Our relief didn’t show up until 2:40pm, so we got a late start getting out, and weren’t on the road until 3pm. Originally we had planned on a six hour drive and were going to push through but when we stopped for gas in Junction I called it because we were both too tired. Lee is still waking up at 4am, and the thought of me driving in the dark to get to the next available campground just didn’t seem like a good idea. So I found a Good Sam park close by called North Llano River RV resort and we drove a few miles down the road until we were there. Lee wasn’t thrilled about the $37 Good Sam price, but I pointed out that we were going to grab some fast food to keep driving and the cost would roughly be the same if we ate in the rig. (It’s amazing how after a long period of not having to pay for a site, any price seems steep. – Lee)
It turned out to be a good call. The office was closed when we pulled up but they had maps all ready with the available sites marked. We chose site 33 and right when we were going to drive back one of the staff came up and helped us pull in. It was a great site. On the edge of the park, with it’s own patio and grill and so very quiet. Plus it was blessedly dark when night came and we were able to open the windows, enjoy the breeze and not have to worry about generator noise and lights for the first time in months. Lee was also able to rinse our black tank out repeatedly which it really needed since we haven’t been able to do that for the last couple of months either. It was well worth the money and we really liked it. The only weird thing was we seem to have picked up several hitchhiker crickets. We had two in the bathroom and one bouncing around the living room and they really wanted to get out. We didn’t have any of them in the house the whole time we were at the gate, but Lee thought they might have come in through the slides. Either way it did make me a little jumpy, because they grow bugs big in Texas.
The second day of driving was a long one. We left at 9am and didn’t reach our campground until 8pm (it was 7pm local time because we lost an hour). Part of that was due to trying to make up time from yesterday, part of it was due to high winds and dust storms, and part was because we hit El Paso at 4pm on a Friday. Sometimes things just happen like that, and we decided to go ahead and hopefully beat the worst of the traffic (which we did) and because Lee was just coming off a two hour shift I drove. Oh, and as we were entering town we passed an RV that looked fine from the back, but when we went around it, the front half of it was completely burned up and it was actually being towed. I managed to get a couple of pictures. Pretty crazy, we’ve never seen anything like that.
Generally I don’t mind driving in cities, even in traffic. All I need to do is stay in my lane and keep enough distance between the car in front of me but this was a tough one. There was major construction and I got behind an oversized vehicle in the middle lane. The right side break down lane was gone and no trucks were allowed in the left lane so I was going 45 mph for about 15 miles, with lots of people passing on the right and then getting stuck because of the narrow clearance of the wide load in front of me. The winds were not helping,and visibility was not great so I really had to pay attention. When we got through the city it was getting close to 5pm (6pm in the time zone we came from) so I asked Lee how he felt about stopping at Cracker Barrel.
It used to be every Cracker Barrel we saw had huge RV and bus parking but that is not always the case now so Lee checked it out and saw it had a big enough parking lot. Unfortunately someone parked lengthwise in one row and was taking up four of the long spaces. Wow, I really hate that, and although there were two left they were on the short side so it took awhile for me to get the rig properly lined up. (If you’re in a pickup, or a car, PLEASE don’t park in the RV/bus lanes. – Lee) We did enjoy dinner, despite the restaurant being full it came out within 15 minutes so we ate and were back on the road. Lee took the wheel this time and we were about 40 minutes away from our campground. At least that what we thought.
We decided to stop at El Rancho Lobo which is Passport America, only $11 for the night, and right off I-10. All those things were true, but I didn’t read the fine print. The direct road leading to the campground was closed, so we had to travel 9 miles down a side road and then 2-1/2 miles down a gravel road to get to the campground. It added an additional 20 minutes to our drive. When we arrived, someone did come up immediately and were very nice, but they informed me it was $11 plus electric. OK, no problem, but then I was told I couldn’t pay until the morning because they had to calculate the electric unless we paid a $4 flat fee. I knew we would probably be up and out before the office opened at 9am, but I was pretty irritated by the whole thing. It didn’t help that the sites face the highway, are very close to each other, and had none of last night’s experience. It’s true, you often get what you pay for, but I was disappointed. I will mention though that they have a mail service at the campground which looks pretty well formed, so if you were thinking about getting a mail service in New Mexico you might want to check them out.
I was pretty excited because the next day we had an opportunity to go on a road less traveled. I have kept track of our routes using a paper trucker’s atlas, and have each year marked in a different color highlighter. It’s cool because I have access to it when we travel, and sometimes we can go on a side road that we have never been on, and it takes less time. We have to be careful though because not every road has easy to access gas stations and sometimes the road is more challenging, but it is almost always worth it so we decided to take Route 70 and then Route 60 to get to Apache Junction, rather than I-10 through Tuscon, which we had already been on. The scenery was really great as we traveled, and we passed through several small towns that seemed like they would be worth a second look when we had more time. We also traveled through the Apache Reservation and part of the Tonto National Forest. The road through the National Forest was great, but it was narrow and curvy and there were two steep downgrades that even Lee found challenging. It was fun though and we still ended up at Apache Junction by 12:30pm (Mountain time, but since it’s AZ, it’s the same as Pacfific).
I’ve heard quite a bit about Apache Junction from friends and other people’s blogs, but you never know until you get to a place how you will like it. We pulled in. The people at the check-in were very friendly and the place was just beautiful. The Superstition Mountains are very close and you know it’s a nice park when the view from the dump station is amazing!
We were in site 103, which was the only site available when we booked, and turned out to be one of the best spots in the loop. There was a bit of concern though when we pulled in and caution tape was blocking the site. There was also some chalk on the pavement and my immediate thought was, “Crap. Someone hit the water line.” So I got out and walked over and then I heard a growling noise from the bushes. Turns out it was an April Fool’s joke from Cori/Greg/Deb/Steve. So there were lots of hugs all around. We saw Cori and Greg in Texas over the holidays but it had been a year since we have seen Deb and Steve and it was awesome being with everyone.
They let us get set up, which was fast since we weren’t planning on unhitching. We couldn’t get over our view from our front door. We’ve been to many places, but I don’t think we have ever had a better view right from our front door. Amazing. The sites are really nice too, and the campground hosts are amazing. This campground is spotless.
After setting up we went down and hung out with everyone. I took Hurley (Deb’s dog) and Hobie (Greg’s dog) their dog toys and they made fast work of chewing them to pieces. Still, what’s the fun of being Aunt Tracy if I can’t bring them stuff to rip apart? Cori made a shrimp boil for dinner for everyone since it was our travel day, and then we had a great campfire, had some adult beverages, and caught up.
The next morning we all decided to take a hike. Now, if you are going to hang out with Deb, hiking is definitely in the itinerary, and although she is a very considerate hiking partner, she tends to downplay the level of difficulty for us newbies. Her heart is in the right place. She loves to hike and wants to get everyone moving, but I have learned from past experience to gear up for these adventures. So we put on our Outdoor Hydration packs, took some snacks, and I grabbed my hiking poles just in case. (We also made out a will, and scheduled a rescue helo and had EMTs standing by for the “moderate” hike. Deb’s nickname should be “Just A Little Farther. – Lee) I’m glad I did. The hike was beautiful, but it had a steady incline and the path was loose gravel, which are two things I found challenging. The poles help me in particular on the way down, providing a steadiness I need and taking some stress off my knees.
There are trails in the park itself, but it also abuts Tonto National forest and that’s where the more serious trails are. Deb and Steve had hiked to Flatiron earlier in the week, which is an intense hike that at least once a week someone needs to get helicopter rescue from, but we just did the base of the trail to the beginning of the canyon. Deb’s plan is to hike the highest peak in every state as they travel, and Steve is going along with the plan. I love that they have a specific thing to do in each state, but I’ll never love hiking for the sake of hiking the way she does. We hiked Siphon Draw #53 but stopped about halfway up to Flatiron. Keeping in mind I an not an experienced hiker, I found the trail to that point moderately difficult, but it was definitely doable. Just watch your footing. If you keep going to Flatiron that is extremely difficult and took Deb and Steve about 8 hours to do round trip. (In the second picture, you can see a small triangular shaped rock almost right in the center. When you get to it, that rock is probably 40 feet tall. That was about the halfway point for our hike, and the first two pictures were right after we left the campground. – Lee)
At this point everyone wanted to keep walking up and see the basin, but I was done. I learned a while ago that it’s OK to cry uncle, so I walked down by my self, and the group went on another 15-20 minutes up a steep winding trail. I normally wouldn’t walk back alone but there were lots of people on the trail and I enjoyed taking my time and taking some pictures.
That night Steve and Deb treated us all with some beautiful bone-in ribeyes and we had another fire. I skipped the adult beverages because I was worried about dehydration, but overall I felt really good. 4 1/2 miles round trip isn’t bad for someone who hasn’t hiked in a while and I was tired, but not super sore. Tomorrow we all head to Usery Mountain and we are looking forward to meeting up with Kat and Bert who we met at the last rally we went to about a year ago. They’ve been on the road for close to a year, but haven’t met that many other Dreamers while on the road, so I hope we don’t traumatize them! Actually knowing Kat’s wicked sense of humor, she may traumatize us lol.
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Or you can check out our recipe book filled with 80 real recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. The cookbook specializes in recipes that have a limited number of ingredients, without sacrificing flavor and is organized into categories that matter to full time RVers such as Happy Hours, Travel Days, and Pot Lucks You can preview the kindle version on Amazon or the Apple version on Itunes. It is also available in paperback on Amazon if you prefer.