I felt a tinge of sadness leaving the Big Bend region of Texas.
It’s not just the good times I’m leaving behind, but that deep connection to isolated wilderness and myself.
Unplugging and returning to nature is so important.
It’s only when we get to the vastness, where nothing is pulling at or consuming our energy, can we truly find ourselves.
I am here. I am real. My breath is worth something. What do I want tit to represent and why?
In the wilderness, you realize silence has a sound.
In a normal busy urban life, the sound of silence is overtaken by sirens, chatter, and white noise.
But, when you take all of that away and you sit in the desert miles from civilization you can hear silence. It’s the most comforting, pleasurable sound of all.
It can’t be defined in terms of words, notes, or overtures, but by a simple feeling.
The feeling of a rich, deep, yet light refreshing breeze that seeps into your being. You gasp.
There it is – silence. Oh wow. I missed you.
Sometimes its presence is made even more aware to you by the singing of a nearby bird.
Silence makes itself known through the bird. You realize you haven’t heard a sound for sometime, not a single vibration heard. Your presence connects to the presence of silence and the gift it begins.
You are like that silence when you return to the vast emptiness of nature. Suddenly you feel your presence.
You are alive. You are real. You are worthy. And your worth is proven just through your own breath and the sound of silence.
If you want more real and personal connection, where we share the real story of how we unplug, how we manage the ups and downs, the sweet the funny, the strange and chaotic, than jump in my Notes from the Road virtual suitcase. Its like receiving letters from an old friend. Just click the following:
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This week 6 wrap up of our USA road trip shares our adventures from Saturday to Friday.
I publish the posts on Sunday (I need a few days to prepare it!)
What we did in the Big Bend Region
We had a wonderful week in total exploring the Big Bend National Park. We shared some of those adventures with you last week.
Our favorite news of the week was the warmth returned!
We had a couple of days that were in the high 70’s and we were out hiking in singlets and shorts. The evenings were cool but you’ll welcome in any temperature when you can enjoy a campfire and see more stars in the sky than you have in your lifetime.
We spent a day chilling at the campground. The girls enjoyed playing on their roller blades and scooters, and games of basketball and pretend school.
I enjoyed catching up on blogging work and working out in my outside gym with gorgeous mountain views.
Take a look at our desert RV set up. You can see me doing my core workout routine!
Horse Ride in Lajitas
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Savannah is obsessed with unicorns so a horse ride is the next best thing, right?! We got our cowboy and cowgirl on down here in west Texas at Lajitas, just outside of Big Bend National Park and did a 1 hour ride through the desert landscape with this stunning mountain backdrop. Both our kids did great, and I see more horse rides in our future as we road trip across the USA. One place we have planned for another ride is Bryce Canyon in Utah – we did it there previously in 2006 before kids and it was magical. Can you suggest other places? #Texastrip #AmericaUnplugged #familytravel . . #horseriding #texas #texastodo #travelwithkids #visittexas #biggerintexas #rvtravel #rvliving #rvlife #familytraveler #familyadventures #getoutside #usaroadtrip #roadtripusa #ustravel #usatravel #fulltimefamilies #fulltimefamily #bringthekids #cowgirl #cowgirls #Lajitas #BigBendNationalPark #BigBend
Savannah was delighted to take a horse ride around the Lajitas area. She’s obsessed with unicorns and horses. I was delighted to see her joyful expression.
I could see she was terrified at first sitting on horse waiting for us to all get saddled up. She’s so great at managing her fear. She wrestles control over it with silence, a straight back and deep breaths.
Once we started moving, she relaxed – although still kept the straight back – patting her horse Roja and beaming at the experience. She truly did not want it to end.
Kalyra took it on like a true equestrian star, riding out in front of us and handling her horse.
I was hoping we’d go closer to the Rio Grande, but we stayed quite close the Lajitas Resort and the main road. The scenery was gorgeous, but I’m still wondering if it was worth it for the cost. ($75 each for 1 hour ride).
We’ll be doing more as we travel to compare.
The rest of our time was spent exploring Big Bend National Park. Stay tuned for a n in-depth post coming soon outlining amazing experiences in Big Bend National Parks
Big Bend highlights:
The Lost Mines Trail
Although the girls complained quite a bit for this 4.8 mile return hike up the mountain to exquisite views, I know they really loved it!`
I particular love Savannah’s fool proof plan for fighting an attacking bear. She’d hit them with her stick and I’d throw rocks at it.
I find it mind-blowing that so many Americans tell me they’re afraid to travel to the Australia because of our wild animals, yet, we continually had signs with instructions on how to prepare for possible bear, mountain lion and rattlesnake attacks!!!
Um. Fight to the death was the final if all else fails strategy.
The Hot Springs
What a great therapeutic find on the Rio Grande and just perfect after a long Lost Mines hike.
Ross Maxwell Drive
Stunning scenery and many short walks to take advantage of. We loved the Lower Burro Mesa Pouroff for an easy hike into the canyon
Terlingua Ghost Town
Ending our time with Big Bend with a local craft beer, a bowl of award winning chili, local folk jam session, and the setting sun lighting up the spectacular Chisos Mountain Range in the Big Bend National Park from the porch of the Starlight Theater in Terlingua Ghost town.
This has to be a sister city from an Australian Outback town, including the characters you get the pleasure of interacting with.
On the way to Tucson
We had a two day drive to Tucson (10 hours).
Originally, we were going to stay in El Paso for a few days, but then we realized it wasn’t a burning desire, more a just because. Just Because stops are a waste of resources: time, energy, money.
You can’t do everything, so it’s best to narrow it right down to the burning desire and spend longer there.
Instead of setting up, and paying for a campground just for a place to sleep for the night, we took advantage of the Wal-Mart boondocking strategy.
The girls were beyond excited to sleep at Wal-Mart and thought it was going to be their best camping experience yet.
It’s not a place you want to set up camp for more than a night, but it is certainly allowed to camp overnight (in your RV) in most Wal-Mart stores.
There were about 10 other RV’s joining us. Don’t fully unhitch and set up. It’s just a quick pit stop. But we did put out our slide outs (we kind of have to) and cooked our dinner.
Don’t feel you have to go and buy anything inside Wal-Mart because then there would be no point as it would cost the same as a cheap RV park.
However, if there are things you do need, then why not go inside and buy them while you stay and give yourself something to do?
After a week in the desert, we needed to stock up on a few things.
Falling in Love with Tucson
We arrived in Tucson on Thursday and will be here for a week.
From the first sighting of a saguaro cactus we fell in love. I knew the desert out here had them, but I somehow thought they’d be few and far between.
I had no idea they’d be so ubiquitous. I am utterly fascinated by them and can’t stop staring and pondering.
Just when you think you’ve seen everything, Mother Nature steps into to say, “We’re not done yet!” and reawakens you to wonder.
We found our dream campsite at Catalina State Park, but sadly could only get in for one night, by way of luck and a last minute cancellation.
I’m glad we decided to stay the one night despite the hassle of packing up again the next day. It was a stunning area.
We had a late afternoon and early morning bike ride on a trail and then followed by a morning walk through the canyon.
I fell in love with that walk – it was easy and lead us through spectacular scenery – desert floor, river crossings, and spectacular views with hundreds of saguaro cactus guarding us along the way.
The weather was a perfect blend of fresh with warm tones and the air was so fresh and speaking of hope and promise.
I’m in love with Tucson already and Arizona. This is my kind of place.
Thankfully, we found another campground for the week – almost just as good, especially the price ($20 a night).
The Gilbert Ray Campground is in the Tucson Mountain Park area which is right near Saguaro National Park. It’s gorgeous. Only nature surrounds us and ,of course our beautiful new friends, Saguaro 1, 2, to 100.
RV and Road Trip Lessons
- I’ve gone soft since our Australian road trip. Driving along the graded road of Big Bend State Park exhausted me. It takes a while to adjust to the more hard core adventurous travel. Just take it slowly. Pretty soon that will all you seek out.
- I cannot make brownies. I’m the world’s worst baker, especially when it comes to brownie. But the attempt deserved some points, and it did give us a snack while hiking in Big Bend, albeit a tough snack.
- Be sure to write down all instructions and test everything before you leave. We arrived at Wal-Mart can couldn’t get power from our batteries to help us with free camping. Partly not remembering how to do it and possibly an issue with our alternator.
- Winter is just not great for road trips. Everything is more intense – managing the cold, getting heat in the van, having way too many layers of clothes. I really do miss traveling through the Top End of Australia. Nine months of dry heat.
- It’s difficult to manage without electricity. I hate that I’m so reliant on many things and, at this time in my life, unwilling to give them up. We aloes had a power outage in Gilbert Ray Campground for a couple of hours. I must learn to rely on electricity less as it stressed me out! (Although I did think there was something wrong with the bloody trailer again. GOLDIE!!!
- I’m not sure investing in a solar system was a great use of our money. We haven’t used it yet – although I’m sure we will. And we have so many power needs, or maybe wants, that I don’t think it can sustain it. The worst problem is our fridge. I’m so used to my morning bulletproof coffee I felt quite lost without using my blender for it during our night at Wal-Mart.
- See the Wal-Mart strategy above
- Arizona is not a great place for family RV parks. So many of them are for 55+ IT’s also the busy season here so better planning is needed
Where We Stayed
This week saw us staying at 4 places!! That is a record for us!
Maverick Ranch & RV Park, Lajitas
Again we stayed most of the week at the Maverick Ranch & RV Park. You can see more about it in last week’s post.
It’s been our favorite RV park so much for it’s space, gorgeous views, remote wilderness feel and starry night time skies. If you want to stay at Lajitas Golf Resort, you can book your stay through our partner, Booking.com We highly recommend this area for its serenity.
Great cell phone service here and free wifi, which was pretty fast for us!
Catalina State Park, Tucson
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We arrived in Tucson, Arizona on Friday as you would know from our stories, and wowza this was our welcome sunset on Friday night at Catalina State Park campground. We camped here our first night and it was a brilliant spot and I think our F250 truck liked the view too! We were hoping to camp at Catalina for 1 week, but they only had a vacancy for 1 night and we are quickly learning that with a country of 300+ million people you can’t just rock up to campgrounds. And with this Government shutdown affecting National Parks, State Parks are even busier. We have since moved to Gilbert Ray Campground which is a good plan B. Loving the vibe and nature and cactus in Tucson already. More updates coming but follow our stories for daily live updates! Any tips for Tucson??? #Tucson #CatalinaStatePark #AmericaUnplugged . . . . #Arizona #familytravel #rvlife #rvliving #rvtravel #rving #TucsonArizona #Tucsonaz #Arizonasunsets #Tucsontrip #visittucson #travelwithkids #tucsonsunset #igerstucson #thisistucson #arizonasky #Arizonahiking #explorearizona #fulltimefamilies #fulltimefamily @ford #f250 #roadtripusa #usaroadtrip #familyadventures
We stayed one night at the Catalina State Park in Tucson.
We highly recommend this campground. Be sure to book in advance as it’s popular. The scenery and SUNSETS are stunning at the base of the Catalina Mountains.
There are a few trails straight from the campsite that are easy for walking or biking. The sites are clean, level and spacious and the bathrooms very clean with warm showers.
There is even a book exchange and they have lots of ranger led activities.
They also have free wifi and the cell service (Verizon) is fast.
Gilbert Ray Campground, Tucson
The next best campground in Tucson is the Gilbert Ray Campground in the Tucson Mountains.
Again, you have stunning scenery and loads of saguaro cactus to admire. Sites are spacious, secluded, and surrounded by nature. The stars at night are gorgeous.
It is very serene here.
They do not have showers though and no water or sewer hook ups. There are water spigots around the park and a dumping station so be sure to do all that before you set up.
You can only stay for a minimum of 7 nights. It’s only $20 a night, which is probably a little expensive given the less amenities, but still great in comparison to other costs.
Verizon cell phone service here is excellent.
Happy to have a lower weekly spend this week on camping and coffee. Whoop Whoop!
Fuel costs were higher as we were driving a lot in the Big Bend region and between Big Bend and Tucson. I’m hoping our driving times between places now we are pretty far west (our target) are much less.
Our costs would have been at our $1,000 weekly target, if we didn’t splurge on a horse ride. But big adventures should also include bucket list items.
I think we can manage a big splurge once every month or so.
Now we are moving away from cities we’ll have more money for the big ticket items.
- Fuel: $213
- Camping: $210 ( 4 nights @ $40 1 night @$30 and 1 night @ $20 + 1 night free)
- Park Fees: $0
- Tours: $300
- Tips: $20
We have a National Parks Pass so no extra fees for Big Bend National Park.
HOWEVER, there’s no one taking money anyway because of the shutdown. So sad for the National Parks and all the money they are losing, not to mention all the workers not getting paid!!
- Restaurants: $138
- Coffee: $0
- Groceries: $361
- Take out/ snacks: $12
- Alcohol: $25
We eat a mostly whole foods, organic diet, which means our grocery bills are higher than what would be typical.
Don’t forget with eating out costs, tip will be included in the prices below.
RV supplies and living
- Laundry: $15
- Propane: $19
Total paid by us: $ 1313
Where to Next
We’ll be in Tucson for the next week exploring more of the natural beauty, the city, and nearby fun places like Tombstone. After that it is the Phoenix area!
Stay tuned to see what happens!
Videos of the trip coming out soon. We’re very behind! Subscribe to our channel so you don’t miss it. We have Disney videos coming out at the moment.
More Texas Travel Tips
- Planning to visit San Antonio? Check out our experience at the Alamo and the San Antonio Riverwalk.
- Enchanting things to do in Texas Hill Country
- Don’t forget your San Antonio Explorer Pass to save money on San Antonio attractions
- In Dallas, we visited the JFK Museum.
- And one of our favorites – a day with Chip and Jo in Waco, Texas