We're back at the Marfa Lights Lookout for the night after a reasonably good dinner at the Hotel Piasano. Tomorrow we really are headed towards Big Bend National Park. I'm guessing we'll be out of cell range as we head south so I figured I'd attempt to post a few photographs from our big day out yesterday.
We left Alpine, Texas early yesterday and headed north toward Fort Davis, Texas. After topping off Miranda's tank, we had breakfast at Lupita's and then headed out to do the Davis Mountains Scenic loop taking a clockwise route out of Fort Davis.
We spent the better part of yesterday driving and stopping along the way for photographs and breaks. We pretty much had the highway to ourselves. Great drive. Recommended.
It's a chilly morning here in Alpine on this Presidents' Day holiday. After spending a week in San Angelo State Park, we're currently located in Lost Alaskan RV Park just north of town in Alpine, Texas, home of Sul Ross State University which also is the site for Museum of the Big Bend.
San Angelo, Texas
Our stay outside of San Angelo, Texas was pleasant. San Angelo State Park is just a few miles outside San Angelo making for easy day trips into the city. San Angelo sits on the Concho River and, like many cities, it developed a scenic river walk along the Concho in downtown. The visitor's center seems relatively new and is well designed. The volunteer ladies at the Visitor Center were helpful and had good information to share about San Angelo and the surrounding area. We spend some time at the San Angelo Museum of fine art where we took in the current exhibit, Inside Out, An exploration of women's status and roles in American society as reflected in fashion from foundation to silhouette.
San Angelo River Walk along the Concho River
Downtown San Angelo
Fort Stockton, Texas
We traveled from San Angelo to Fort Stockton, Texas. The trip was windy which brings to mind conversations we've had with folks in Texas about the somewhat ever present wind. When you mention the high winds in Texas you will sometimes get an explanation from residents that goes something like this, "The reason for the high wind in Texas is there's nothing between the North Pole and us except barbed wire." And I heard, "There's not so much as a hill between us and the North Pole."
That's just fine, fine, fine, but doesn't explain the damned southernly winds that blew Miranda around all day between San Angelo and Fort Stockton. Whatever. I've about had enough of the Texas winds for a while, but it'll be a while before we leave this great state and the accompanying wide open spaces and said high winds, so I prolly should just shut up about it.
Fort Stockton was only a stop over spot on the way to Alpine and Marfa and Big Bend. Fort Stockton felt like a town catering to the oil industry, kinda rough around the edges and not much at which one need spend too much time pondering or looking for. I'm probably wrong somehow, but maybe not. Maybe the damned wind was affecting my perception.
On the way to Fort Stockton it occurred to me the skunk is just like the possum and the armadillo in the southeast. Just another creature caught in the headlights with no where to go but under someone's tires. The result is the same, many a carcass in and along the roadside. You'd think with as much wide open space and sight distances, they'd be able to navigate away with oncoming 80 mile an hour (speed limit) vehicles. But no. The only difference between them and the 'possums is the immediate smell. That lovely fragrance of skunk permeating my senses and Miranda. Skunk may be the Texas state fragrance. I should contact Governor Abbot about making it official.
Please don't write me to explain how great is Texas. By now I have a very good understanding, some of it from locals, from flags hanging from every available space and the star embedded in the rest of the available space. I get it. Texas is special, about like Alabama is special, just bigger and dryer. Bigger. Big.
"Paradise is exactly like where you are right now, only much, much better."-- L. Anderson
Wednesday, February 6th, marked our first month on the road since leaving Birmingham. We've been living in Miranda for over three months.
Several people have inquired whether we have gotten over the feeling of being on vacation, does living on the road feel like being on perpetual vacation? Since we've been out here for a month, how's it going for us?
First, Melanie and I agree that things have gone pretty seamlessly from the get go. While initially being in Birmingham presented us with a great "shakedown" cruise of extended duration, we both felt a bit antsy moving from spot to spot in the familiar surroundings of Birmingham while she closed her law practice (notwithstanding the great times spent in Mountain Brook with close friends). But since leaving Birmingham everything has gone pretty smoothly and we've taken to nomadic life pretty well, for newbies anyway.
I've mentioned before our not-necessarily-etched-in-stone travel rules for the road. We generally travel no greater distance than 200 miles in a day. We generally then remain in place, wherever that may be, for at least two days. The exception to the latter rule may be, if we arrive, and then agree we need to get the hell on down the road because the venue isn't desirable. We've, thus far, been especially lucky with our choices and have extended our stays on several occasions.
Before hitting the road, we had the advantage of having read about what people who've been traveling full-time for awhile said they'd do differently, if they had only known X. Consistently, one of the things people said they would recommend doing is slowing down the pace of their travel, especially during the first year, since there seems to be an almost magnetic pull to check out the next great spot along your path immediately. So far, we haven't had any trouble adhering to our personal travel rules and slow and easy feels good to both of us.
I'm writing this morning from San Angelo State Park located just outside San Angelo, Texas on O.C. Fisher Lake. It's a rainy morning, with temperatures hovering in the high 40's headed to the mid 60's by afternoon. It's a time for Melanie to work on GCLC and EPF work and for me to play journal catch up. Our view from the van is of the lake and the prairie-like surroundings.
And so after pondering the okay-so-what's-it-like question for a few days, maybe the best way to answer the question is by describing a few nuances of nomadic travel everyday living. Some of it will most certainly give some of you that instant, oh, hell no, there's no way I'd like doing that, but for some there also will be the wow, how cool is that. Combinations are acceptable with questionable deal breakers probably mixed in.
Maybe the more mundane features of everyday life first.
Before we move the van. Every time we move the van. We have a check list of items on my cell phone that we go through. Are the levelers up? Are hoses disconnected and put away? Loose items secured? Check tire pressure? Bikes secured? You get the idea. Forgetting to go through the checklist isn't an option. Before we had the checklist, one of the kitchen drawers was not secured and it came flying out around a turn and was damaged. Thankfully, I was still in Birmingham and my friend, Wade, was able to repair it.
Laundry. I was sitting in a campground laundromat a few days ago when, in conversation with someone also using the facility, she said to me, I sure do miss having my own washer and dryer.
Let's face it, laundry in general is not something a person generally looks forward to doing even when you have your own machines in house. That's probably something on which we can agree. Here's what I told her. I'll trade an hour or so a week, sitting in a campground laundromat for what I get to experience every day as I travel. Doing laundry in a strange place seems a minimal exchange of my time for peak experiences I get from nomadic life. Well, she said, when you look at it that way... Most all the laundry facilities, thus far, have been great to serviceable. I read and meet new people to pass the time.
Our van has 30 gallon capacities for water, grey water (the sinks and shower) and black water (the toilet), or 90 gallons total capacity. Campground slots vary on amenities they offer, but some offer what's called full hook ups. Water, electricity and sewer are the basics. With our van, the electricity and water connections are, generally speaking, easily made and easily disconnected for traveling away from the campground.
Emptying the black tank or sewer is a bit more complicated, but for us, easy nevertheless, as I ordered the van with a macerator pump for eliminating black water. What this means is that periodically, when the 30 gallon black tank is full, or nearly so, I have to go outside, put on the latex gloves, unscrew the cap on the hose leading into the macerator, put the macerator hose into the campground sewer opening at our site, pull the lever opening the tank, and flip the switch to turn on the macerator to pump out the tank. It's a very sanitary job, if done properly. Melanie calls this a blue job, one that calls for Steven to always do it. Gladly.
As you may imagine, we are much more cognizant of our water usage. When we are in a campground, it's less critical, but when we're off grid, 30 gallons become 30 precious gallons. Showers are done in campground facilities when we can and so far, with one exception, all campground facilities have been good. Melanie prefers our shower, but our shower is small and, for me, just serviceable, that is, good enough, but very close quarters. Washing dishes is, of course, done by hand using as little water as practicable.
Cooking in a small space has its challenges and, to be honest, I'm still evolving when it comes to what to cook and when to cook it on the road. The van has a two-burner cook top and a convection/microwave oven. We have a good sized refrigerator in the van. To date we've mostly been heating up food, either pre-prepared from a market or that I've cooked, in the microwave and we've been eating out more than we did when we were stationary. So, less spent on groceries, but slightly more on eating out.
The surprise, though I suppose if I'd thought about it more, I would have seen it as a more viable option, has been the opportunity to utilize the kitchens of people we meet and visit with along the way. A good example came last Thursday night.
Two days before, as Melanie and I were preparing to leave the local H-E-B market, a couple approached the van and asked about the KOMO Chest on the back of the van in which we carry our bicycles. I showed them the chest and, in the course of conversation, they invited us to stay a night at their vineyard (Klenk Family Vineyards and Rock House at the Vineyard) just outside of town. I suggested I might like to cook, if they were amenable. They were and we had a truly wonderful experience eating with and getting to know, Dave and Robyn Klenk, Robyn's mother, Reverend Dyana Orrin, and their friends, Jimmy and Rhonda. We also got a great sunset as a bonus.
We get our mail through a service in Florida. The service gives us a permanent street address to which most of our mail goes. They send me photos of the outside of envelopes and I let them know which pieces of mail to scan and then which to forward to us.
When we order things on line we can sometimes have it sent to a campground at which we're staying or to the U.S.P.S. office in the nearby town as General Delivery.
Since Melanie is working two part-time jobs, she spends a fair amount of time in the front of the van where our dining table can be set up. Her work requires us to be connected to the outside world (for the most part). Our van is equipped with cell booster, WiFI booster (if a campground offers good WiFi signal) and we have a Verizon jetpack. So far, we've experienced zero problems in the connectivity department.
I'm sure I've not exhausted the more mundane aspects of nomadic life, but the point here is that life on the road is exactly like where you are only different in the ways I've just explained. The design of the van makes this kind of living about as easy as it can be.
Life Like An Extended Vacation
For those of you who follow either Melanie or me on Facebook or follow us, as Missingpersonsrv here on on instagram, life through our images probably looks a lot like an extended vacation for us.
And, aside from the fact that Melanie is still working, albeit part-time, living life on the road is truly like a perpetual vacation adventure. We've met some really interesting people and made new friends. We get to decide when and where we live and for how long. We look for points of interest and stops along the way to check them out. There are new and great restaurants and coffee shops and museums and national parks and state parks and..., so yeah, it's like some dream-like existence with everyday work-life and mundane stuff of everyday existence thrown in.
Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park, Johnson City, Texas and Lyndon B. Johnson State Park and National Historical Park, Stonewall, Texas
Steven and Melanie