Sunday, March 6, 2022

Northbound and Down..But first a Little More South

Our 10 days in El Paso with our son and his family quickly had to come to an end and we needed to pack up Big Eddie and the C.O.W. and start our trek back towards our Minnesota winter, which according to all those back home, is never-ending. There was an expected storm crossing the upper Midwest and ready to drop a foot or more of blowing snow on Minnesota. And there was another storm behind that one that was supposed to bring ice to all the states we needed to travel through to get home. We were getting many texts from family and friends telling us to stay South for a while longer. 

After looking at the Texas map and putting into the GPS the many possibilities of getting home, eventually, we finally plotted a route. It consisted of leaving El Paso and heading East to the mountains near Fort Davis and then swing South and go into the Rio Grande Valley to feel a little more sunshine and warmth. Was it a long drive from point A to point B in Texas…yep. Texas is such a huge state. I doubt even born and raised Texans have seen all of their state, it is just that huge. While we were driving we were very aware of how few and far between houses are from one another. And how far the homes are from any town. While I complain about my 36 mile round trip to Walmart for groceries, these people easily have triple the distance to any town. It made me wonder if many of the kids living on these ranches are homeschooled. I can’t fathom riding a school bus 1 or 2 hours one way everyday.

After spending a night in Fort Stockton at the Walmart parking lot with about 20-25 other travelers, we hopped in Big Eddie and headed one last time South towards the border. It was an out of the way trip but we decided it was worth the extra time being it was in the 80’s and sunny there and our need to not go North in the next few days into the Blizzard.

We have seen so many incredible sights the past few weeks while on the way to Texas, while in Texas and on the way home. From vast desert land to hills and mountains with outcroppings that look like cathedral spirals at times. I seriously kept looking off into the distance expecting to see the Lone Ranger and Tonto riding out of a canyon. 

We camped at Falcon State Park near Rio Grande City on the border in Texas. It is set on a hill overlooking Falcon Lake which is a reservoir connected to the Rio Grande River. From our campsite we could see the Mexican shore and tell if anyone was swimming across. It was quite the thrill for this Canadian border/Minnesota girl. While no one swam across, the coyotes were circling the campground and howling a good part of the night. So there was some excitement.

In the campground, when we took Max and Zoe for a walk, we met some other Minnesotans from McGregor which is not too far from us. They had been coming to Falcon Lake for a number of years and stay for a few months at a time. I couldn’t help but notice their nice boat and got the fishing report for Falcon Lake. And hearing about the platter sized crappies and 10 lb bass, I caught myself just about drooling for some Shore Lunch and hot oil to fry some fish in. I am so looking forward to this year fishing the many Minnesota waters. And I am looking forward to sitting up North by a campfire, maybe playing my guitar after a long day paddling the lakes and fishing. And just gazing into a mesmerizing fire.After leaving Falcon Lake we headed over to the Rio Grande valley and around Mission and McAllen. Near Mission there is the last ferry from the US to Mexico and it is a man pulled ferry. For a really cheap fee $2/person and $5/vehicle you can walk on or drive your car on to the ferry and the 2 guys will pull the rope that is tied up across the Rio Grande and pull you to the Mexican side. It is a sight to watch and just hard to believe that something so primitive from today’s modes of transportation still exists. And probably work way better too. It has changed quite a bit since the last time we were there. Instead of a couple of guys pulling a ferry across and a lonely border patrol agent sitting idly in a little shack, it is now a grand concrete fenced in checkpoint like all the other entrances into the US. But still a man pulled ferry.

As we rounded the border and wound our way up to Corpus Christi, we realized that after about 3 weeks of being gone from home, we really were ready to get back to Minnesota. Even if there was another foot of snow on the ground and it is still below zero. As great as this trip had been, it was time for these  Minnesotans and their canines to head North and bundle up and face the rest of Winter. But 3 weeks out of the cold and snow was something to experience.

So rather than continue up the gulf and into Louisiana’s gulf coast we decided to start heading North to home 3 days early. We decided if we waited out the second storm we would be stranded in rainy cold Louisiana an extra few days. And while still warmer than home and the foot of new blowing snow, well we just wanted to get home. We had had such a great time at the RV park with the family and looking around El Paso, we were pretty content to call the trip successful. And after leaving and seeing so much more of Texas, it was almost more than we could process. Again as I said before, Texas is one gigantic state!

With the most current radar and weather forecast we decided if we headed straight North into Oklahoma we would be behind the blizzard hitting the Plains and home and ahead of the one just to the West ready to drop ice and sleet all over Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas. So off we headed due North up Interstate 35 keeping one eye on the weather and the other on the clock hoping to time it all. Let the journey home begin!

The first evening on the way home we drove until dark and wound up at a truck stop in the midst of a couple dozen or more 18 wheelers surrounding us with their engines running all night. I was just drifting off to sleep with the constant noise of the semis when all of a sudden a train whistle about 10 yards from us blasted. I bolted up and my Best Half rolled over exhausted from driving and mumbled that it was just like in the movie My Cousin Vinny. I settled back into bed and once again started to fall asleep about an hour later. Again the train went by blasting its horn. All night long, every hour, a train came by. It was an interesting night trying to sleep. Fortunately, the driver is also pretty deaf and didn’t hear much or even wake up through the night. 

We got up and fed the pups and checked the radar and weather for the area once again and wasted no time heading North. We finally were out of never-ending Texas and into Oklahoma and Kansas. As we continued North the weather stayed pretty stable and temps were in the 50’s. I refused to get out of my shorts and flip flops until it was actually cold once again. And as usual, I got many stares from the locals…until they saw Big Eddie and the C.O.W. and saw the license plate was from Minnesota. 

Our last night of sleeping in the C.O.W. in Kansas brought the temps down to 1 above and all night the camper shook with the intense Kansas winds. We both burrowed into the winter polar sleeping bags and stayed warm. The dogs were on a sleeping bag and had 2 big quilts on them and dared not move for fear of coming uncovered.. Since we had been gone to a warm climate, they had started to shed their winter coats. 

The next morning I donned my jeans and hooded sweatshirt and polar vest and hat and hitched the dogs up to go out for a fast potty break and we all dove into Big Eddie shivering and shaking. The wind chills were in the -10’s or colder. And just the day before that we were in 84 degrees sunny ourselves as we drove along. My body can not acclimate to 90 degree temperature changes in a matter of 4-5 hours.

We drove like crazy the last 15 hours just to get home and not have to stay in a cold camper another night. We were right between the 2 storms and the roads stayed dry and clear the whole way home. We managed to pull into the driveway about 8 pm only to find that the neighbor had plowed us out so we could get in with Big Eddie. And our other neighbors who had been watching the inside and outside of our place had left a welcome home note and a batch of fresh baked cookies. Nothing better than Minnesota neighbors.

Our ventures took us about 4000 miles cross country and we saw great sights and got to be with the family down in El Paso, and meet people from all over the areas we were in. And as I have said before, America you are the best when we look for the best. But the last 100 miles home, I felt like Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz…I was clicking my frozen feet saying “there’s no place like home, there's no place like home”. Minnesota…you’re home sweet home to me.

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