Week 5: New Years in Gruene and Big Bend, Texas

We stayed longer in Texas Hill Country then we planned. A few challenges sprung up during week 5 of our USA road trip which had us problem solving for the optimal solution.

One really never knows if it will turn out to be optimal or not, but you can only make decisions based upon the information you have at hand.

Our Challenges:

1. Busy Holiday Season

I didn’t think Texas would be so busy in the winter time, but I’ve since learned it is because the summer months are too hot! It makes sense really and better research and planning from me would have told me that.

This meant the RV park in Big Bend National Park was completely full until 5th of January.

There aren’t a lot of RV parks down near Big Bend and the reviews were really mixed. We found another RV park on the Rio Grande River that looked amazing, but that had no availability until 2nd Jan.

2. Trump’s Government Shutdown

This meant that National Parks were not being managed or attended to. Several sections of Big Bend National Park were closed due to unsanitary condition.

Is it worth going all that way if we can’t even get in?

3. No Internet Connection and Possibly No Verizon Cell Phone Service.

Neither of which are ideal for us with the online business we do. We weren’t prepared to go offline for a week.

So we had to decide whether to skip Big Bend altogether, or go there a little later and hope for the best.

Thankfully, next to Big Bend National Park is the Big Bend State Ranch Park which is meant to be just as beautiful.

Chisos Basin Drive Big Bend Natinal Park Texas (3)

So we decided to stay in Texas Hill Country for three more nights and have New Years Eve here. We’d use those extra days to catch up on work so we’d be okay going offline for awhile.

We booked in at the RV Park Lajitas Golf Resort. It has the best reviews and was placed in between both parks.

They are also meant to have decent Wi-Fi service so we could hopefully use that to do some basic work stuff.

We could get a decent weekly rate at the park to for $300 so it was worth staying the week so we could explore in depth and relax in this beautiful natural setting.

We figured we could explore the Big Bend Ranch State Park while we wait for Trump’s meltdown to end and services get back to normal in the Big Bend National Park.

Or, if they don’t, do the best we can enjoying what is opened.

Big Bend National Park has been near the top of my bucket list for this trip, so I really didn’t want to be so close and miss it. It’s worth taking the chance.

As serenity is my word for 2019 I’m pretty sure we’re going to find it here.

And of course, it was raining when we set off!!

New Years Eve in Gruene

New Years in Gruene (2)
Sitting around the campfire at The Grapevine

New Years Eve in Gruene was so much fun (pronounced green by the way!) I love that little historical town.

We had lunch at the Gristmill which is a huge restaurant on the river with HUGE portions. It was one of the biggest meals I’ve had and Savannah’s chicken tenders was like half a chook!

The service was great and the fire was warm. We then went back to the Gruene Hall for more music and dancing.

This time Savannah danced with me and the band was awesome. The singer had a vibe mixed of Lenny Kravitz and Ben Harper.

After that we moved to the Grapevine, a wine tasting bar across the road.

There’s an outside garden with live music – a guy who thought he was Bob Dylan, which was kind of cool, and then fire pits we sat around chatting with locals and watching the sun set over the town.

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We witnessed this gorgeous sunset in Gruene on New Years Eve. Loved this town in the Texas Hill Country – listening to music and dancing at Gruene Hall (oldest dance hall in Texas), tasting wine and sitting around the fire pit at The Grapevine, boutique shopping, and would love to come back in the summer and go tuning down the river. A highlight of our visit to Texas so far! Read more about our visit to Texas Hill Country in our week 4 blog wrap up in our bio. #Gruene #TexasHillCountry #AmericaUnplugged . . . . #Texas #rvtravel #texastodo #familytravel #rvlife #rvliving #sunset #sunsets #visittheusa #GrueneHall #nye2019 #usaroadtrip #roadtrip #roadtrips #roadtripusa #fulltimefamilies #fulltimefamily #Texastrip #exploretexas #visittexas #biggerintexas #texassunset #Newbraunfels

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Oh and I met Betty!!. Remember the dancing lady from last week’s wrap post?

betty the dancing queen (600 x 800)

She was near me at the Grapevine so I started chatting with her. She shared with me a bit of her life story. My favorite was this:

“They call me the Dancing Queen. I’m 84 and have been dancing for six hours. I just can’t help it. I hear music and my body wants to dance”

You’re a National treasure Betty!

Once the sun set we headed back to Goldie to ring in the New Year with Ryan Seacrest. The girls love watching Times Square on the TV for New Years. I fell into bed at 12:05 and they stayed up until 2 am to see California ring it in!!

Big Bend, Texas

Big Bend National Park Texas

It’s so wonderful to be back in wide open spaces again. Texas reminds us of Australia so much.

We arrived in Big Bend on Wednesday and, even though we arrived in the dark, we instantly fell in love. This was the wide open country we were searching for to unplug and reconnect.

We were ecstatic with our choice.

Driving through Terlingua we saw the other RV parks we were contemplating and we thought they looked okay I started to worry we’d made the wrong choice.

But we didn’t!! The Maverick RV Park is awesome. (see more below)

I loved riding our bikes around the area to explore this small town of Lajitas. So small it has one general store and town hall and we could ride out on the highway without a car in sight!

It’s so quiet you can hear the birds and the mayor of the town is the local goat.

big bend with kids

lajitas TexasBig

We will have more in-depth posts and videos on Big Bend National Park and Big Bend Ranch State Park, as we have not finished exploring them.

They are epic!

Here are a couple of photos from our Window Trail Hike in Big Bend National Park and the River Road, Closed Canyon and Hoodoos Hike in Big Bend Ranch State Park.

The Window trail Big Bend National Park Texas
The Window Trail
the window trail sunset Big Bend National Park
The rewarding window sunset
big Bend Ranch State Park Texas
Big Bend Ranch State Park

As you can see this region is spectacular. We’re excited to explore more.

It’s also getting warm and the rain has disappeared!! Yes.

The sky looks amazing after seeing it covered in clouds and crying for a month.

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:
SEND THEM MY WAY NOW!

RV and Road Trip Lessons

Chisos Basin Drive Big Bend Natinal Park Texas (2)

  • Goldie is continuing to fall apart in some places. We’ll be spending a lot of time tightening screws and fixing things!!
  • After a visit by the park manager at 9:30 to turn out our outside light, we discovered we have a dome light on the front of Goldie, which is completely separate from the outside light main switch. We are camping in Dark Sky Country, which means all outside lights must be turned off by 9pm to maintain the pristine conditions for stargazing. Big Bend is one of the best areas in the USA for stargazing. Bewildered the three of us went in search for the switch and found it hidden deep within Goldie’s belly in the front storage compartment.
  • Snow is really pretty when you’re warm inside your car towing the RV. AND it snows in Texas!!
  • Taking your home made coffee in a thermos in your car when out road tripping is a fantastic idea. It stays hot for so long, it feels like you’re drinking coffee all day without having multiple cups. It’s a great way to savor the view. Although it never tastes as good in sterling silver as it does in a glass mug.
  • I don’t know how we ever survived traveling around Australia in the way that we did! We have so much food in our van and comfort items. We never could have fitted all of that in in our Jayco Swan and we were traveling in more remote regions for long periods of time. I don’t know how we did it.
  • We knew this already (learned from our Outback travels) but just as a reminder, even in the US, when driving out in the wild west with all those empty spaces, always fill up your gas tank at each new gas station you come to. You just don’t ever want to run out and be stranded. The gas stations aren’t as close together as you’d think in the US, and not everyone has diesel. We got a bit low coming down to Big Bend but thankfully came close to snowy Alpine so could fill up.
  • It’s much cheaper to stock up on things in cities and towns before coming into remote areas. One reason I’m thankful for Goldie. Sourdough bread cost me $6 here in Lajitas and firewood $8! Both are usually half the price. And my fussy girls don’t like the bread. They’ll be eating it I can assure you.

Pros and cons of RV Travel for beginners. Is it worth it?

Where we stayed in Big Bend, South West Texas

So how do you like our campsite near Big Bend National Park in Texas?

We spent half the week at our campsite in New Braunfels, the Hill Country RV Park. Click here for last week’s wrap to see more about it. We got a cheaper rate at $51 for the evening. It was previously $60.

I’m not sure if this was connected to our Good Sam or Passport America discount.

As mentioned above in Big Bend, we are staying at the Maverick Ranch RV Park, which is part of the Lajitas Golf Resort.

On our first dusk at the campsite we sat down to the roaring campfire with loads of space on either side of us, a clear sky mixed with the sunny blew of the day and the purple of the setting sun behind the desert mountain landscape, and sighed,

“Now this is what we’ve been dreaming of.

Maverick Ranch RV Park Lajitas Big Bend Texas

We feel like we’re miles from civilization here because we are. Silence surrounds us and at night, you’ll see more stars than you have in your entire life.

I love stepping outside the camper at 5:30am to say good morning to them. I can see a few bright planets, the moon hugging the horizon and thousands of twinkling stars.

It’s the most magical way to start the day.

The campground is very open, spacious and clean. The sites are dirt, pull through, come with fire pits and are large and spacious.

The wi-fi is surprisingly decent – we can watch some Netflix even at times.

The bathrooms are okay. Warm water with enough pressure but are not as clean as other campgrounds. But that is campground life.

Staying at the Maverick Ranch RV Park gives you access to the Lajitas Golf Resort facilities over the road, which includes a fitness center, activities (paid) and a restaurant, bar and bakery.

And of course a golf course. We haven’t used any of them yet!

The fitness center looks well supplied and maintained. I’ve just been working out on our site using my bosu and Grokker Plyometrics training video.

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.

Driving Distance

Travel Costs

Lajitias Golf Resort mission church
Lajitas Golf Resort mission church

I think we got a better grasp on our expenses this week. although New Year’s did cause us to spend a little more and we stocked up on our groceries for fear of there being no food in the Big Bend area!! haha.

As you can see, things will always pop up and we’re struggling to keep our costs below $1000 a week.

Hoping that now we are in the wilderness more this will be easier.

Vehicle Costs

  • Fuel: $112
  • Parking:  

Accommodation Costs

  • Camping: $357 ( 2 nights @ $60 3 nights @$51 and 2 nights @ $42)

Attractions

  • Park Fees: $10 (Big Bend Ranch State Park: $5 each adult Kids free)
  • Tips: $10 (band tips)

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!!

Food

  • Restaurants: $76
  • Coffee: $24
  • Groceries: $442
  • Take out: $43
  • Alcohol: $60

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
  • Firewood: $8
  • Lighter fluid: $5

Total paid by us: $ 1,102

Where to Next?

We are still in the Big Bend area until Wednesday enjoying the easy pace, hiking, bike riding, horse riding and star gazing.

After that, all depends on Trump’s shutdown. I seriously can’t believe the government can do this and impact the people they are meant to representing!!

Anyway, if it’s over and White Sands National Monument and Carlsbad Caverns reopens, we will go there for a few nights. If it’s not (doesn’t look likely at the moment), we will head to Tucson, Arizona.

We plan to stay there for a week before moving to Phoenix or Scottsdale.

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.

You can find our previous months posts here.

More Texas Travel Tips

Have you been to the Big Bend area? What did you love most? Have you met anyone like Betty before? Or, are you like her?

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