The Brougham is not made to be lived in long term, nor is it meant to be camped in the winter as we have learned. When we left Slab City (Salton Sea, CA) it was in the 80s. We wanted so badly to be able to stay longer but the internets just wouldn’t allow. We got pretty good Internet as far south as North Shore (AT&T 3G) but any further south aka Niland, Slab City, Brawly and it was nearly impossible to work. After we spent a week wandering around North Shore, La Quinta, Palm Springs, we returned to Niland one last weekend and decided to go to Arizona, then changed our mind and went to Yucca Valley, then Victorville.. (read blog about going in circles). No matter where we went it was the mission to find warmer weather combined with good internet that motivated our decision to keep looking.
California is expensive and it doesn’t seem to matter which part you are in. All the state parks were $30 a night with hookups and $20 without ($20 for what? a toilet and a parking spot? jerks). We didn’t stay in a single park in California the few weeks we were there (Walmart’s, behind abandoned buildings and at Slab City). RV parks were even worse, usually costing $45 a night and up – + the lovely California tax. Some RV parks on the coast were charging as much as $250 a night in places like Newport Beach. After Yucca Valley and ditching the Death Valley idea, we went to see my friend Lisa in Santa Ana then headed towards Mexico. Once in the San Diego area – a place with several state parks, we found our luck was definitely not going to change. We ended up on the verge of breaking down in a town with an “no overnight stay” ordinance and “cant check into hotels after 10pm” ordinance to compliment the first.
After the new U-joints we had to get installed at Sears on a Sunday, we headed to Arizona – Catalina State Park again (GPS: 32.4439, -110.9188), trucking it through the night without stopping (except for gas and pie). Weather was nice the whole 2 weeks we were there and we got allot done – then we left. Ever since we’ve been cold as hell!
Oliver Lee State Park
Our next stop was New Mexico. We left on a Friday and made it to Las Cruces where we stayed a couple nights in the Walmart there while we figure out our actual plan. Finally deciding on seeing the white Dunes outside Alamogordo, we found Oliver Lee State Park 15 miles south of Alamogordo on the 54 (=GPS: 32.7358, -105.916). The first night at Oliver Lee was cold and raining steady. We had lots of propane so we cranked the heat before bed and when we woke up – then abusing our power of fire through most the day. The next evening we were surprised to learn that mountains are mountains everywhere in the world and elevation always means there is probably snow. By morning the next day we had a foot of snow and temperatures in the 20s.
Our first issue was water, before we even thought about stuffing pillows in crevasses or taping vents shut outside, I was reminded quickly of growing up in Montana and having pipes freeze quickly without the proper preventative measures. Before the pipes froze fully they gave us a hint what was happening by slowing to a trickle. We quickly went (aka I sent Ross) outside to bend and twist the hose (connected to the state park water) to break free any ice chunks then wrapped it enough to keep it off the ground. We then left the tap running at a small steady stream the rest of the time we were there – while temps were below freezing. We never saw a Ranger or went into the visitor center so we never knew if maintenance, if any, existed. The bathrooms always seemed clean but after the first foot of snow the electricity went out and no one did or said a thing. We weren’t the only ones in a the park and just like us, no one complained, just pulled out their generators and went on with their lives. It was kind of refreshing to see a bunch of people not whining about snow, weather or lack of electricity. When it snows in Portland I swear the reaction is as bad as if there had been an earthquake.
Oliver Lee State Park
It took a few days for the snow to melt and the roads in the camp stayed pretty well used by people who had trucks to haul their trailers, but we were fairly confident after being unable to stop dependably in just rain, that the snow wouldn’t be any more forgiving. We were stuck as far as we were concerned but it wasn’t really a bad thing. We had food and didn’t have anywhere to go. We tried to go get more Propane before the snow hit, starting the week at 40%, but the battery had pretty much died during the night and we had to spend the rest of the day charging it. Chena was pissed about being stuck inside every day but other than that we survived. We had paid till Thursday and by Thursday afternoon the snow was mostly off the roads and the drive to the highway would be dry. We were at 10% propane, less than a day of steady heat and cooking, and there was yet another snow storm on the way. We left Thursday afternoon racing against a pretty nasty storm, trying to make to El Paso, TX.
On the way to El Paso we stopped at white sands for a break from driving – we hadn’t gotten to see it during the wintery week. While we were there the snow started to fall, making for some cool photos but pushing us out for safety pretty soon after arriving. On the way out they were closing the park an hour early and a ranger was on his way in to check for any stragglers. It would be in the teens in no time and anyone stuck inside would suffer pretty bad – good thing it wasn’t us though! We made it to Las Cruces, NM in once piece, literally feeling like the storm was on our heels. We came out of a cafe after sharing New York Cheesecake Pancakes at IHOP for lunch to find it snowing once again. The chase was on. We made it to the El Paso Walmart by 8pm, El Paso time, and just as we setup camp, it started to snow again – at least this time we didn’t have to drive and were near resources.
Brouham in White Sands and Snow
Almost as soon as we got to El Paso we got an electric heater so we wouldn’t have to worry about staying warm in a situation where we were that low on propane – as long as we were plugged in somewhere at least. We did use the heater with the generator but it pretty much has to be running while the heater is running because it uses too much power. It was definitely a purchase we wont regret.
It’s really difficult to get propane in Texas so far. We haven’t seen a single gas station that will refill an RV, even having called about 10 in the area – everyone seemed completely baffled at the idea. They refill tanks – like the ones you can carry – but not ones attached to an RV. We had to wait till Monday (today) to go to an actual gas company and get filled up. At least with electric heat and being plugged into a site we can save the majority of our propane and make sure not to run out for cooking this time. While I was in Spokane, cooking everyday for 5 weeks and using the heat before bed for about a week, I ran out of propane the very last day I was there. It goes a really long ways if you’re not heating a drafty RV all day long.
We left El Paso Friday night heading for Monahans. The roads were clear with only a little snow on the ground. We saw from the google maps topographical layover that we would be crossing some mountains at up to 5000 feet which meant even more chance of snow and low temps. After seeing the Fantastic Mr. Fox on the way out of town (awesome film), we made it to Van Horn Texas where it was 15 degrees. We were well below 10% propane by the time we got there and the prospect of trying not to freeze to death – huddled with Chena in the single bed (having to wake up and function in 20 degrees ‘maybe’) was not sounding so good. If Van Horn had anything to offer it was a Motel 6, gas and truckers cafe’s. We checked in about 1am Texas time and slept till noon of the same (we were up late showering and downloading movies on their free wifi I swear). Checkout was also noon – so a disaster I will blog about later was caused by our scrambled rush to get our things out of the hotel and turn in our keys. We checked out without being charged for staying late and headed to the nearest cafe, Sands Restaurant and Inn, where we had warm sweet rolls and weak coffee. It was our first experience in a ‘Texas Cafe and it didn’t disappoint. Our waitress had a thick accent and a bit of a ‘wise southern woman/waitress’ attitude and we dined near men in cowboy hats, truckers, hunters, old cowboys and an old baptist couple who handed me religious pamphlets before we left the cafe.
I could tell that overall, no matter what people have told me about Texas, I would probably find it pretty interesting.
Showtime – Pecos, Texas