Texas Part II

Hello family & friends.

Our previous post featured the last of our pre-COVID-19 adventures. This post addresses RV life in the new reality. We’ve had several inquiries asking how it’s going for us. Do we feel safe? Is the trip over? Are we coming home? etc. We don’t want to dwell on the virus, but wanted to share how it applies to life on the road, answer some of your concerns.

From mid-March through early April, we were mainly hunkered down in two nice Texas State Parks. We had reservations at two other Texas parks (McKinney Falls and Pedernales Falls) but our reservations were cancelled the day before heading to McKinney. Yikes. It turned out that they happened to be in the small handful of parks closing at that time, but it certainly seemed ominous. We assumed the rest would close quickly, but it turned out to be 17 more days before the whole state park system shut down.

In the end, it worked in our favor. While scrambling to secure new campsites, we found two amazing Texas parks that weren’t even on our list. Inks Lake and San Angelo State Parks were both awesome! Lemonade from lemons!

Pandemic awareness was becoming more evident, with various policy changes starting in the parks. Some parks were limiting or prohibiting day-use visitors. Many stopped renting kayaks/canoes. Most camp stores were closed and camp programs cancelled. Playgrounds and swimming areas were roped off. Some parks even closed their campground restrooms, not wanting people to use any communal spaces. But not much changed for us. We are self-contained and do not rely on park restrooms or camp stores – though we do miss the kayaking.

We’re quite ‘sheltered’ from other people. Living in state parks allows an unusual amount of freedom, due to our naturally isolated surroundings. The campsites tend to be 30′-50′ apart. We can hike, bike, and enjoy nature with very little restriction, and almost zero contact with others. We are not out in large groups; it’s just the two of us. That’s #rvlife!  What we do miss are the opportunities to visit local attractions in the nearby towns – such as museums, art galleries, breweries, historical sites, and of course, the National Parks.  But, with all this time in the state park campgrounds, we’re appreciating the pleasures of slowing down and enjoying nature on a smaller and more intimate scale. We have taken an interest in bird watching, and we’re enjoying the challenges of photographing the more unusual ones. We also like identifying local plant life and the many beautiful wildflowers we see on the trails. A few apps we find useful for our new interests are: iNaturalist, Seek, Merlin Bird ID and Song Sleuth. 

Our two basic needs that require us to venture out into public spaces are groceries and laundry. We limit these chores to once every 2 or 3 weeks now. The main grocery store chain in Texas, H.E.B., was very quick to adopt precautions that protect their employees and their customers. By early March, they had already installed acrylic shields between the cashier and customers, set up one-way aisles, and started limiting the number of customers coming into the store. They greet you with hand sanitizer, though we always bring our own, and our Lysol wipes, and we wear our masks. We’re in the distinct minority (maybe 10%) of shoppers wearing masks, though people do seem to keep to a 6′ distance when possible.

Same wipe-down procedures for the laundromat, though so far no more than a few people have been in there with us. When at the fuel pump, Mark wears disposable gloves or wipes down the pump handle and keypad. It’s still hard to never make a mistake.

Currently, the only state we know of with open state parks is Arizona. Many states are still allowing private campgrounds to remain open – though some have restrictions (capacity limits, minimum stay, full-timers only, residents only, etc.)  We REALLY prefer state parks. They generally have more opportunities for hiking and biking, they’re often centered around a lake, and just provide a more pleasant environment overall. Most private parks are far less interesting.

So Arizona, here we come! We are spending a few days at Roper Lake State Park and then moving on to Lost Dutchman State Park, which looks beautiful. We will likely stick around Arizona for several weeks, especially if we can keep getting into state parks.

As many of you know, this trip has been a dream of Mark’s for over a decade. There is certainly some disappointment in not being able to visit America’s iconic national parks because of the closures. We even discussed ending the journey early. Our current thinking is that as long as we can continue to secure campsites, get groceries, and feel safe and stay healthy – Wandah rolls on.  We’ll remain flexible, adjusting our plans according to the changing situation. Perhaps some of the places on our list will re-open before we’ve passed them all by.

Most importantly, we are currently healthy and living in a fairly low-risk environment. We recognize our good fortune to even be on this journey. We are grateful for the choices we have, especially when so many others are going through hard times.

We wish you all a safe and healthy spring, and we’ll end this post with three short videos, one from Inks Lake, one from San Angelo, and a bonus video of our visit to Enchanted Rock.

Inks Lake State Park

Excellent hiking on both sides of the river, with excellent views. Some days we stayed on the trail, other days we worked along the rocky hills and cliffs along the river. Lots of fun. Pretty falls, interesting plants (flowers, cactus). The paved roads in the park also gave us many pleasant hours of exploration, and a quick way to the trailhead.

San Angelo State Park

An unexpected pleasure. It didn’t look like much on paper and frankly looked somewhat desolate at first but we had a great time here, especially because we *finally* got to see a Texas Longhorn up close. We’d been on the lookout for them, literally for weeks, and this close encounter was miles beyond what we’d ever expected. Great sunsets, miles and miles of biking, the bird sanctuary, bison, and a long stay that let us really relax for a bit.

Enchanted Rock

Literally the morning we left Inks Lake, we got a tip from Mark’s mom, that if we were going to be anywhere near Enchanted Rock, it would be a nice place to hike. And it so happened that it was right on our path. We got a free entrance courtesy of our Texas State Parks pass (you can’t just show up without a timed entrance reservation) and we had a great visit. It was hot, and a pretty steep climb, but so worth it!

Until next time….