to come in for the virus shot? Sadly we had just left. We had no idea that was coming and thus we missed the vaccination rollout by one day.