Slip Sliding Away – An Ice Storm in Texas

Many freeways in Texas are wide open roads where high speeds can be great fun. The 80 mph speed limit, with its unwritten 10 mph grace zone above that, is a temptation for many. We prefer to jog along at 60 mph in the right lane when we’re towing our house around, but our slow speeds put us in the minority in this part of the country.

Texas Speed Limit 80 mph

Texas highways move at a good clip!

Last Friday, a nasty winter storm swept through the Dallas/Fort Worth area, sending trucks and cars careening off of the freeways on a virtual skating rink. We first heard of the chaos in the small town of Marathon where we saw frightening images on TV at a gas station and listened to scary tales from motorists seeking safe haven on their way from Dallas to Big Bend.

Texas driving in ice storm

We drive through the remnants of a vicious winter storm 2 days earlier.

We had hightailed it out of Big Bend National Park after enduring below freezing temps for 48 hours. When we got onto I-20 about 100 miles west of Fort Worth, we began to see the remains of the ice storm from two nights before. The trees were filled with ice, and mist hung heavy in the air. A Winter Weather Warning was in effect for another incoming storm due to arrive the next day.

Winter Weather Warning on Texas I-20 freeway

Ugh…we won’t be warm any time soon!

I began snapping pics as we drove, just to keep myself occupied, and a small Beer sign in the wintry woods made me smile.

Beer sign on the side of the highway

A welcome sign on a lonely highway

This stretch of freeway is basically a truck route, with the occasional car or RV filling in around the fringes. Trucks were everywhere, ahead of us and behind us.

Truck traffic on I-20 west of Fort Worth Texas

I-20 is a major truck thoroughfare.

These guys don’t mess around, and they seem to view the high speed limit as an open invitation. And why not, when you have a tight delivery schedule to keep? We were passed by one semi-tractor trailer truck after another until we felt like the old grannies of the road.

Trucks overtake us on I-20 in Texas

Truckers get impatient with our slow little buggy.

When an “Oversize Load” truck passed us like we were standing still, and remained in the left lane until it vanished from sight ahead of us, all I could think was that we were experiencing the modern day Wild West of Texas out here on the freeway.

Oversize Load passes in the left lane on the highway

An “Oversize Load” passes us and stays in the left lane until he disappears out of sight.

But what unfolded next took us both by surprise. The ice on the trees and mist in the air had been just an introduction to the pandemonium and mayhem that had taken place here on that fateful Friday two days prior on I-20. While scoping out my next pic, Mark suddenly said, “Look at that!”

Overturned semi tractor trailer truck on I-20 in Texas

Holy smokes — it’s a semi-tractor trailer on its side!

It was an overturned semi-tractor trailer that had obviously been one of the victims that slid off the road on the ice. A few minutes later a Fed Ex truck facing the wrong way in the median caught our eye.

FedEx Ground truck stranded on I-20 in Texas

Hey, there’s a FedEx truck — was the driver okay?

The front end appeared to be smashed. Mark whipped his head around as we passed it and noticed a huge hole in the windshield on the driver’s side.

Gulp.

A mile further on we saw more.

Freightliner truck rollover on Texas I-20 near Eastland

This is crazy! Another truck on its side!!

Now our eyes were popping out of our heads. We rarely see wrecks on the highway, and especially not abandoned, mangled trucks.

Signs ahead made us slow down. There was a 6% descent and the word “SLOW” was painted right on the freeway.

6% grade on interstate I-20 in Texas

A fast descent ahead!

Slow sign painted on the pavement of I-20 in Texas

If you missed the little yellow sign, here’s a big one right on the pavement!

But it probably wasn’t possible to heed these signs on the fearful night of the ice storm. More wrecks lay ahead.

Semi tractor trailer truck stranded on I-20 after Texas ice storm

We saw images of this truck later on in news reports.

Truck rollover on I-20 in Texas near Eastland

Yet another rollover a few miles further down the highway.

At the last moment Mark spotted a second Fed Ex truck stranded by the side of I-20. He leaned back as I snapped a pic out his window.

FedEx Ground trailer stranded on Texas I-20 after ice storm

FedEx was not having a good day that day…

By now I was perched on the edge of my seat, my mind racing as I tried to imagine what the scene had been like in the dark with snow falling and black ice everywhere. Now I understood why those people back in Marathon had been so rattled as they talked about what they’d experienced on the road that night.

Suddenly there were lots of brake lights ahead of us. We slowed to a crawl and were herded off the highway for a detour.

Brake lights ahead on the freeway interstate I-20 west of Fort Worth Texas

The freeway comes to a halt ahead of us.

As we climbed a frontage road and looked down at the empty freeway next to us, we saw a semi-tractor trailer that had just been raised up from its side. Its cab was jacked to one side as if it had a broken neck. There were three wreckers and countless people in vivid orange working to get it removed.

Freightliner semi-tractor trailer being removed from I-20 in Texas

As we detour around I-20 on a frontage road, we see three wreckers removing a semi-tractor trailer.

In the end, we counted ten abandoned truck wrecks and countless stomach-turning skid marks in the dirt going into the ditches by the side of the freeway. Looking for info later, we thought for sure we’d find dozens of news stories about the bedlam on I-20 around Eastland from that terrifying night, but this area had been a secondary story. The scenes on I-35 and I-75 around Dallas had dominated the news for that storm instead!

Eventually, the wrecks subsided and I sat back in my seat, rather stunned by what we had seen. Just then, as if to break our mood and make us smile again, an antique hot rod appeared, headed in the opposite direction.

Antique hot rod car on interstate I-20 west of Fort Worth Texas

Finally, something to smile about — an antique hot rod!

And so it goes, driving the wilds of Texas. It’s a jungle out there!

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Acapulco to Huatulco – A Disturbing Passage

A Glimpse of Big Bend National Park in Texas

A huge windstorm has wiped out cell service in Big Bend National Park here in Texas, so we have been scurrying to the Visitors Center every so often to check our email, get a weather report and make sure the real world out there is still okay. in the meantime, Big Bend has given us some incredible beauty and big surprises.

Surprised face in a tree

Big Bend has been full of surprises, including this surprised looking face in a tree!

It’s a huge park, and going anywhere is at least a 25 mile drive. But the drives are awesome! There are rock formations, badlands, cliffs, mountains, rivers and more.

Entering Big Bend National Park Texas

The drives around the park are full of sweeping views.

An RV drives past Sierra del Carmen in Big Bend National Park Texas

Huge vistas dwarf an RV on the road in Big Bend

We’ve enjoyed some fabulous hike through boulder fields, to balancing rocks and into canyons with cliffs towering above us. But this place always keeps you on your toes. A few mornings ago, after enduring below-freezing temps overnight, we woke up to dense fog and lacy frost decorating everything.

Balancing Rock Big Bend National Park Texas

There are cool rock formations everywhere.

Icicles and frost on a yucca in Big Bend National Park Texas

A century plant flower is covered with glittering frost.

Icicles and frost in Big Bend National Park Texas

The Chisos Mountains were transformed by frilly frost on the trees.

Despite our red noses and beanie hats, we loved every icy minute we spent in this world of mini icicles, and we’re hoping it happens again! The delicate patterns on all the desert plants were exquisite. Pretty tendrils of ice on a yucca plant gave it a whole new look.

Lace patterns of ice and frost on a yucca in Big Bend Texas

Graceful tendrils of ice and frost make pretty patterns on a yucca plant

And then, as quickly as it formed, the frost disappeared under the rising sun. Little birds began chirping again, and the wildflowers opened up to the warm sunshine.

Wild flowers in Big Bend National Park Texas

Once the frost melted away, the wildflowers bloomed again.

Little bird on a yucca plant

Bird songs filled the air on some of our mountain hikes.

The day faded away with a beautiful sunset…

RV at sunset in Texas outside Big Bend National Park

The sunsets at Big Bend have been beautiful

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Yahoo Travel Features RLT & Other Full-time RVers

Yahoo Travel caught up with us the other day and interviewed us about our lifestyle. We had such fun chit-chatting about full-time RVing, what it’s like to run off to a life of adventure, and how it is that people can downsize all the way into an RV, that our interviewer, Caitlin Kiernan, was just about ready to sell up and go herself by the time we finished our call!

She reached out to several unusual full-timing RVers besides us, and she compiled a wonderful story that features not only our story but those of Becky Schade, a 30-year-old solo full-timer who lives in a Casita, the Kelloggs, a family of 14 who live in a 36′ Cruiser Boy motorhome, and Kristin and Jason Snow who live in a 30′ Trek motorhome.

The Yahoo Travel story is here:

From a Family of 14 to a Single Lady, These People Quit Life to Hit the Road in an RV

Now, I think anyone who has taken the leap to go adventuring in an RV full-time would agree that rather than “quitting life,” we have actually kick started our lives to be to a new level! 🙂 This fun story shows many of the different kinds of ways that people make such a huge life transition.

For us, our dreams of sailing set the stage, but our first step out the door of our conventional lifestyle was into an RV. Of course, we did eventually get that sailboat, and go cruising, but in the crazy way that a life of travel teaches you about yourself, we discovered on the open ocean that RVing is our first love.

Even though the full-time RV lifestyle has traditionally been reserved for the retired crowd, these stories in Yahoo Travel show that RVing now reaches across all demographics, and that nothing so much as wanderlust is a prerequisite to get going.

RV stuck on a narrow road

Oops!! A classic newbie RVer mistake!

Caitlin asked us to relate the funniest thing that has happened to us in our life on the road, and what came to mind was a crazy adventure we had in our sixth week on the road our first summer of full-timing. I’m including the photo here, but check out the Yahoo link to see how we got in this predicament!! (Our original blog post about the adventure is here).

Happy day, everyone, and keep dreaming — the open road is waiting for you!!

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Big Bend Bound – To Texas!!

We’ve been in Texas for a few days, and she has shown us all her colors, in the great big flamboyant way that makes Texas Texas! It’s been roasting hot, fearsomely cold, cloudy, sunny and pouring rain. We even had sleet, and last night we got hail.

We’ve arrived in Big Bend and may disappear into the vastness for a while. It’s a great big beautiful world out here!! Here are some pics from the road in…

Alpine Texas Cow Dog RV

I’m not sure exactly what a “cow dog” is but you can get them on a bun from this rig in Alpine Texas!

Rainbow over our fifth wheel trailer RV in Alpine Texas

A rainbow after the deluge of rain, hail and sleet!

Windmill and barn in Big Bend Texas

Windmill and barn in Big Bend Texas

Blue bonnets in Big Bend Texas

The blue bonnets are in bloom!

Birthday Beer from Shiner Texas

Shiner Brewery (from Shiner Texas) brewed me some
birthday beer — thanks!

Alien Ale from Roswell New Mexico

Mark found himself some Alien Ale in Roswell New Mexico (site of a spaceship landing in 1947)

Blue bonnets in bloom in Big Bend Texas

Delicate and wild…

Mexican style Window in Big Bend Texas

Hints of Mexico…

First glimpse of Big Bend Texas with our RV

Our first glimpse of Big Bend, Texas

We’ve got lots of travel posts to share from these recent busy weeks, with great shots of sandhill cranes and aliens (the extra-terrestrial kind). Plus I’ve got 90% of a post written about our new Edge Tuner that has turned our truck from ordinary to extraordinary. But we may be away from the internet and playing outside for a while, so all that stuff may just have to wait!!

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A Little Romance for Valentine’s Day

Whether you say it with rose petals in the grass…

I Love You rose petal heart for Valentine's Day

Or you carve it into sandstone for your true love…

Valentine Love and heart Carved in sandstone

Or you find a wildflower made of hearts out in nature somewhere…

Evening primrose heart shaped petals

Or you sprinkle rose petals across the floor…

Rose petal heart in a hotel room on Valentine's

.

Or you carve your feelings in an aspen tree…

Valentine heart carved into an aspen tree

Or you say it with a shadow puppet in the late afternoon sun…

Valentine shadow puppet heart

Or you bring flowers to your true love…

Lilacs of love for Valentine's

Enjoy a little romance today wherever you are…

love in the sunset

.

Happy Valentine’s Day!!

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Dear Deer in Arizona’s Chiricahua Mountains

We have been loving our visit to the eastern side of the Chiricahua Mountains in southeastern Arizona for the past two day. This unique area is a “sky island” in southeastern Arizona’s desert that is filled with high elevation flora and fauna it shares with other “sky island” mountain ranges in the area.

Last night, we were out on a picture-taking evening stroll, getting shots of the vivid pink and blue sky after sunset. It was one of those yummy skies that is layered with light blue at the horizon and soft pink above.

Pink and blue sky in the Chiricahuas in Arizona

A layer cake of pink and blue

As I stood in the middle of the road taking my umpteenth photo of the same scene, wondering how to make it look as beautiful in the photo as it was in person, I suddenly felt a presence near me. I looked up, and there was a deer standing right next to me!!

Deer in the Chiricahua Mountains of Arizona

This little guy was just a few feet away!

He paused at the edge of the road just long enough for me to get his photo. Then he ambled off down the middle of the road to join his two girlfriends who had gotten ahead of him while he dawdled with me. I guess they were out for an evening stroll too.

Deer cross the road in Arizona's Chiriahua Mountains

His girlfriends were waiting a little further down the road.

Sometimes the best things in life are just right there, only an arm’s length away.

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Arizona’s Stunning Apache Trail Scenic Drive

The Apache Trail is one of the most breathtaking scenic drives in central Arizona, and we recently had a chance to trace its path once again. It runs along Route 88 between Apache Junction and Roosevelt Lake, just east and south of Phoenix. Following the Salt River past Canyon Lake and Apache Lake, it twists through some truly stunning Sonoran Desert landscapes of rugged rocks and sassy saguaros. Here are a few highlights from that gorgeous daytrip:

5 406 Apache Trail on the Salt RIver in Arizona

Cactus grow amid red rocks down to the water’s edge.

Apache Lake on the Apache Trail in Arizona

Apache Lake is a rich blue in the growing afternoon light.

Scenic drive from Apache Junction to Roosevelt Lake Arizona

There is a dramatic overlook at Canyon Lake

Apache Trail in Arizona

Rugged rock cliffs fill the views along the way

Saguaro cactus along the Apache Trail in Arizona

Saguaro cactus stand watch over both sides of the trail.

Salt River views along the Apache Trail from Apache Junction to Roosevelt Lake Arizona

The Apache Trail winds along the Salt River through red rock studded Sonoran Desert

If you are in the Phoenix area in Arizona, this is a “must see” daytrip, especially as the wildflowers begin to bloom in late February and March!!

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VW Microbus Mania in Lake Havasu Arizona!

We had so many great pics from the VW Microbus festival, Buses by the Bridge in Lake Havasu, Arizona, that they didn’t all fit in one post. Here is some more Microbus Mania for you! Most of these folks were camping in their micobuses and had them opened up so you could see how they were set up inside. There isn’t a lot of room in these tiny RVs of yesteryear, but they’re just so cute. Enjoy!

The “submarine hatch” model was the first to have a top that opened. These clever folks put a tent on top for a little weather protection:

Groovy Lavender VW microbus

The “submarine hatch” model got you a little extra headroom inside!

Some guys had it made in the shade with wonderful big awnings.

VW Microbus Made in the Shade

A big awning and party lights — made in the shade!

VW Microbus Made in the Shade

There’s a microbus in there??

Now here’s a paint job that caught our eye!! Wouldn’t it be crazy to look in the rearview mirror and see this!

Eagle Face VW Microbus

Eagle eyes…

And how’d ya like to wake up to vivid orange all around you?! It’s a bit different than the color tones of today’s RVs…

Orange bus interior

All orange inside…

For the Deadheads, there was a Grateful Dead Mobile trimmed with the iconic dancing bears and the turtle from the cover of the Terrapin Station album.

Jerry Garcia VW Microbus with bears and turtle

Grateful Dead Bug – with the dancing bears and Terrapin Station turtle

The front was tie dye, of course!

Tie Dye VW Microbus

Groovy tie dye…can’t beat that color scheme!

A guy was selling super cute coolers shaped like VW Microbuses. The whole roof — surfboards and all — opened up, and there was plenty of room inside for a bunch of beer and ice. He had one in tow behind his real Microbus…

VW Microbus towing a VW Microbus

The green mini-Microbus being towed behind is actually a cooler!

One vintage bus had a great caption painted on the side:

Slowing Down Traffic since 1970

“Slowing down traffic since 1970”

Another guy managed to squeeze three big pooches into his bus somehow!

A VW Bus for Pooches

A Pooch Bus!

What a fun rally — far out, man!

Peace signs and moons VW Microbus

Peace, baby!

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Sunset over RVs in Quartzsite AZ

Arizona is a land of stunning sunsets, and the other night we were blessed with a sensational one that covered the entire sky. As it slowly progressed, we saw RV doors opening all around us as people came out into the desert to admire it and snap some pics. Campfire conversations came to a halt too as everyone turned to face the sky.

Getting a sunset photo in Quartzsite AZ from the roof of our RV

I hopped up on our roof to see if I could get some pics of the scene. It was like standing under a dome of pink and orange, as the entire sky lit up around us and the vibrant color intensified.

Sunset over RVs in Quartzsite Arizona

…facing east…

RV at sunset in Arizona

…southern view…

Quartzsite Arizona RV sunset

…to the west..

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From Online to Offline – Finding RV Friends in the Desert

Keeping this blog has introduced us to a lot of great people online, and every so often our online and offline social lives meet.  Walking through the Quartzsite RV show the other day, we bumped into Rick and Joanne who blog at Rick and Joanne’s RV Travels.  A little later, a couple stopped us on the street because they recognized our faces from our pics.  They turned out to be Linda and Bruce who blog at The Phase Place and write for Bus Conversion Magazine. What fun!

This online/offline way of connecting is dramatically changing the experience of traveling full-time, as it is opening our lives to people with similar interests that we would never get to know otherwise.

Yesterday our online and offline worlds came together once again when we hooked up with fellow RV bloggers Chris and Cherie who write the blog Technomadia.  They are unusual full-time RVers because they are in their forties, which is younger than most full-timers we meet on the road. They also work full-time and have a wide variety of terrific projects.  This past year they wrote The Mobile Internet Handbook sharing a multitude of secrets about how to get good internet and phone access on the road. They also spearheaded the beta testing and roll-out of the enormously successful social media and social connection website for RVers, RVillage.com, and they have continued to write their immensely informative blog about the technology aspects of the full-time RV lifestyle.

Cherie Emily Chris Technomadia Roads Less Traveled

We catch up with Cherie and Chris of Technomadia

Despite living in a cool vintage 1961 bus conversion (their bus retired from being a bus in the Nogales AZ area back in 1988), they are decidedly high tech.  In contrast, we live in a newer fifth wheel , but we are decidedly low tech!  That’s the beauty of this lifestyle — you can do it any way that works for you.

So, when we discovered (online) that they were parked less than a mile from our buggy (offline), this seemed like a great chance to meet face to face rather than screen to screen.

Finding someone out here, where thousands of rigs are scattered to the four winds across the desert floor, is not the easiest task!  After an amusing email exchange that was littered with funny reality checks because we don’t have a phone or a GPS, and Google Maps satellite photos show only scrub brush for miles around, they gave us old fashioned directions and we took a pleasant walk in the morning sun right to their front door.

It was really fun to discover that even though we have taken different approaches to living this lifestyle, we have a lot in common.  We both started this crazy lifestyle about the same time, when RV blogs were very hard to find, and we both turned to Miss Tioga and George to get pointers for how to live in an RV full-time (and to get ideas for what we might put in our own websites once we got out there too!). We also both cast off the shackles of conventional living to move into small “starter” trailers (they started in a teardrop!) long before we reached retirement age.

They are now very involved in helping younger full-time RVers find each other and come together using online connections like the Facebook group NuRVers as well as RVillage.

This is a fabulous boon, not only to younger RVers getting started today, but to to the whole RVing community. Hats off to them and to all the younger full-timers on the road today who are living their dreams and sharing their experiences online, including Watsons Wander, WheelingIt, and Interstellar Orchard to name just a few.