Del Rio, TX to Yosemite, CA

May 18, 2004 - Rio Grande Village, Big Bend National Park, TX. We arrived too late in the season. Daytime temperature was 105 degrees. This was one of those times when I wished I had gotten two air conditioning units. Some of the sites at Rio Grande Village had 50 amp service. When the sun finally went down, the interior temperature started dropping and, by bedtime, was 75 degrees. The A/C unit ran continuously. If the weather had been cooler, I would have stayed in the adjacent National Park Service campground which has no hookups but is nestled among the trees with bigger sites spaced further apart. A few hardy souls were camped there in tents and popups and I was amazed that they were able to tolerate the heat.

Big Bend was where we began to notice the low humidity. Being from the Virginia coast, we began to feel our sinuses dry up to the point where we had to stop at the next Wal Mart and buy a humidifier. I wonder how long it would have taken us to naturally adjust to this low humidity.

One thing can be said about Big Bend - "BIG". No TV signal, no AM or FM radio signal, and no cell phone service. That was OK but it illustrates the isolation of this place. The distance from Marathon, the nearest town, to the park entrance is 42 miles. It's another 46 miles to the campground. There is fuel, a small store, and a visitor's center at Panther Junction. We were in Big Bend for only two full days and saw only a fraction of this huge park. If you really want to check this place out, stay a week or more.

May 21, 2004 - Balmorhea State Park, Balmorhea, TX. Out in the middle of nowhere is the largest pool I have ever seen, built around San Solomon Springs that produce one million gallons per hour of some very clear water. A circular area of the pool, 200 feet in diameter and 25 feet deep, encloses the original spring. Two arms extend off this circular area, each about 300 feet long. One arm, which follows the original spring flow, is 25 feet deep. The other arm is 3 to 5 feet deep and suitable for small children.

The campground can handle big rigs with many pull-through sites. Fee is $12 for water and electric plus $3 per person per day for the park entry fee. Not much to do here but swim in the pool, but after 3 days in Big Bend National Park with 105 degree temperatures, this was a welcome site.

May 23, 2004 - We stopped at El Paso, TX, looking for Marty Robbins (just kidding). We stayed at the RV park at Fort Bliss and caught up on some houskeeping chores and visited some local museums. I wanted to visit Mexico but the wife declined. We settled for some great Mexican food at La Menchel Restaurant in downtown El Paso.

May 27, 2004 - During the next 17 days we stayed at 5 Escapees RV Parks. Most of these parks are concentrated in the Southwest where the Sunbirds gather during the winter months. But spring had sprung and some of these parks were almost deserted.

The first one was Escapees Dream Catcher RV Park in Deming , NM. The park is one big gravel lot and the sites are close together. Since most of the Escapees had left for cooler climates, the spacing was not a problem. Any, hey, trying to grow grass in the desert southwest is not a good idea. The sites are all full hookup (no CATV) and level. No pool. A new building is under construction that will provide new and bigger areas for restrooms, clubhouse, laundry, etc. The park is less than half a mile from a busy railroad but I like the sound of a train whistle late at night if it is not too loud. Member rate was $9.00 a night plus electricity.

There is a surprising number of interesting areas near Deming. About 6 miles north of Glenwood, NM, on highway 180, turn east onto highway 159 and visit the ghost town of Mogollon, NM. If the ghost town doesn't excite you, the drive up there and back will. Then return to Glenwood and take a scenic hike up Whitewater Canyon. The trail, in one narrow part of the canyon, travels over catwalks attached to the canyon walls. And finally, as you return to Deming on highway 180, about 7 miles east of Santa Clara, NM, on highway 152, there is the biggest hole in the ground that I have ever seen. It's the Chino copper mine and there is a superb overlook on the north side of the pit.

May 29, 2004 - RoVers Roost SKP Co-Op, Casa Grande, AZ. We stayed here during the memorial day weekend and visited the ruins at Casa Grande.

May 31, 2004 - KOFA SKP Co-Op, Yuma, AZ. We stayed here to finish up the memorial day weekend. After we set up, I noticed a water leak - a damp area on the ground near the fresh water faucet. It soon became clear that the leak was from a broken pipe in the ground and the water began to pour from the ground. I had visions of the area quickly turning to quicksand and swallowing my RV like a sinkhole. In record time, I broke camp and move to another site. Because of this minor inconvenience, I wasn't charged for my stay. Ain't SKPs nice people?

June 1, 2004 - Anza Borrego State Park Borrego Springs, CA. This is another place where we arrived too late in the season - 112 degrees. Only one camper was there when we arrived. After enduring the heat of Big Bend, we decided to pass on this one. It would be a nice place to visit during the cooler winter months. We decided to push on to the next Escapees park, about 50 miles further down the road.

The most direct route was the Montezuma Borrego highway through Ranchita. I could see it climb up through the mountains to the southwest, so I stopped by the visitor center and asked the Ranger if it would be wise to tow my fifthwheel up this route. "No problem. Motorhomes and semi trucks do it all the time", she said. Sure enough, I saw a semi coming down the mountain as I climbed back into my pickup.

To make a long story short, I will never take that route again. That was a long, steep haul and my transmission temperature gauge climbed rapidly up to redline along with my engine temperature gauge. Fortunately, that is where the gauges stopped climbing and after about 6 miles of grades that sometimes exceeded 10%, I reached the top. That was the toughest climb of my entire trip.

June 1, 2004 - Jojoba Hills SKP Co-Op Aguanga, CA. This is the "Cadillac" of the Escapees Co-Op parks. It has every amenity that one would expect at a resort RV park including a large, beautiful pool. It is truly a desert oasis. It is also the most expensive at $18 per day but this is cheap compared to comparable private RV parks.

Very quiet setting, away from major roads or railroad tracks. The park lighting is designed to minimize glare and enhance stargazing (Mt. Palomar, with the 200 inch Hale telescope, is 6.5 miles away). Lots of rabbits, quail, lizards and the occasional coyote. Beautiful views of the valley below.

The park has a large entrance/exit gate that requires a code for entry. The gate has intercom communication with the office. Keeps out the riffraff (you know who you are). Plan to arrive during office hours.

A lot of things to see and do within an hour drive. The San Diego Zoo Wild Animal Park is in Escondido, about an hour away. The nearest sizable town, Temecula, is 25 minutes away and has Wal-Mart, Home Depot, etc. It also has quaint old town area with plenty of parking and lots of antique shops.

The history of how the SKP park got started is fascinating. There is a video in the library that documents this and I recommend it for those that are interested in these sort of things. The library has a very large collection of books, videos, and DVDs.

June 4, 2004 - Park Sierra SKP Co-Op Coarsegold, CA. This is the number two Escapees/SKP CO-OP park in my book, second only to Jojoba Hills. It is located in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, only 28 miles from the southern entrance of Yosemite National Park.

Very quiet setting, semi-arid climate, but lots of trees and shade. Being in the hills, the sites are on different levels. This and the trees provide a sense of privacy. Although warm during the day, it gets quite cool (50 degrees) at night which is my kind of weather.

The park has an entrance/exit gate that requires a code for entry. There are boondocking spots outside the gate if you arrive after office hours. There is no pool but all the other amenities are provided. Large laundry and well-stocked library with books and videos. Full hookups with cable TV. Phone line to accesss your ISP for sending and receiving e-mail, but you are asked not to browse the web. A spot is available to wash you car or tow vehicle. A hose, buckets, and a brush are provided.

If you are an Escapees member visiting Yosemite, this is the place to stay. The nearest sizable town, Fresno, is 30 minutes away and has everything you could possibly need. I know, Oakhurst is closer, but it has no Wal Mart so it doesn't count. I guess it is obvious that we are avid Wal Mart shoppers.

As usual, the SKPs were friendly and hospitable. Ice cream socials, movie nights (with popcorn), card games, etc. are all part of the SKP scene. We stayed here for nine days, spending three of those days in Yosemite and just taking it easy the rest of the time. We had been in such a rush up to this point that it was nice to slow down a bit and smell the roses.