Fall into the Arts 2012 Trip Summary

Apparently, I was boycotting the blog last year. Since we are about to take off on another trip, we thought we oughta catch ourselves up because we find that we need the blog to remind us of things! So even though the intent of this blog is to be "in the moment," here is a recap of last year's awesome Halloween-Thanksgiving-Christmas tour of the South.

Written 8 months’ after the fact. Sparse, but complete. ;-)

Trip Theme: Art Tour

Total Miles: 7,546

Number of Nights Camping: 41 (plus one night staying in a real house) = 42

Average mpg: 14.87 (oooh; lead foot!)

Average camping fee: $22.12 (great!)

Number of states: 8 (no new ones for the Navion)

Number of public parks: 15 (3 county parks, 9 state parks, 3 federal parks)

Favorite New Parks: We revisited so many favorites this trip, but we added a few new faves—Datil Wells, Low-Key Hideaway, Cattail Cove, North Toledo Bend State Park, Service COE Park.

RV Maintenance: None. At all. Man, we’re getting good.

Roadfood: Pie-O-Neer; Owl Bar; Food Shark; Sulak’s Czech Bakery in Clifton, TX; Frank’s Tamales in Zwolle, LA; Café des Amis; Old Country Store in Lorman, MS; Lasyone's meat pies in Natchitoches, LA. And we actually lost a few pounds on this trip....

Worst Road Sign: “Caution: Poison Gas May Be Present” in West Texas, next to a roadside picnic area.

Best Road Sign: Belly Acres Ranch

First night: A Country RV Park, Bakersfield, CA
Left so late in the day, after very frustrating, multi-hour wait at the lawyer’s. Inauspicious start to the trip, but Bago remembered where the dog run was….

Night 2: Davis Camp, Bullhead City, AZ
New stop—right on the Colorado River, with casino lights. Bago got to swim in the river.

Night 3: Lake Pleasant, Peoria, AZ
2nd time here. Nice for people—great views of saguaros and water—but not so hot for pups.

Night 4: Fool Hollow Lake, Show Low, AZ
2nd time here, too. Always lovely. Great dog park in town.

Night 5: Datil Wells Campground, Datil, NM
Favorite $10 boondocking site. Had several fabulous 2-mile hikes. Tiny new “ranger station” with wifi. Close to Pie Town, where we started this trip’s “art tour” by buying a gorgeous NM sunset photo on canvas.

Nights 6 & 7: Elephant Butte Lake State Park, Elephant Butte, NM
2nd time visiting TorC. Stopped at the Owl Bar to compare its green chile cheeseburger to Buckhorn. Owl wins, at least on friendliness and service. Also got to see the Bosque at the beginning of the Sandhill crane migration—gorgeous!

 Nights 8 & 9: Tumble In RV Park, Marfa, TX
Funky RV park in a fabulous town. Art Tour really took off here with the Chinati Foundation tour and purchase of the Marfa photography book and RV glass photo montage. Enjoyed the Food Shark and 4-star dining at Cochineal, plus restocked the pantry at one of the best organic markets I’ve ever shopped in, the GetGo. Really loved visiting Fort Davis—must go back to stay there and visit the observatory.

Nights 10 & 11: Miller's Creek RV, Johnson City, TX
Hill Country state parks were all full—hunting season!—so we found refuge at a commercial park. Turned out to be a great location. We camped next to a crew of newbie RVers—gay guys from Houston. We were able to give them so rather valuable tips about dumping (!)…. Art tour really amped up here with visit to Benini Sculpture Ranch, where we purchased a piece we just adore

and wished we could buy for our yard:

Night 12: Lake Somerville State Park, TX
Awakened by guns—yup. Hunting season.

Night 13: Cassels-Boynton County Park, Zavalla, TX
Got in after dark (after the wild goose chase for another RV park) and the caretaker old guy knocked on our door to collect the fee. Good thing we had Bago and not Nick. For the old guy, that is…

End of Week 2: North Toledo Bend State Park, Zwolle, LA
Gorgeous place where we stocked up on boudin and enjoyed Natchitoches (for the first time on this trip).

Night 15: Natchez State Park, Natchez, MS
AND a repeat visit to Mr. D and the Old Country Store. Got there at 11:00 AM, before the chicken was even served, so the pieces we got were SOOO fresh that they were even better than the first time. AND Mr. D sang to me this time. Missed a turn taking the back roads and BOY HOWDY did we take back roads. First time on this trip that we were in serious nowheresville on a really bad road…

Night 16: Service (COE) Park, Silas, AL
 Continued taking US 84 across the South—very beautiful trees in the autumn. And this park was a stunner. Memorable stop right outside this park at a store to buy some, um, wine. Clerk had to call owner to find out what she should charge because “nobody ever buys this.” $10 and we were off…

Nights 17 & 18: Grayton Beach State Park, FL
Love this place! 

Nights 19-21: Low Key Hideway, Cedar Key, FL
Awesome, awesome place. We took several walking tours of town, bought and prepared fish cheeks for the first time (delish!), and enjoyed adult beverages at 5 o’clock in an open air tiki bar right next to our RV. Most folks stay here after their family visits in Florida; we were unusual stopping before ours….

Nights 22-26: Pacetti RV (now Trout River Marina), St. Augustine, FL
Fabulous new-to-us place to stay near my folks’ retirement place. We got a space because (a) it was soon closing for renovations and (b) all of the fulltimers had moved down to Stagecoach, where we normally stay and that was then full. Bago enjoyed chewing through his leash and chasing squirrels, and we enjoyed celebrating my dad’s 90th birthday.

Night 27: Grayton Beach State Park, FL
Repeat stay. Still loved it. Walking distance to art galleries (natch) where we purchased the 2nd angel of the tour.

Night 28: Davis Bayou Campground @ National Seashore, Ocean Springs, MS
2nd time visiting here, too, but we still love it. Had a fabulous time in Ocean Springs as the Art Tour continued at the Walter Anderson Museum of Art (with a little history thrown in with a tour of Jefferson Davis’s home).

Nights 29-32: Fish Camp, Stephensville, LA, outside of Morgan City
Celebrated Thanksgiving with Lisa’s gathered clan by boondocking at the Fish Camp. Boy, did Bago love running around this property. He sure wanted to go swimming in the bayou, but we were too worried about gators…. Best part of trip was driving Lisa’s mom and sister up to Breaux Bridge in the RV (note to self: don’t ride in the dinette. Urp.) for the famous Zydeco breakfast at Café des Amis. Long line. Worth every minute of the wait. Even got to purchase a long-sought-after metal fleur-de-lis sculpture as we walked through the very cute town.

Night 33: Nakatosh Campground, Natchitoches, LA
Revisited Natchitoches and got to see the famous Christmas displays that we could see going up a few weeks’ prior. Plus we took the River Road plantation tour--just gorgeous scenery. 

Night 34: North Toledo Bend State Park, Zwolle, LA
Repeat visit here because this state park offered free laundry (and great wifi and beautiful sites). Leaving town we decided to take a new route. Oops. Misread the map and the road, as such, turned into a boat ramp.

Night 35: Fort Parker State Park, TX
Interesting historical walk around old graveyards and ruins.

Night 36: Abilene KOA
Hideous RV park, but great town. Who knew the art tour would continue here with an entire boulevard of public sculptures AND The National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature AND possibly the coolest interior design store we’ve been to, where we picked up an antler candelabra and some handpainted, orange cowboy boots. Horrible drive through the booming oil fields of West Texas….

Night 37: Pecos River RV Park, Carlsbad, NM
Great little RV park (we were lucky to find a spot—the oil boom is going in this part of NM, too) on the river, near a dog park AND near the attraction we came for: Christmas on the Pecos. Very festive and fun.

Night 38: Percha Dam State Park, NM
2nd visit to this nice state park where we met a camphost who adored Bago and brought him a gator stuffed toy, which Bago loved. This was the third crazy road of the trip; ended up on a dirt washboard road next to the irrigation canal, but we found a way into the state park.

Night 39: Nancy's Driveway, ABQ
Got to stay in a real bed, take a real shower, and have Bago behave like a real gentleman, as we enjoyed the most fabulous NM dinner of tamales, some kind of stew I’m blanking on that was wonderful, and bizcochitos—delicioius cinnamon cookies. Great catching up with her.

Night 40: Meteor Crater RV Park, Winslow, AZ
40 days and 40 nights—of course, we’re in the desert….
Repeat visit here; still a fun place to stop. Must get back to Winslow and have a meal at the Turquoise Room at La Posada Hotel. 

Night 41: Cattail Cove State Park, Parker, AZ
New find—great place! Not only did we find the dog park (and river swimming hole) in Lake Havasu proper, but we found a state park with an official dog beach. Bago was in heaven.

Night 42: A Country RV Park, Bakersfield, CA
 Gotta figure out how many times we’ve stayed here, but it’s our favorite. Great grass for the dog, place to dump, nice facilities, and only 4 hours to home (and closest nice place when exiting the horrible desert).

  Day 43: HOME!

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